Running a small business is no small feat — but before you can even get into the meat of the operation (like figuring out pricing and fulfillment and all of the other complexities of operation), you’ve got to jump over a few pretty huge hurdles, like coming up with a name and a motto or tagline to help define your brand. And while the stuff that comes later is definitely tricky, it’s those small pieces of your overall marketing that can make it hard to move forward.
First and foremost, it’s important to know what a tagline (or slogan, or motto) actually is — and what it isn’t.
The tagline, says metalsmith and craft business consultant Megan Auman, is “the thing that comes after your name or is associated with your business that’s going to give people a little bit more about the brand and the emotion.” It’s not your mission statement, it’s not your one-line description, and it’s definitely not the line you use when someone asks what you make.
“Your tagline is not your elevator pitch,” explains Megan in her class, Branding Your Creative Business. “Don’t feel like it has to be used at a cocktail party to explain what you do.”
A good tagline should, says Megan, ensure that “the customer knows that they should be inspired to take action.” Your business’s tagline isn’t a suggestion, it’s an actionable instruction that is full of potential. It’s also not overly specific, which allows you to grow and change your business.
“It’s not the same as your purpose,” she says, offering examples like Nike’s “Just Do It” and Apple’s “Think Different.” Megan’s own business’s tagline is similar: “Make a Statement Every Day.” By keeping it open, she says, rather than focusing on any one product she offers — in addition to jewelry, she also sells scarves, leggings, and other accessories and apparel items — she can add products or change her look and feel, while still remaining true to her tagline.
And if you’re having a hard time with this element of your business? You’re not alone — coming up with a tagline is decidedly not easy, says Megan, and it may require reinforcements.
“It’s really tough…but what you can do is you can grab a group of people and talk through it. Really get in there and talk it out, because that can really help.”
Using your brand name and some of the words that you think best convey the emotion and purpose of your company, make a list of the kinds of actions you’d like your ideal client to take, or a list of descriptions you’d use to illustrate how your products should make a buyer feel. Then, begin to toss around short, sweet statements that summarize those feelings and actions. The exercise may feel a little awkward at first, but remain open to the suggestions of others and try to listen not only to what they think your company is about, but also how you’re currently representing yourself and your brand.
Then, once you’re picked the perfect tagline, you can move on to the weightier parts of your branding, whether it be your mission statement, your manifesto, or whatever else you’re going to be using as a guiding light for your budding business.