Are Taglines Necessary?
By Tom Ryan
Whole Foods Market, Urban Outfitters, Google, and In-N-Out Burger don’t have them. What if more brands conducted advertising without taglines?
That’s a proposition presented by John Moore, a former marketing exec at Starbucks and Whole Foods who now runs Brand Autopsy Marketing Practice. Writing for Brandweek, Mr. Moore came upon the notion after hearing comedian Steve Martin speak on NPR’s All Things Considered about his recently-published memoir on his stand-up years.
In the book, Mr. Martin writes that his innovative stand-up style was developed after studying how audiences respond to jokes.
“With conventional joke telling, there’s a moment when the comedian delivers the punch line, and the audience knows it’s the punch line, and their reaction ranges from polite to uproarious,” Mr. Martin wrote. “What bothered me about this formula was the nature of the laugh it inspired, a vocal acknowledgement that a joke had been told, like automatic applause at the end of a song.”
Rather than this Pavlovian formula to joke telling that led to mostly superficial laughs, Mr. Martin felt that real, guttural laughs would come more naturally when the audience was allowed to pick the moment where they could choose to laugh. As a result, Mr. Martin chose to do comedy without punch lines.
Mr. Moore asserts that the formula for advertising is a lot like stand-up comedy.
“A brand’s advertising consists of a setup and then closes with a tag line,” writes Moore. “Doesn’t matter if it’s print, OOH, TV, whatever … most advertising has a setup that leads to a tagline, which is designed to coax a Pavlovian sale from a customer.”
In the same manner, Mr. Moore wonders if brands would be better without soundbites, and consumers should be given more leeway to decide on the merits of a brand without heavy-handed messages.
“The ‘advertising’ at Whole Foods Market is all about their style in how they’ve transformed grocery shopping from a chore into a place to explore new foods and new flavors,” Mr. Moore wrote. “Same goes for Urban Outfitters where their unique style is shown through their always-unique merchandise assortment. No tagline necessary with Google because their style of easy access to the world’s information is all the advertising it needs. Ordering a Double-Double Animal Style at In-N-Out is an experience that is unique only to In-N-Out.”
Mr. Moore concludes, “A marketing world without taglines is about designing
interesting customer experiences where people interact with the brand in order
to better understand and appreciate the reasons why the brand deserves the
right to exist. It’s about realizing a brand’s unique style is its best form
Discussion Questions: Do you think brands put too much emphasis
on taglines? Have taglines become obsolete in the current advertising environment?