“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

This quote, attributed to the great American wit Mark Twain, is a fine fit for our post on how to write a killer strapline.

Sacrilege? Not a bit of it. Twain’s quote is all about economy and distillation, and taking the time to get to the point. And when you’re creating a strapline, that’s what you have to do. A line is constructed from only a few words, but it’s a marketing device that demands time and thinking – sometimes seemingly disproportionate to its length.

But it’s time well spent.

Why? Because the perfect strapline is a powerful and versatile addition to your marketing toolbox. It’s a classic of communication.And it’s effortlessly taken its place in the digital age.

Lines of legend and language

The greatest lines achieve legendary status. De Beers’ A Diamond is Forever has been around since, well, forever (1947, actually) and was of course subsequently adapted for a Bond film title.

On occasion, straplines – and slogans – can even enter the general language (like Ronseal’s Does exactly what it says on the tin) or Naughty.But nice. the 1980s cream cakes slogan whipped up by a pre-successful-novelist Salman Rushdie (he also coined That’ll do nicely for American Express).

writing straplinesThe purpose of your strapline

Essence. All great straplines define and communicate the essence of an organisation. And in very few words. That’s why they’re so worthwhile – and so challenging – to write. Great lines can help organisations stand apart from competitors too. And they can express a compelling promise. Like Avis’ celebrated We try harder line.

To harness the power of a strapline, you don’t need to be a giant like Avis (whose line brilliantly acknowledged its #2 underdog status behind Hertz). Any organisation in any sector can, and should, benefit too.

All great straplines define and communicate the essence of an organisation.

So let’s look at some tips for writing that killer strapline.

Know what you want to say…

This might sound a little obvious, but trust us. All great lines begin with a clear idea of what you want to convey.

  • That could be an aspiration (like Apple’s Think Different or L’Oreal’s Because you’re worth it)
  • It could be a promise (like John Lewis’ 1925 Never knowingly undersold)
  • Or maybe something more descriptive (like Carlsberg’s Probably the best beer in the world – recently promoted from many years as being Probably the best lager…)

…and who you want to say it to

As with all marketing efforts, knowing your audience is crucial. Audiences help guide use of language and tone. So put yourself in your target’s shoes. What will engage them?

This is also the time to accept that one line can’t communicate intimate detail about several values. Instead, it should be a defining statement; the sum total of your organisation.

Brainstorm

As we’ve seen, creating a strapline can be a deceptively difficult exercise. It can, however, be one of the more enjoyable marketing tasks. Strapline-creation time is a great opportunity for teamwork and brainstorming. Prior to the exercise, ask your team to think about your brand story, and about your customers/users. What kind of line would grab them? And what might turn them off?

The result will be a lengthy list of individual words, not-quite-right lines – some real turkeys – and a whiteboard-ful of assorted thoughts. Believe us: from that wordy tangle can later leap terrific strapline options.

Strapline-creation time is a great opportunity for teamwork and brainstorming.

Straplines for BrandsCheck out the competition

How are your competitors presenting themselves? Can you take cues from the language and tone of their lines? Is there an opportunity to do something different?

Keep it simple

Write a little. Say a lot. could be the strapline for this advice. It’s rarely easy, but aim to use as few words as possible. And if you can mine these words from the everyday (like Tesco’s line Every Little Helps) then all the better.

As an aside, Nike’s Just do it is a simple, memorable line that, ironically, is so synonymous with the brand’s Swoosh (that elegant tick graphic), that it can be left off the company’s billboards. Nike enjoys the ultra-rare comfort of knowing that we consumers will see the Swoosh and repeat a line that isn’t actually there. (Similarly, Nike confidently removed its own name from above the Swoosh several years ago).

But simplicity’s not only about strapline length. As well as word count, keeping things simple takes us back to that rule of nutshelling and conveying your organisation’s essence.

Take your time. Strapline-writing is a process. You can bet bucketfuls of frogs were kissed prior to the creation of any classic, memorable line you care to name. So give this exercise the time it deserves.

Can Hookson help me create a killer strapline for my organisation?

We’re ready to write when it comes to strapline creation. So give us a shout. We’ll take time to understand your business, your customers and what you want your line to communicate. Just send a message or call us on 0131 524 7940