AT&T had a catchy tagline: Reach Out and Touch Someone. As an inspirational writer who has a lot of contact with people going through cancer treatment, I often encourage people to touch their friends and family if it is appropriate. By touch, I mean to reach out and hold a hand, or give a hug, to show them some love and care. So that seemed a good tagline.
That's before I looked up AT&T and discovered they are a mobile network company. Hmm. Where I understand what they're trying to say (I think) the idea of someone reaching out and touching me from my cell phone kind of gives me the creeps! This doesn't say what it's meant to say.
Electrolux marketed vacuum cleaners in the United Kingdom with the tagline, Nothing sucks like an Electrolux. That is a great recommendation for a vacuum cleaner or course, but it sure sucks as a promotion. Incidentally, although this was regarded by many as a huge blunder, the company claims this was a deliberate effort to gain attention. It worked! So, is this a good tagline or a bad one?
If you know Electrolux is a vacuum cleaner, it's a clever line. But if you don't? I know Electrolux is a well-known brand, but it is just possible there are some people out there in our global village who don't know. And that sucks! This tagline has a double meaning.
Kentucky Fried Chicken's finger-lickin' good is a well-known tagline, but they need to be careful if they translate it into Chinese. It then becomes "We'll Eat Your Fingers Off!" So it works well for its American market, but if it's used globally, and of course KFC is pretty world-wide now, it could cause some concern.
A well-known author uses the term HEA in her tagline. I read a comment by her on a blog recently where she says, "People would have to know what HEA stands for of course, but I’d assume most romance writers do."
Well, as a matter of fact I didn't. But then, I'm not a romance writer. So I Googled the term. I found it could mean:
- Higher Education Act
- Higher Education Authority
- Hypospadias and Epispadias Association
- Household Economy Assessment
- High Energy Astrophysics
- Happily Ever After
- and another 40-odd possibilities.
Then we have
- the car company that says We put people in front of cars. Really?
- the airline that says, We get you there. Umm. That's probably a good thing. But they don't say how! It doesn't enthuse me to use their service.
- the spice that says it's Distilled in hell. As a Christian I would be apprehensive of sprinkling this on my food!
It's not my intention to belittle the people who came up with these taglines. They're all pretty clever when you know what they mean. But what have we learned from these examples?
- Don't rush your decision. We need to consider the different cultures we're writing for, and think of whether readers in another land will understand our meaning.
- Be cautious of a clever play on words. The Upper Room, a devotional magazine that is published in over 40 languages, refuses to use any idioms that would not make sense to other cultures. That is a challenge; but then we're writers. We're up to challenges.
- Make sure it gives the message you want it to. No creepy hands coming out of the mobile! Or people standing in front of cars!
- Avoid initials or abbreviations unless we are only using our tagline "in house," with a group of people that will know what we're talking about.
How about you? Do you have any more advice? Points we should beware of when we come up with that startling, all-important, tagline that's going to shoot us up the charts of fame?
SHIRLEY CORDER lives on the coast in South Africa with her husband, Rob. Her book, Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer contains 90 meditations based on her sojourn in the cancer valley.
The first two parts of this theme can be read here:
Part I What is Your Tagline?
Part II Some Taglines that Work