Professional services leaders and marketers often look at B2C companies as the yardstick for branding and taglines for their own firms. Nike, Apple, and Coca-Cola are brands that often come to mind. We are familiar with them all and have probably been “inspired” by one of them to finish a marathon, to motivate a team in solving a pressing problem or to rationalize our services against an upstart competitor.
- “Just Do It”
- “Think different”
- “The Real Thing”
Unfortunately, recalling a powerful equivalent in the professional services space is like finding a unicorn in the forbidden forest. At its best, a firm tagline might be recalled by some employees. At its worst, a tagline is a brand-eroding embarrassment; but most often, it is just a huge waste of time.
Why do so many firms try to breathe life into an ailing brand with the “perfect” tagline?
Professional services firms would be much better off if they stopped crafting taglines and focused on higher ROI areas.
Here are three reasons it’s time to move on from the perfect tagline:
1. Few taglines have wide organic pick-up. The famous ones have recognition as the result of hundreds of millions of dollars in billboards, commercials, and celebrity endorsements. It is even rarer when a tagline speaks to the zeitgeist and catches fire on its own. Most are simply ignored like I was at junior high dances.
2. B2C taglines are tied to emotional benefits associated with the product. The normal emotions tied to professional services purchases are anxiety and fear. The fear of making a wrong decision or committing a career-limiting move. These are not brand-magnet emotions. Before you even think about it, please don’t argue using the flipside of those emotions—TRUST—in your tagline. Trust is not a tagline. It is a result that is earned.
3. Taglines in professional services firms are written/approved by committee. As a result, “Just do it.” becomes “We strive to design our client service with integrity to help you produce lasting results.” You’re laughing or moaning because you know it is true.
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Memorable and meaningful taglines are not impossible to find.
The best place to look is at firms with exceptional cultures. A clear, strong culture is the precursor to a tagline with any possibility of power and uniqueness.
Take, for example, Accenture’s “High Performance Delivered.” It is not particularly innovative nor original. Accenture didn’t even create the concept of high performance. The tagline was not developed in committee; leadership dictated it at the highest level and established a mandate. The firm realigned the intellectual capital engine of the entire firm to support and demonstrate it. And, most importantly, a culture of confidence was unleashed to deliver it. Then, Tiger came into the picture.
The graveyard of professional services taglines is crowded. If you are thinking about your need for a tagline, make sure you have what it takes to give it life. Otherwise, start carving that headstone first.
Instead of wasting time on a tagline, focus on being crystal clear about your culture, identifying your ideal client, and delivering incomparable value to your clients. If you don’t have those three things straight, no tagline will save you.