Elaine Swift shares her thoughts on straplines

By Nicky Rudd
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Writing great copy is a real craft, especially when it comes to straplines. This week, our guest blogger and fellow copywriter Elaine Swift shares her thoughts on some good and bad examples.

‘You shop. We drop.’ ‘It does what it says on the tin.’ ‘Every little helps.’ Straplines comprise just a few words but boy can they pack a punch if you get them right.

Writing an instantly memorable strapline that captures what the company it represents stands for is a particular skill.

Straplines comprise so few words yet they count for so much. Along with your logo, your company strapline is part of your corporate identity, so it should reflect your culture, values and expertise. It should express your company’s personality. It needs to be distinctive and memorable – for the right reasons of course.

Since you’re likely to be stuck with it for some years you need to invest time and careful consideration into getting it right. Try it out on a few people before you go live to check their reaction. Make sure it gets the response you want before you unleash it.

It takes time to come up with a strapline that encapsulates the essence of your company in a few words. Sometimes as long as it takes to write the copy for an average sized website in fact. OK, there may be the odd light bulb moment, but not that often. That’s because the words that make up the best straplines aren’t just plucked out of thin air.

Companies with great straplines, the ones that have embedded themselves into our psyche, will have defined exactly what they want to convey. They will have discussed, researched, and sampled. And, yes, some will have paid a lot of money for them.

Not every company gets it right. One of the most ill-considered company straplines I think I’ve ever seen is for National Clamps – you know, those lovely people who fit your car with a large yellow boot if you park in the wrong place.

Across the jolly yellow logo, written in a soft script typeface, to give it that human touch, was the phrase ‘We Care’.  ‘National Clamps – We Care’? Really? What do they care about exactly? Our feelings at having to pay their extortionate fees? The environment?

This strapline is wrong on so many levels.  It reads like something that was scribbled on the back of a cigarette packet without any thought. It says nothing about the company. Worst of all, it’s downright antagonistic!

I suspect they decided they needed to get away from their industry’s poor public image. However, just saying the words ‘we care’ really isn’t going to do it. You have to live your strapline for it to count.

Here are some examples of great straplines:

Every little helps – Tesco.  It’s also one of those lines that’s become part of our vocabulary

You shop, we drop – Tesco again for its online shopping service. I really love this one.

We’re number two, so we try harder – Avis Car Rentals. I love the boldness of this line.

Reassuringly expensive  – Stella Artois. No longer used but a classic nonetheless.

Vorsprung Durch Technik –  Audi.  And you don’t even have to know what it means!

Just Do It – Nike. A strapline that’s so well-known it doesn’t need the company name to support it.

Here’s a good article on creating straplines and slogans for particular products and services.

Don’t fall into the National Clamps trap. Spend some time with your strapline and create something that really represents your company.

I’ll give the last line to a strapline I spotted years ago in New York. It still makes me giggle. It was on the side of a furniture company’s van and it read:

“A cheap chair for your cheap ass.’

Only in New York!

You can find out more about Elaine’s work at http://www.elaineswift.co.uk/

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