Is Your Tagline a Marketing Crutch?

A while back I wrote a blog entitled “You Don’t Need a Tagline. You Need a Brand.”  My general premise was that in spite of their popularity taglines rarely provide the powerful branding solutions schools need. The primary purpose of a brand is to give community members a way to consistently and compellingly describe what makes a school unique, and that is impossible to do with a three or four word tagline.

I have another issue with taglines though.


If you‘ve developed four or five or six brand messages that give internal and external community members true insight into your school and help differentiate you from your competition, you have a tool that will make your job easier. Armed with those well-crafted, finely tuned messages, talking about your school in any context can be driven by your brand, and your brand will provide you with endless ideas for social media posts, magazine articles, annual fund appeals, admissions marketing, etc. But, and it’s a really big but, it’s not as easy as simply plugging in your tagline.

Part of human nature is a principle that postulates “people will naturally choose the path of least resistance or 'effort'.” (Wikipedia) I have seen countless examples of this in action at schools that use taglines. They have a compelling and beautifully written brand, but the tagline is so easy to simply plug in that many times they take the path of least effort and use it instead of their brand messages. They, dare I say, use the tagline as a crutch. And their marketing is the lesser for it.

So let’s call it a cautionary tale. If you have a tagline that is distinctive, by all means, use it. But don’t be fooled into believing that when you do your message is well branded. Don’t allow yourself to be seduced by the path of least resistance!

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