a creative agency that takes care of healthcare brands
Dr Ryan Wallman
19 Feb, 2014


Taglines. What to think of them?

When it comes to taglines for car brands, what I usually think of them is: “nothing could make me want that car less”.

Consider, for example, these three lemons.

1. ‘Innovation that excites’

Using the word ‘innovation’ is the copywriting equivalent of talking about the weather – assuming you talk about the weather using hackneyed corporate jargon. So this tagline is not off to a good start.

Whichever committee wrote this (and you just know it was a committee) perhaps realised that innovation alone would not be enough to get people, well, excited. So no doubt some amateur psychologist hit on the brilliant idea of “injecting an emotional dimension” by adding copy that excites. This was taken literally, of course, because committees do not deal in metaphor.

Taken as a whole, this line is beyond ludicrous. Customers are not excited by innovation. They might be excited by what this car can do for them, like elevate their social status or, God forbid, get them from A to B. But no such benefit can be gleaned from this copy.

2. ‘I think therefore I Amarok’

I understand what they’re trying to do here. I get it – in the same way I would ‘get’ sausages by seeing what they are made from.

It’s not a bad idea to include the brand name in a tagline or campaign, by any means; it can be very effective because it provides customers with a mnemonic. The ‘Ariston and On and On’ slogan is often cited as a successful example of this technique. But there was a point to that line. It specifically communicated the benefit of a brand of kitchen appliances (namely, not having to replace the damn things all the time).

But what, pray tell, does this car have to do with Descartes’ meditations on the nature of existence? Perhaps it’s that we only really know we are alive because a dream would never present us with anything this silly. Honestly, ‘I Amarok’? That’s the kind of wordplay you might expect from a work experience kid. If you ask me, this tagline is copywriting contrivance at its worst.

Actually, make that second worst, because then there’s this…

3. ‘The romance of performance’

If you’re looking for the gold standard of awful taglines, here it is in all its ostentatious, unadulterated glory.

This is my hypothesis for how it came about.

The agency responsible for it had an ‘email malfunction’, and inadvertently sent this option to the client, when in fact it had been the intended tagline for a different product (a treatment for erectile dysfunction).

Unexpectedly, the client loved it. They felt that this line perfectly encapsulated their brand strategy, since it was underpinned by an appeal to the emotion of female buyers (or, as they put it, ‘buyer personas’) but also tapped into the company’s vision for ‘optimal performance’.

Suffice it to say that if they were going for romance, all they achieved was turgidity.

Too many back-seat drivers?

One of the problems with taglines – as these examples demonstrate, I suspect – is that they tend to be subject to broad consensus, with all the dilution and bastardisation that entails. The ridiculousness of most taglines is probably not the fault of any one person. For all we know, these lines might have started out as pithy exemplars of copywriting brilliance.

Sometimes too many opinions can drive you off course. As Henry Ford said: “If ever I wanted to kill opposition by unfair means I would endow the opposition with experts. They would have so much good advice that I could be sure they would do little work.”


By Ryan Wallman, Head of Copy at Wellmark.

Connect with me on Google+ at +Ryan Wallman

‘Cars suck’ photo courtesy of Denis Bocquet via Flickr Creative Commons (under the following licence: CC BY 2.0)

Dr Ryan Wallman, Creative Director at Wellmark. Connect with me on LinkedIn