What makes a good strapline?

A strapline is supposed to encapsulate everything about your business, telling customers about who you are, what you do, and more importantly why that’s great for them – in just a handful of words. You may never have thought about straplines, but if you look around, they’re everywhere – some brilliant, some misguided, and some utterly forgettable.

I have been working with one of our (b2b) clients this week to help them establish a strapline for their business… and being honest, coming up with the right strapline for the job isn’t as easy as you might think. Good headline/strapline writing is a real skill – but the information you need to come up with the right strapline already exists within your business, so with the right information and the right process, it is possible to nail it.

A process of brainstorming is a good place to start – creating a list of words and phrases that describe your business, what your existing customers value about your business, and why new customers should pick you. And remember – the right strapline isn’t about how you see your business, it’s about how you want customers to see you.

Strapline considerations

As you work through, keep in mind the following considerations:

1. A natural sounding strapline is more useful than a contorted ‘clever’ one.

2. Simplicity is vital – a strapline shouldn’t be a fully fledged marketing message, it should be very easy to grasp and ideally easy to remember.

3. It should tell customers something about either your services, or your ethos, as plainly as possible. It can be tempting to get try to get clever with straplines, using phrases that sound good, but don’t mean anything when you think about them – but to be effective your strapline needs to be simple and hard-hitting.

4. Some people advise avoiding specific promises – such as ‘always on time’, as that can come back to bite you, no matter how good you are. My personal feeling, however, is that it tells customers that your standards are high, and it gives you something to live up to.

5. Think about what your customers value most in your services. For example Duracell’s “lasts longer” drives right to the heart of what people want from their batteries. Similarly Pickfords “the careful movers” – careful is exactly what you want from your removal guys. If you can get to the heart of what your customers value about you, you’ve got your strapline. Clever or conceptual straplines are for B2C brands (Persil’s ‘dirt is good’ is a bold move, but wouldn’t work for a B2B company) – for B2B stick to what it is your customers want from you.

6. Rhymes or alliteration make a strapline trip off the tongue more easily, and make it more memorable, but don’t use that at the expense of the points above.

7. Make sure that it’s actually adding something to proceedings, not just a strapline for the sake of a strapline.

Strapline Checklist

Once you have a list of possible straplines, you can rate them based on the following criteria – which is really just a checklist of the considerations above:

Simplicity – Is it straightforward, honest, short? (Discard all the wordy options based on this criteria, and look for ways to say the same thing using less words. Also discard anything that tries to be too clever)

Clarity – Is it easy to grasp? Is it really clear what you’re trying to say, without me having to think too hard about it? Does it tell me something? (Discard all muddy phrases which are open to interpretation, based on this criteria.)

Essence – Is it going to the heart of what your customers want from your business/product/service? Is it an absolute distillation of the key reason customers should pick you. (Discard anything that sounds good but isn’t really what you’re about… or which mentions aspects that aren’t absolutely key)

Usability/Memorability – Can you say the phrase easily? Can you remember it easily? If you select this strapline and walk away from it for a day, will you still remember it?

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