While traveling recently, I took advantage of the free wi-fi in a luxury hotel to catch up on some work. I found a comfortable seat a few feet from the reception desk. Having spent the early part of my career in hotel management, I still get a kick out of watching the goings-on of staff and guests. It wasn’t long before an elderly couple sidled up to the reception desk in full view of the five receptionists busy with chatting amongst themselves, technology and administration. The elderly couple patiently waited until such time as a receptionist decided they were marginally more important than the details of her hairdressing appointment she was discussing. The elderly gentleman was clearly hard of hearing and used a walking cane to get around.
It was obvious that he needed help in a particular way because of his condition, but the receptionist wasn’t going to let individual needs get in the way of the routine she was used to going through. Ask for a credit card, ID, stare at the computer for a long period of time, type something, stare some more and on and on. Eventually, he told her he had to sit down if he was to complete the process. As he shuffled to a nearby couch, he passed a large banner with the name of the hotel and the tagline “Where we treat you like family.” I don’t know what kind of family these hotel operators grew up with, but if they were trying to recreate a dysfunctional, emotionally unavailable family unit, they certainly succeeded.
I despise taglines. In fact, I despise all kinds of tags: new clothes tags, gift tags, even skin tags. What is a tag? Something that is rarely wanted by the owner or recipient; is often thrown away or removed and holds no real value.
I believe taglines to be the cause of the most disappointment in products or services. Brands go to great lengths to share their glib taglines in the hope that you’ll find some value in the proposition, only to be disappointed when you experience the brand and discover that that tagline didn’t extend past the glossy marketing material.
A friend recently recalled a story where car rental company Avis had lost his reservation and had no cars left on the lot. They told him there was nothing they could do. He would have to go somewhere else. He leaned in towards the clerk at the desk, pointed to her name badge and said “Try harder.”
Here’s the issue. A tagline is often a poorly researched, disassociated statement that rarely extends to the front line of an organization. It is perceived as having been dreamed up by the marketing people and not having any real relevance to the operation. It doesn’t influence decision making, doesn’t guide behavior and often doesn’t grant you the permission to break from routine to be the human your customer wants to deal with.
To demonstrate how little a tagline is valued by a business owner, type the word tagline into Google and the first suggestion you’ll get is “Tagline Generator”. Can you imagine? There is an online tool that will spit out a statement that you will then lead all of your marketing with. It might be the most used piece of your marketing for years to come and there are people (Who are these people?) trusting an online tagline generator with this task.
Get rid of the tagline and build a brand. Stop being glib and start being genuine. A great brand is built on a set of beliefs and non-negotiables, will inform behavior, infiltrate all aspects of the organization, empower and inspire staff, satisfy customers and create loyalty, love and heartpsace. A tagline will make a promise that your business may not be able to fulfill. [Tweet “A tagline will make a promise that your business may not be able to fulfill”] Making a promise is easy and every business does it. The truly great brands keep their promises every day. What do you have? A tagline or a brand?
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Barry Chandler is the co-founder of Storyforge, a brand strategy company focused on helping companies discover their purpose to allow them achieve their vision, build preference and drive margin. Barry has been building award-winning businesses since launching his first company in Ireland in 2003. His last company, a digital marketing agency, was acquired in 2012 by a California-based publicly traded entertainment company which then hired him as Chief Marketing Officer. It is his belief that the greatest brands seek to change the world, improving the lives of their associates, partners and customers.