Oh man, now the secret is out!
Clever taglines are not rocket surgery. From Apple's "Think Different" to McDonald's "I'm Lovin' It", there are a fair number of nonsensical or ambiguous (but still effective) slogans out there. With that being said, simple seems to work just fine for many businesses. Master copywriters know what they're doing, though you do have to wonder how much those guys get paid per word (most of Apple's slogans are comprised of only a few words).
Speaking of getting paid for words, that's almost exactly what we're talking about here, isn't it? Your awesome tagline is going to be on your merch, and your merch will be exchanged for real money! Imagine! And who said writers never make any money?
1. Use Rhymes
"Skills to pay the bills" was ShoeMoney's tagline that not only rhymes, but is also a reference to a Beastie Boys song of the same name (of course, the reference could date back further). Rhymes are catchy and memorable.
This tip may not work for everyone, but there are definitely some possibilities here, especially if you have a name that's easy to rhyme with. For example, John Miller: No Filler.
2. Use Puns/Play On Words
"Blogging the Reel World" is /Film's clever play-on-words tagline. People appreciate wit, and they like to laugh besides. Think of a button that simply reads, "Pin me". It's silly, but it's also hard to resist.
3. Use Memes
Burger King has long been known for its "Have it your way" (have what your way?) tagline, but they also had an ad that read "We heard you like burgers, so we put burgers in your burger". This, of course, is a reference to Xzibit's "yo dawg" meme that we still see all over the internet.
A meme may not necessarily work well as a primary tagline, but if you're in need of a secondary slogan, it just might fit the bill.
4. Use Positive Words
I think it was Jerry Seinfeld who pointed out the fact that a lot of cars have names that are similar to or synonymous with positive words. Think of the Integra, the Acclaim, the Accord, the Discovery, the Dynasty, the Encore, the Esteem, the Impreza, the Liberty and oh so many others.
A prime example of a large company doing something like this would be Wheaties, whose most memorable tagline was "The Breakfast of Champions". Not the breakfast of losers, or the breakfast of the nerds, or the breakfast of purple dinosaurs. The breakfast of champions.
A lot of big companies use words with positive connotations (even McDonald's "I'm Lovin' It"), and this is very likely a conscious choice.
5. Use Ambiguous But True Slogans
Like Miller Lite's claim to "Great Taste. Less Filling.", ambiguity seems to work well for many businesses. Probably because the more ambiguous they are, the less likely people are to argue with them.
Best Buy had the "Thousands of Possibilities, Get Yours" slogan. Of course, their store is filled with a myriad of different electronic products, so the statement stands (at least somewhat) true.
"Think different" was Apple's tagline for many years. It doesn't really mean a whole lot, besides being alternative or different from the competition. I guess their current popularity is ironic. Hipsters!
"Just Do It" is also an iconic catchphrase that is mostly nonsensical. Got an errand to do? Just do it. Got to eat a burger? Just do it. Got to take a nap? Just do it. Somehow it loses its shine when there aren't athletes challenging the very limits of their body and drenched in sweat onscreen. Good one, Nike.
6. Subtly Reference Your Competition
You might remember Taco Bell's plea to "Think OutSide The Bun". No, they're not making reference to your butt. That would be awkward. No, the message of that tagline is if you're going to get fast food anyway, you might as well start exploring options outside of burgers. Fast food is still fast food, though. It's just a different flavor of the same Styrofoam food group.
If one of your running mates (politically correct term for "rivals") is doing one thing and you feel strongly opposed to their standpoint, you might challenge their methods with your slogans. For example, "Jimmy's got no keys, but we love to tickle the ivories".
7. Exaggerate Product Benefits
"Red Bull Gives You Wings", man. What the heck are they putting in that stuff that you start growing wings all of a sudden? That can't be right.
Red Bull doesn't actually give you wings, of course, but energy drinks are supposed to increase your mental awareness for periods of time. In other words, their tagline is a bit of an exaggeration of the benefits you can gain from drinking that toxic sludge. It's the feeling you get when you've had 20 shots of caffeine (not recommended).
If you're in a band, you might try something like "The Lounge Penguins; we'll jazz your socks off!"
8. Appear Hip
Earlier we made reference to McDonald's, but they are perhaps one of the prime examples of a company that has worked to look hip and with the times and appealing to the impressionable younger generation.
Like Britney Spears or Michael Jackson's evil alliance endorsement of Pepsi, Justin Timberlake was used to convey McDonald's youthful influence (and even sang the atrocious hook for the commercial). It doesn't change the fact that fast food isn't terribly good for you. Thanks for making us fat, Justin.
So, if you think Gen Y is your demographic, consider what would draw them in and use it to your advantage.
Is there anything else you think people should be doing when writing merch taglines? Make sure to leave a comment below!
Cover image by Allison Media Group