Forty years ago, L'Oreal launched its tagline,"Because you're worth it". It seemed perfect for the feminist revolution, a self-esteem boosting cheer.
The line was created by a copywriter at McCann-Erickson, part of the Interpublic Group of agencies, and it had an important secondary usefulness as well. L'Oreal cosmetics were priced higher than most of its competitors. The tagline helped women rationalize the purchase.
Forty years have seen a few revolutions in marketing and advertising. Back then, taglines and slogans, mnemonic devices and jingles were everywhere. Today, not so much. Few copywriters even remember what taglines are for.
The marketers at Procter & Gamble, the world's largest consumer products company, have a very precise definition: a tagline is a provocative, memorable set of words about an idea of substance about the product. Breaking it down, it has to be pokey enough to provoke attention. Memorable, which is why so many taglines are catchy, or use wordplay. It has to convey an important, believable idea about the product or company.
Here's another way to look at it. A tagline is the conclusion you want the viewer to come to after she sees the commercial. It's useful because it helps position the product in the customer's mind.
Think about "Just do it". How it means competition and success to so many people, each in their own personal lives.
But then someone not nearly as good an ad thinker comes up with a boring non-tagline such as "I'm lovin' it" and everyone says "who needs taglines?"
McDonald's, by the way, calls their line "journalistic". They say that means it can go with any kind of ad or commercial or video. That's exactly what's wrong with it. It has no strategy behind it.
If you're trying to create a tagline, don't sweat it if you can't think of one right away. They're not easy. Most likely, it'll come to you as you do the advertising. Or maybe even in a meeting, the way"Got Milk?" did.
But don't do an advertising campaign without one. It's a valuable communications tool, and your work is worth it.