A few little words – why straplines matter

This entry was posted on Thursday, September 10th, 2009 at 2:36 PM

national-clamps-logo.jpgI spotted one of the most ill-considered company straplines I think I’ve ever seen the other day.  I was on my way into Kingston when I noticed the logo on the van in front of me.‘National Clamps’, the jolly, bright yellow logo proclaimed.

But it was the line that cut through the logo that made me snort with derision. Written in a soft script typeface, to give it that human touch, was the phrase ‘We Care’.  ‘National Clamps – We Care’?  Do me a favour.Are we really supposed to believe that the burly blokes who clamp our cars actually care? And that they give two hoots when they charge us extortionate fees to release them?  I think not.

This strapline is wrong on so many levels.  It reads like something that was scribbled on the back of a fag packet without any thought. It says nothing about the company (well, actually it does. But not what they intended I’m sure).  Worst of all, it’s downright antagonistic!

I suspect they decided they needed to get away from their industry’s poor public image. However, just saying the words ‘we care’ really isn’t going to do it. You have to live your strapline for it to count.

Of course National Clamps isn’t the only company to get it wrong. It’s a big mistake and a lost opportunity.

Straplines comprise so few words yet they count for so much. Along with your logo, your company strapline is part of your corporate identity. So it should reflect your culture, values, and expertise. It should express your company’s personality. It needs to be distinctive and memorable – for the right reasons of course.

Since you’re likely to be stuck with it for some years you need to invest time and careful consideration into getting it right. Try it out on a few people before you go live to check their reaction. Make sure it gets the response you want before you unleash it.

It takes time to come up with a strapline that encapsulates the essence of your company in a few words. Sometimes as long as it takes to write the copy for an average sized website in fact. OK, there may be the odd light bulb moment, but not that often. That’s because the words that make up the best straplines aren’t just plucked out of thin air.

Companies with great straplines, the ones that have embedded themselves into our psyche, will have defined exactly what they want to convey. They will have discussed, researched, and sampled. And, yes, some will have paid a lot of money for them.

Here are some examples of the best ones:

tesco-every-little-helps.gifEvery little helps – Tesco.  It’s also one of those lines that’s become part of our vocabulary

tescos_you_shop_we_drop.gifYou shop, we drop – Tesco again for its online shopping service. I really love this one.

We’re number two, so we try harder – Avis Car Rentals. I love the boldness of this line.

Reassuringly expensive  – Stella Artois. No longer used but a classic nonetheless.

Vorsprung Durch Technik -  Audi.  And you don’t even have to know what it means!

nike.jpgJust Do It – Nike. A strapline that’s so well-known it doesn’t need the company name to support it.

ms.gifI also like Marks & Spencer’s strapline – Your M&S.

According to an article on Telegraph.co.uk in November 2006:

‘The “Your M&S” strapline was designed to work on three levels. It was intended to remind shareholders that they own the company, it was designed to perk up staff and it was designed to tell customers that the company will start to sell products that they want to buy.’

Here’s a good article on creating straplines and slogans for particular products and services.

Don’t fall into the National Clamps trap. Spend some time with your strapline and create something that really represents your company.

I’ll give the last line to a strapline I spotted years ago in New York. It still makes me giggle. It was on the side of a furniture company’s van and it read:

“A cheap chair for your cheap ass.’

Only in New York!

Why bad business writing is like a cheap sandwich | VW Blue Motion ad makes me green with envy – a great illustration of clear, simple, but creative copy

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Hello. I'm Elaine, I'm a copywriter and this is my blog.

It's mostly about words and writing - things that inspire me, entertain me, and make me smile. Sometimes it's about things that horrify me so much I want to scream and shout!

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