Brand Messaging 101 for Beginners – Part One – Three Simple Rules

Brand Messaging 101 for Beginners – Part One – Three Simple Rules

brand messaging business tagline tips

I have a hobby: I collect business taglines. Whenever I’m out and about shopping (or window shopping), I’ll snap pictures of taglines. When I’m surfing the internet or when a pesky ad pops up, I might click it just so that I can check out their branded message. In fact, I have a long Excel sheet crammed with taglines I’ve rated, good, okay, and ugly. Before I let you take a peek, I’m going to share three simple rules to get you started on creating your own brand messaging.

Brand Messaging 101 – Rule #1 – Don’t be vague!

An example of a vague tagline is “Live your best life!” Think about it: a life coach and a financial advisor can have this same tagline. Instead, I invite you to describe the how, why or what you do differently–as a life coach or a financial advisor–you help people live their best lives. Write out your thoughts! Materialize your thoughts and fill out the whole paper. Be as descriptive and clear as you possibly can. Don’t worry if it’s a bit long, you’ll work on sound byte and conciseness later.

Here’s another hint: If your brand’s message feels general or vague it probably is.

Here are a couple of vague taglines from businesses you may have heard of:

Burger King
Be Your Way

burger king brand promise business tagline practices vancouver brand designer

Why it’s vague
In an effort to connect to Millenials, Burger King changed its tagline from Have It Your Way to BE Your Way. The former tagline was clear; remember the commercial where someone ordered a Whopper without mayo? Did Burger King make that a thing? The only reason I know that they’re trying to appeal to young Millenials is because I looked it up. Aren’t Millennials more health-conscious these days? How is a burger going to help you be your way. I’m not a fan of the new tagline, because the strategy behind it doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense for its intended audience. 

Fortunately for Burger King, they already have thousands of chains across the world so they can afford to change their brand messaging and create buzz around it.

Here are 8 other businesses that changed their brand messaging. Let me know in the comments if you agree with their business move: Then and Now: Businesses That Changed Their Taglines

Impossible is nothing

adidas brand promise business tagline practices vancouver brand designer

Why it’s vague
What is clear about this tagline is that Just Do It is already and that this tagline is a me-too vaguer version. A poor attempt to sound original.

Rule #2 – Avoid Non-differentiated statements such as “The Best Quality” + “The Best Customer Service”

This includes words such as efficient and effective. Instead, describe how your product or service is efficient and effective. Get specific! 

Almost every client I have worked with has thought that what made them different from their competitors was their customer service or quality. The truth is, having great quality and amazing customer service are both must-have’s to exist in almost any industry these days. So avoid taglines like, “We’re the best x”, “We’re the only x out there!” because you’ll end up fading into the crowd instead of standing out. Your company may absolutely have the best quality and have the best service, but these branded taglines are just too common.  

Stay away from taglines that sound like this:

  • Quality and innovation
  • Quality is what we do
  • The best quality
  • Dependable quality
  • Affordable quality

You get the idea.

Here are some questions to get you to brainstorm alternatives:

  • What makes your product or service the best? Try to narrow it down to one thing that ONLY your company does. 
  • What makes your customer service the best? Again, try to zero in on one thing that makes your customer service buzz-worthy that your competitors aren’t doing.
  • How is your product efficient or effective?

goodyear brand promise business tagline practices vancouver brand designer

That’s a pretty bold statement. What do you think of Goodyear’s tagline? 

Want another bad example? Check out Barnes & Nobles’ tagline here.


Rule #3 – Your tagline is a brand PROMISE

Your tagline is the key phrase that belongs on your business card, website or t-shirt. It captures the promise your business is making.

Your promise is where the rubber hits the road: it communicates what your business is about. It’s a great opportunity to make your customers smile, make them think, or give them a taste of your attitude. 

When creating your tagline, think about what is the one thing that your business can be consistent on. Maybe it has to do with values or your mission. Apple’s slogan is “Think different” so they’ve made a commitment to making products that inspire their clients to think different and it’s also how they run their business. 

“Imagination at work” by GE is another tagline that captures how the company runs its business while also promising to their clients their commitment to being an innovative company.  

Here are a couple of taglines from businesses that just did not live up to their promise.

Victoria Secret
A body for every body.

victoria secret tagline a body for every body - blog about creating taglines and brand message by Canada branding expert

When I saw this I immediately smirked. God forbid that Victoria Secret would invite a plus-size woman to model their lingerie! Is Victoria Secret out of touch with reality? Are slim women wearing size 0 underwear their idea of “every body”? Perhaps they offer size D cup size bras and XL thongs but I wouldn’t know about it from this picture.

Truth in engineering

audi brand promise business tagline practices vancouver brand designer

Remember when Volkswagen was caught for cheating on their emissions tests? Well, Audi owns Volkswagen. One way to insert your brand promise into your tagline is by selling from the heart. Another way is to under-promise and over-deliver and not disappoint a single customer. Can you think of a better tagline for Audi? Help them out and share it in the comments below!

I hope that you enjoyed part one of my Brand Messaging 101 Series. For part two, drop us your contact info here and we’ll notify you. Also, follow us on Instagram for more branding inspiration.

That was fun! Want to see more taglines? Here are 135 taglines and business names of successful B-corps, social enterprises, and do-gooders to draw inspiration from. Enjoy!