Updated: Jan 13, 2020
“Make a catchy tagline.” This seemingly simple task is a lot more challenging than you would expect! How do you cram what you do, the value you deliver, and the emotional soul of your brand into a tiny compact phrase?
I went down this path too. After some online research and a bit of mind mapping, I arrived at ScapeHop’s tagline, “The Fun of Ideas” In this post, I will share the process used to come up with it.
What a Tagline Is
A tagline is a memorable headline for your brand. It should pique the interest of your audience but should not be so general that any business could claim it. For example, “Fast and Affordable Excellence” sounds nice, but it’s not a good tagline. It is too general.
A good tagline will capture the essence of your brand’s promise in a way that connects emotionally with your customers. BMW’s “Designed for Driving Pleasure” tagline is a good example. It strikes an excellent balance by making BMW’s domain clear, “Driving,” but also connects on an emotional level “Pleasure.”
Tagline: Emotional Connection vs. Descriptive Utility
One caveat before sharing this tagline brainstorming process. Many tagline how-to articles for small businesses recommend against emotional messaging in a tagline. Their argument is that small businesses are obscure by nature. So their taglines need to be a descriptive introduction. This advice makes sense but neglects the need to differentiate your brand on an emotional level.
Your brand needs to stand out from the other businesses that can describe what they do the same way you could. Also, your existing brand name and the names of your products or services can help. If those names are descriptive, it takes the burden off your tagline to fully cover what you do.
ScapeHop’s product names are literal descriptions, “Mind Map AR” and “Mind Mapping 3D.” So I was comfortable putting more emotional weight behind ScapeHop’s tagline. This tagline brainstorming process reflects that.
Tagline Mind Mapping
Part 1 - The Tagline Brainstorming Mind Map Root
The basic structure of a mind map is to start with a central idea. You expand on the central idea by branching related topics. In this case, we can name the primary topic something descriptive and straightforward. “Tagline Brainstorm for (Insert your brand here)” would be fine.
Part 2 - A Place to Catch Tagline Ideas
Brainstorming is not a linear process. Ideas can come out of nowhere at any time. Don’t miss out on them because you are sticking to a rigid process. Instead, give those ideas a home early on!
Add a new mind map root called “Tagline Ideas.” Here you will catch any ideas for taglines that pop into mind. These will come as you work through the brainstorming process. You never know when you’ll nail it with a eureka moment, so it’s essential to start with this in mind.
Part 3 - Gather Ideal Keywords for Your Tagline
Back on your main mind map root, add a branch called “Top 6 Keywords”. Off of that, add a child topic called “Runner-up Keywords.” This topic will be the spillway that captures the overflow of words that don’t stay in the top 6. Change the color of the runner-up keywords topic to differentiate it.
Start adding keywords that would be good to have in your tagline to the “Top 6 Keywords” topic. The keywords you add here will quickly exceed 6. After 6-10 keywords, you will want to start bumping words to the Runner-up Keywords topic. You can fold (collapse) and unfold (expand) the Runner-up branches as needed.
As you prune, alternate between descriptive and emotional words to balance the Top 6. When your keyword ideas start to dwindle, you can pause. Avoid forcing words in you don’t feel are a good fit.
The beauty of using mind maps to brainstorm is they’re not sequential. You don’t need to have everything done on one topic before working on another. Add what feels right to you and know you can add later as your thinking grows.
Part 4 - Strengths Your Tagline Should Express or Complement
Add another topic node to the root called “Strengths.” On this topic, add your business’s strengths and unique selling points. Again, you don’t need to strain to come up with an exhaustive list. Everything in a mind map can be built upon as the ideas come to you.
Part 5 - The Customer's Benefits
Next, add a topic node to the root called “Customer Benefits.” Add the benefits your customers will realize by doing business with you. Think about the job your product or service does for the customer. And the feelings your customer has when those jobs are done well. Avoid listing features. For example, you might say “peace of mind” for a roadside assistance service instead of “100 miles of towing.”
Part 6 - Target Customer Personas
Add another topic to your primary root node called “Target Customers.” Your tagline should resonate with the customer personas you build on this topic. Add customer types and list their attributes. Include their interests, problems, products and services they like, etc.
Part 7 - Cultural Phrasing (a tagline hack)
Add a new root called “Popular Phrases.” On this topic, you are capturing known text strings that can be a part of your tagline. Many recognizable phrases resonate because they have been heard before. “Got Milk?” is an excellent example of this. Well before that tagline was promoted, the two-word “Got ______?” question was something most people had experienced. Examples include: Got toothpaste? Got paper? Got money? And so on. It was a typical colloquial question structure before it was a famous tagline.
These phrases are surprisingly hard to come up with because they are so common we don’t recognize them for what they are. Fortunately, there is a resource you can tap packed full of broadly known phrases - pop culture. Best of all, these are easy to find thanks to Google.
Take the words from your Top 6 Keywords branch and open your browser. Look for song names, lyrics, movie titles, quotes, phrases, etc. using those words. Add the ones you like to this mind map root. These are a great way to increase the catchiness of your tagline. Remember, you are looking for grouping of words that will echo what’s already in your customers' heads. You’re not looking for exact phrases to be your tagline.
Part 8 - Mashups and Remixes
At this point, you should be feeling good about your odds of coming up with a good tagline. You may already have draft taglines you are excited about in the Tagline Ideas root you made in Part 2.
Now you bring together all the work you’ve done so far. Think of some possible taglines using your top 6 keywords. Consider these next to the phrases you captured in Part 7 (Cultural Phrasing). Are there any interesting mashups? Does one of your originals shine? Add any promising iterations to your Tagline Ideas root.
Now think about the benefits you added in Part 5 (Customers Benefits). Tune your thinking to the emotional payoffs you noted in that step. Do any of your current tagline options express those feelings? Are there changes you can make to achieve that?
Next, consider the strengths you added in Part 4 (Strengths Your Tagline Should Express or Complement). Do any of the taglines express or complement your business's strengths? What tweaks can you make that would do this? Add those to the Tagline Ideas topic too.
Lastly, a thought exercise, pitch your taglines to the customer persona’s you made in Part 6 (Customer Personas). Do you see yourself sincerely delivering that message to them? Is it something that would resonate with the persona you had in mind? Are there changes you can make to achieve a better fit?
After the work in this step, you should have 1-3 compelling tagline candidates (and many not-so-good ones).
Don’t expect your remaining taglines to have every base covered from the parts described above. They are the parts of a brainstorming path, not a list of "must-haves." For example, ScapeHop’s tagline “The Fun of Ideas” does not push the memory benefits of AR and 3D mind mapping. I’m OK with that because the payoff of achieving personal growth in a fun way is more compelling. You’ll inevitably need to make some trade-offs too.
Part 9 - Get Feedback
Now it’s time to share your best tagline options for feedback. You should do this with people you trust to be honest with you. Ideally, they would match one of the personas you had in mind. Gauge their reactions and expressions as you share the taglines. Which tagline is most consistently getting the responses you want?
Another option is to split test your tagline shortlist. I did this for my final top five taglines. In Facebook Ads I built a target audience using the customer personas. Then I made an identical Ad with the only difference being the taglines which were:
Build a beautiful mind
Expand your mind
The fun of ideas
The nature of nimble minds
Mobilize your mind
I expected “Build a beautiful mind” to be the winner and would have it as ScapHop’s tagline if I hadn’t done this test. It performed well but I had a better option. The best tagline from this split test was “The fun of ideas.” It outperformed the “Build a beautiful mind” option by 20.63%!
Step 10 - Make it Public
By this point, you have an excellent tagline! It resonates with your customer personas and supports your brand. So put it to work. Add it to your website, business cards, email signature, and anywhere else that makes sense.