Catchphrase

Molly Soat
Marketing News
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Key Takeaways
  • The difference between slogans and taglines is that slogans are more flexible and fluid, whereas taglines should stand the test of time.

  • Slogans are more ubiquitous and appear in campaign commercials, on packaging and in display ads, whereas taglines are used more sparingly in public-facing messaging.

  • When developing a tagline, look for unique angles within your brand history and production process.

What’s the difference between a tagline and a slogan? Branding experts explain the distinctions.

Even veteran marketers sometimes make the mistake of using the terms “tagline” and “slogan” interchangeably. Here, experts set the record straight, explaining the differences between the two terms, and the purpose that each form of messaging serves.  

Understanding the Differences

Slogans are more flexible and fluid, whereas taglines should stand the test of time, says Julie Quick, head of insights and strategy at Plano, Texas-based shopper marketing firm Shoptology. “A tagline is a distillation of your corporate values and identity. A slogan is something that’s there to help you with branding. … Taglines tend to be about the company, whereas slogans tend to be more about the products, the marketplace, the consumer and a need met. You probably won’t change your corporate tagline more than once in a generation, whereas your slogan changes with the culture. It changes with attitudes and market needs. It’s designed to be a hook.”

“Campaign slogans tend to be a bit longer, like ‘Choosy moms choose Jif,’” she says. “That’s a great example of a slogan. It’s not really about the Jif company. It’s more of a call to action about the consumer and the situation.”

Slogans are more ubiquitous and appear in campaign commercials, on packaging and in display ads, whereas taglines are used more sparingly in public-facing messaging, generally reserved for corporate communications and brand-building advertising, says Judith Carr-Rodriguez, president and founding partner of New York-based ad agency Figliulo & Partners. “A tagline tends to be a communications device and is used by the brand when it’s communicating to consumers.”

For example, Apple’s current tagline is “Think different,” and its current slogan for the iPad Air is “Change is in the air”—an update from the previous iPad slogan, “Two sizes do all,” which was created before Apple released the slimmer iPad Air.  

Getting It Right

“When brands are starting out, sometimes the slogan and tagline are one and the same because you’re just trying to establish who you are, what you stand for and why people should buy you,” says Erica Mills, CEO of Seattle-based marcom and branding consultancy Claxon​.

When developing a tagline, look for unique angles within your brand history and production process, Carr-Rodriguez says. “Look at where you sit within the category, what the truths of your brand history are, where you’ve come from, what’s unique about your production process or how you were conceived, and then what’s unique about your product. You want to put those four things together—category, consumer, brand and product—to then come up with the articulation of your brand promise. From there, you can articulate what your tagline will be,” she says.

When developing a slogan, on the other hand, you have more room to be creative. “Slogans are designed to be that sticky, catchy repeatable copy or phrase that actually then starts to evolve into songs, visual mnemonics and tremendous shortcuts,” Mills says. Slogans can be jingles, like Kit Kat’s “Give me a break,” she says.   

With both taglines and slogans, keep your messaging chatty and casual—and relatable, Mills advises. “Start with a verbal pitch because it tends to be more casual. You can make a more casual sentence into a slightly more formal-sounding sentence, but if you go the other way, you end up sounding like a robot.”


This article was originally published in the January 2015 issue of Marketing News.

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Author Bio:

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Molly Soat
Molly Soat is a staff writer for Marketing News and Marketing News Weekly. E-mail her at msoat@ama.org.
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