The Definitive Dos and Don’ts of Taglines

simon gornick tagline guest postDid you miss part one of this series by guest blogger Simon Gornick? Damn you! Check it out here.

About the Author

Simon Gornick is “The Tagline Machine” a top content consultant and copywriter with over a decade of experience delivering lines to most of the top studios in Hollywood. Follow him on Twitter@taglinemachine.

You can reach him via his site at

The Not-A-Top-Ten List

As someone who loves writing, I despise the whole idea of the “Top Ten List”.  So in a spirit of wild defiance I’m not going to number these tips. I’m not even going to put bullets next to them. But even without numbers or bullets they may help you create your own catchy slogans, or to know what to ask for if you’re getting some help.

Words are like toys – play with them!

The English language is an endless playground of meaning and counter-meaning.  Implications, juxtapositions, puns, punctuation. Try them all.  A slogan is like a poem. It’s something you can sketch, build, take apart and build again. Creating a good tagline has to be fun, or it won’t be good.

Does your tagline got rhythm?

Make the most of the music of your line to help them connect to your target audience.  Even in a few words, a great line can have a beat, a flow, even an echo. Listen to your lines out loud and hone them down to give them more rhythm.

Write yourself a creative brief

A creative brief isn’t a particularly skimpy pair of undies. It’s the roadmap to what you need in a Tagline. How do you want your brand to be seen? How would you describe it in human terms? What’s your target audience? Objectively, ask and answer key questions about your business.

We all need options

When I write lines for a client, I study the creative brief I get from them and come up with lines choices that explore a series of directions that express that brief.  Don’t be happy with the first decent notion that hits the page.

To thine tagline be true

The audience has a great big polygraph test it uses on anyone who’s stretching the truth unacceptably. So the simple advice is – don’t try to twist the truth in your tag or you’re guaranteed to get busted.

No big words

Shorter single syllable words have more immediacy and impact. Long words take up valuable persuasion time.  And when you only have four seconds, every millisecond counts.  As for words that require a reader to check a dictionary; go ahead and ask yourself whether they will.

And definitely no buzz words

Buzzwords are created by lazy writers for lazy writers, and lazy is not what you want associated with your brand. Steer clear of game-changers, ideations, and out-of-the-box slogan approaches if you want to connect with a fast moving internet audience.

Longer is better

That’s the long and the short of it. You get more word options, more time to connect and more wordplay with which to enhance emotional resonance.  Shorter taglines are very a la mode right now, but if they work at all they only deliver for mega-brands.  Don’t tagline your blog with the single word “Insight” or use “Advanced. Intelligent” for your startup slogan. Uggh.

Borrowing is bad

A good tagline says a huge amount about the brand it represents. And so does a bad one. One of the big mistakes people get into is thinking that borrowing is a bonus. It’s not. It just says that you’re short on imagination. And that is never a good image to project to an audience. If your line feels second-hand, even if it’s accidental, then it probably is.

Make ’em laugh

Marketing is seduction. And the best way to seduce is with laughter. Wit is power, pure and simple.  But don’t be clever for clever’s sake or you’ll blow it. If you’re not naturally funny, don’t force it. Hire someone to be funny for you. Heck, every funny guy in Hollywood does it, so why shouldn’t you?

Clichés are bad news

Using a cliché in your tagline is a really bad idea, because to your visitors it looks like you picked some vaguely connected cliché INSTEAD of a tagline. You do not want that.

Go with your gut

There’s no science to writing a great slogan. It’s all art. Or to put it another way, it’s all in the gut. Formulas are good for learning a strong foundation, but when you’re trying to nail your line, use what you’ve learned to go with your gut on the right slogan.

Half an idea is no idea at all

Don’t expect your audience to finish a thought. They’re not going to do your work for you. If they think or even worse see an ellipsis, they’ll just….piss off to the next site.

Subtlety might not do the trick

The internet audience is very literal. I mean we love them and all, but keep it obvious, and at the same time make it fresh. That isn’t a contradiction. It’s a challenge.

Say it out loud

The phrases you remember best are the ones that talk to you. In other they’re like conversation bites. You could imagine saying them yourself. The same is true of taglines. They need to feel natural. There’s one sure fire test to check that. Say your line ideas out loud. If they sound ponderous and awkward, you can bet your boots they’re not memorable.

Check it before you use it

I’m not a lawyer, so make sure you consult one before you publish any tagline, but here’s an example of what you don’t want to happen. You came up with a fabulous winning line, put it on your site to rave reviews, only to find that someone in your business space came up with something just like it, and sends you a rude letter or ten telling you to take it down or worse. You get the picture.

Best of Luck, everyone. May your slogan be good to you.


Sara DeFrancesco
Sara DeFrancesco

Hi Simon, I loved both of your posts about tag lines. I'm a natural medicine student studying both Naturopathic and Chinese Medicine - in a year I'll be a primary care physician, expert in natural medicine, and acupuncturist - a very rare combo - even more rare than an Arabian horse trainer. 

I will be a very unique type of doctor, but writing a tagline that sums it up nicely has really proved a challenge. There are so many cliches about health (order a sniper hit on me immediately if I use the word wellness in my copy). And then there are misconceptions about health (as if it is simply not having a disease) and what I do (most people think naturopathic doctors tell you to sip chamomile tea and meditate, which is really just a fraction of what I do - :).

Thanks for the inspiration, I'm gonna keep at it!

Simon Gornick
Simon Gornick

Thanks for your comment - the key is humor. that's the best way to 'engage' (apologies for overused webbism)

Dave Doolin
Dave Doolin

I'm not too bad with taglines. Another way, or perhaps a #10.5 item is trying to make it "sticky" in the "Made To Stick" sense. Getting most of these right should result in stickiness though.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Shelly Kramer, RedheadWriting, Jahnelle Pittman, Keren Lerner, Tim Adams and others. Tim Adams said: @ShellyKramer The Definitive Dos & Don’ts of Taglines | via @redheadwriting – great ideas! Back to the drawing board! […]