Does Your Tagline Create Clarity or Mystery?

Mystery Box

1,000 songs in your pocket.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? You may recognize that marketing message from one of the biggest companies around today.

Or you may not.

It doesn’t matter if you recognize who crafted that tagline, because you know what you’re getting right away—1,000 songs in your pocket. You don’t know how that happens or why, but it’s irrelevant. You know at a glance that whatever the product, it’s going to give you tons of music in a small package you can carry around.

Now that’s smart.

Apple thought the message was pretty smart as well, and they turned that tiny tagline into a marketing campaign that rocked the iPod.

Let’s use another tagline example and see how it compares to iPod’s message:

Innovative solutions for the future.

Hmm. Do you know what you’re getting when you read that?

“Sure. Innovative solutions,” you might answer.

What kind of solutions? Why are they innovative? Who cares if they’re innovative anyways? The solutions are supposed to solve a problem, but what problem is that to begin with? Do you have this problem? Do you need this?

You can’t tell. So what do you do? Nothing. You move on. You can get 1,000 songs in your pocket, so who cares about your future? Besides, you probably can’t see anything dramatically wrong with your future that requires an immediate must-have solution anyways.

If you can’t deliver a message in a handful of words to consumers, you’ve missed the target. Depending on people’s curiosity to click through and check out your product or service is a huge mistake – and it’s common, too.

Businesses come up with these types of marketing messages all the time. They’re so full of themselves that they can’t even simply describe what they’re selling. They try to tease consumers, thinking that some clever little mystery will have people clicking through to read more on the website.

Nope. It ain’t gonna happen.

People don’t have the time, the interest, or even the inclination to bother figuring out what a company offers. They have problems and they want solutions.

Here. Now. Fast.

Take a look at your website’s tagline. What message is it giving people? Is it clear? Does it describe what you sell? Do people know what they’ll get from you?

iPod knew what they sold. 1,000 songs in your pocket. It was that clear, that simple – and that effective.

About the Author: For more effective words, visit James Chartrand at Men with Pens. Want to get them right in your pocket? Grab the Men with Pens RSS feed.

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Reader Comments (37)

  1. says

    Unfortunately, it’s even more prevalent in corporate society where the overkill of buzzwords spews over into the company’s tagline/mission.

    Keep it simple and direct.

  2. says

    Great article! I agree that cryptic writings are not the way to go for titles, headlines, taglines, or anything else that you want someone to take action on. I need to go read through my own taglines and make sure they’re clear!

  3. says

    I so love that you spread this lesson around the Internet. I hate browsing a new website or blog and wondering, “What the heck is this?” It’s such a waste of time to dig through a site to find it’s not about VW Beetles, but Japanese beetles, or some equally frustrating example.

  4. says

    Awesome post- and taglines rule- as they really catalyze the brain to read further with building anticipation- amen! Great article and LOVE this blog–Rocking Hot!

  5. says

    My favorite vanilla pudding taglines are the ones that promise to “deliver results.” Or even better, “results-oriented.” (You aren’t even saying you’ll deliver them. You just think about them a lot. Oh good.)

    It’s verbal wallpaper. No one knows what this means, and no one cares.

  6. says

    I think that tag lines should always be short and sweet. You need to make sure they know what your blog is about or your business. If it is only catchy and doesn’t really explain what you do then many visitors or people to your web site will be confused. You only get about four to six seconds for each person that visits your page so let them know right away what you do and what industry you’re in.

  7. says

    @ Bucktown – You bet!

    @ Franklin – I’m not even sure if we get that four to six seconds. Might even be less!

    @ Sonia – Verbal wallpaper is the best analogy I’ve heard this week. I should use that somewhere… hm!

    Glad to see that so many people *GET* this about taglines, and my sincere apologies to those I made rethink their existing tagline… but I guarantee it’s for the greater good!

  8. says

    Great point! I love your two main examples…very well illustrates the point.

    The short and to-the-point taglines are always the most effective.

  9. says

    I can definitely see the difference in the effectiveness of both taglines. On the one hand, even though it’s not completely obvious, the first tagline tells you what you’re getting. Conversely, the second tagline leaves no hint as to what the product is. So, I suppose when it comes to writing taglines, less isn’t always more.

  10. says

    A question – does it make a difference if the tag line works in concert with a title/name? Or should it stand on its own?

    I guess if you can’t be clear about your tag line you’re probably not clear about your product or blog.

  11. says

    I think my tagline communicates what my blog is about pretty clearly.

    Anyway, sometimes a title that makes you wonder what a post is about can be a good thing but most of the time, like you said, people miss the mark totally. There is a difference between a title that is a mystery and a title that creates intrigue.

  12. says

    Great reminders! I think a good tagline also requires some artistry and marketers are good at it.

    I am also fond in remembering some attractive tag line. Here’s a good one for me – Quality Never goes out Style by Levi’s.

    Here is what I found recently – We Do the Research So You Don’t Have To by TopTenReviews.

    However, I am still thinking of ways on how to improve my tag line.

  13. says

    I’m virtual, so I’m “Working at your side; not under your feet.”

    I’ve seen some taglines that just gag me, but those people have more work than I do, so it musst not be hurting very much. Not that this justifies me going out to hunt for a good gag line.

  14. says

    Thanks for the great tips. I can’t believe I didnt know about this blog before. I will be checking back. Your on my favorites and I have you linked to my blog. You probably wont read this but anyway, thanks.

  15. says

    It especially fun to read your thoughts on tag lines :-)

    A great tag line is really hard to write if you are not a professional writer. A great tag line is also very important. You have about 5 seconds to convince a new visitor why they should stay. Your tips and guidance make crafting a winning tag line a lot easier.

  16. says

    I’m a little late to the party, but would love some input on my tag line.

    I stage homes, meaning I make homes that are being put on the market more appealing to potential buyers by rearranging, adding furniture (or fully furnishing if vacant) and accessories, etc. My company is Moving Mountains Design. I have been using the tag line “We don’t sell real estate, but we know what makes real estate sell”. If I eliminate the negative, then I could use the tag line:

    “We know what makes real estate sell”

    Another option would be to incorporate my very groovy (if I do say so myself) company name:

    “We Move Mountains to help sell your home”

    Any thoughts?

  17. says

    Thanks for the great tips. I can’t believe I didnt know about this blog before. I will be checking back. Your on my favorites and I have you linked to my blog. You probably wont read this but anyway, thanks.

  18. says


    See how these pan out for you:

    * We know how to sell your home
    * Your home can sell for more
    * Want to sell your home for a better price?

    Let us know your tagline after you’ve decided on one.


  19. says

    Loved your article and am struggling severely with my tagline.

    Blog title Life in the Expat Lane
    Tag: Foreign Fun in Exotic Places

    I am a published writer and my blog posts are humorous stories of my own daily-life (mis)adventures living in Africa, the Middle East, and other fun places around the world.

    My first goal is to get subscribers to build a platform. Second goal to sell a book.

    Testing the “so what?” with this tagline, I come up with: People who want to read about something fun from far away will be interested. Others not. This is fine.

    Am I looking at this right?

    Karen, eternally grateful for a reply.

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