Are advertising themelines dead?

Laurie Hix 12/04/17 - 3:34 pm

Are advertising themelines dead?

Should we “Just do it”? Should we kill marketing themelines altogether? Is the era of having a tagline or slogan for your brand on the verge of extinction? After all, consumers today only have a nanosecond to absorb your message, and there is no room on a mobile banner ad or your Facebook profile pic for extra copy. Maybe we say our goodbyes now? Farewell, “Got milk,” “I’m lovin’ it” and “The company you keep.” You’ve inspired us to “Think different” and “Think small.” You were “Good to the last drop.”

Not so fast. Perhaps this is premature…just like the many faux celebrity deaths reported in the Twitterverse. Sure, while some companies have dropped their themeline from their brand nomenclature, I would argue that it’s because their brand speaks for itself and doesn’t need an assistant explaining things. Like a picture, their logo is worth a thousand words. When we see the Nike swoosh, we think “Just do it.” When we see those golden arches, we can taste the salt on those fries. For some iconic power brands, their logo speaks volumes. It’s enough.

But what about other companies that don’t have that level of brand awareness or multi-million dollar budgets? I believe, in this nanosecond world, most companies can benefit from a short and sweet descriptor of who they are. One that can differentiate them in a competitive market. A themeline is a capsule elevator speech, it’s the punctuation that tells a viewer, listener or consumer who you are and what you can do for them. Whether that’s “We try harder,” “You’re in good hands,” or that your product is “The ultimate driving machine.” Sure it takes some “Imagination at work” to come up with a line that is at the same time strategic but memorable. But most brands should do this, “Because you’re worth it.” The modern twist is to be flexible and use your themeline where it makes the most sense. Use it in mediums like radio, video, print, web, and longer formats like collateral. Skip it in mediums like outdoor, digital and social when there isn’t room. But always make sure whatever the medium or message, your creative consistently delivers its brand promise.

“Diamonds are forever,” and themelines are here to stay. But should you keep the same tagline forever? When your brand positioning or promise changes, you should re-evaluate your themeline. But if you create magic as some of the above brands did, don’t throw it away because you want something new.  How many brands have changed a memorable themeline or campaign because they were tired of it, only to find that creating magic a second time is next to impossible? Some even bring their old themelines back, as in the case of “Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s Maybelline.” Resist changing your themeline, if “It can take a licking, but keeps on ticking.” You will tire of it, long before a consumer does. And memorability takes time and repetition.

I think advertising themelines (taglines or slogans if you prefer) are alive and well and here to stay. After all, “What happens here, stays here.” But they don’t need to be on every piece of creative. They tell a story and differentiate you from the competition. And of course, good ones can build your brand and bottom line and propel you forward with a bit of “Zoom, zoom.”

Blog Category: Branding Insights & Trends

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