No, it's not a tell-tale mark that comes from a day at the beach, nor is it visible proof that you’re wearing a poor-fitting undergarment. A "strapline" is that important proclamation that tells customers what your business is about in just a few memorable words.
Some call it a slogan or a tagline, others refer to it as a motto; whatever you choose to call it, the strapline is a phrase that sums up your business, its attraction and its value to those who'll do business with you, (and it convinces them—hopefully—that they should).
If you don't yet have a strapline for your business, here are some tips for creating one that's strong and effective, and will get stuck in your customers' heads and keep them thinking about you.
The essence of a strapline
A strapline's goal is to become 'sticky.' That is, it's meaningful and memorable to the extent that it sticks with your customers
At its core, a strapline's goal is to become "sticky." That is, it's meaningful and memorable to the extent that it sticks with your customers. It tells customers what you do, how you do it and why you're different from your competitors—and it achieves this in only a few words. It treads a fine line between marketing pitch and promise, commitment, or guarantee of a company's value and benefit to the customer.
Think about one of Amazon.com's straplines, "Amazon and you're done," usually seen on the company's shipping cartons. It subtly makes the case that whatever you're looking for, you'll find it at Amazon ("and you're done"). It simultaneously promises that your shopping will be faster and easier (and more fun) when you shop at Amazon. It suggests you'll enjoy more leisure time, freed from searching high and low for whatever it is you seek.
Look around at other companies' straplines and see which of them stick with you. More important, think about the straplines you see or hear after which you immediately know the company it represents (as in, "I'm lovin' it"). If you hear five-note jingle in your head right now, then that strapline has become sticky in your mind.
How to create your strapline
The key to a good strapline is conciseness and connection. You need to define what your company (or product) is about, how it improves a customer's life, and how the experience of buying and using it can be pleasurable and rewarding, and you need to communicate all of that in just a few words, usually between three and six. Never exceed eight. This means you'll need to do some noodling over single words that describe your business or product.
It's a quick explanation of how your business is there to make their days better
- Begin by establishing the attraction of your business: selection, service, support, satisfaction (and it needn't be an exercise in alliteration as this just happened to be).
- Next, try to come up with as many words as possible that communicate your business' key values. If low price is top of your list, begin with words like "economical" or "affordable," then consult a thesaurus to find other words that mean the same.
- Now, in true Scrabble fashion, mix and match the different words to play with different ways to formulate a short but memorable message.
Making your strapline connect
That's the point of a strapline—it should connect with your customers. It's a quick explanation of how your business is there to make their days better. Perhaps it's a message of reassurance in a moment of uncertainty ("You're in good hands with Allstate"); maybe it's a confidence-boosting sentiment to let customers know you're right there with them ("Lowe's—let's build something together"); or it could impart a feeling of prestige to your customers ("BMW—the ultimate driving machine").
No matter what your personal perceptions of the companies just noted, the point is that their straplines have been constructed to involve, engage and enable customers to relax more, achieve more, and enjoy more. How will your strapline connect with your customers? That's your opportunity to decide.
Still not sure about your business' benefits?
Don't fret if you're struggling to come up with a short list of keywords for your strapline; big companies pay big dollars to big firms to figure this stuff out for them. For your business, try to answer these questions, and you're sure to zero in on the best words that will present it in its best light:
If you do that and craft a strapline that quickly imparts the business' value, you're sure to get customers' attention such that you'll have time to explain more about the benefits you offer
- Start from the beginning: What does your business do?
- What is your business personality? Is it serious and reassuring, or is it leisurely and playful? (Maybe it's both, solving serious problems in a light-hearted manner.)
- What's the personality of your customers? Determine the other products or services they use and look for keywords that resonate with them from other businesses.
- What is the core problem your business solves or key benefit it offers? This is critical because it communicates why customers should even consider doing business with you.
- Finally, why should customers believe your promises or guarantees?
Of course, the preceding questions could generate a list of words that couldn't possibly be boiled down to a short statement. If that's the case, then you'll need to prioritize the most important words that describe what you most want to communicate about your business. If you do that and craft a strapline that quickly imparts the business' value, you're sure to get customers' attention such that you'll have time to explain more about the benefits you offer.
Yes, straplines (or slogans or mottos, or whatever you want to call them) have been in use since the dawn of business—and there's good reason for that; they work! Take time to put together a strapline for your business and then use it wherever customers come in contact with you. From Web destinations, to business letterhead, to business cards and electronic signatures, your strapline needs to be in full sight at all times. It will connect with customers and, hopefully soon, they won't be to get it out of their heads.
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Dennis L. Prince has been analyzing and advocating the e-commerce sector since 1996. He has published more than 12 books on the subject, including How to Sell Anything on eBay…and Make a Fortune, second edition (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and How to Make Money with MySpace (McGraw-Hill, 2008). His insight is actively sought within online, magazine, television and radio venues.
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