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How long should a tagline be?

When I’m writing taglines for companies, I’m often asked: How long should a tagline be? What’s the ideal tagline length? While there is no perfect answer, there are several points to consider to create the best tagline for your business.

Consideration #1: What are you trying to communicate about your business?

Forget about tagline length for just a moment.

Instead, think about what the best taglines have in common.

The best taglines communicate a focused message in a captivating and concise way.

Ideally, they reflect your company’s brand message platform.

Now this is all fine and well, you say, but what does this have to do with how long a tagline should be?

I see companies go awry in tagline creation because they don’t have a clear vision of what they’re trying to communicate. They start cramming multiple ideas into one phrase. Their taglines become clunky, muddy and easily forgettable.

Rather than starting tagline creation with a focus on word count, get your core message right first. Then, when your team is aligned around your message, that’s when it’s time to figure out how to convey your message in an interesting way… with as few words as possible.

How do I define “as few words as possible?”

As you’ll see in the section below, there are good reasons to get your tagline down to four words or less.

With that said, some of my favorite taglines from the past and present are actually six words in length. These taglines do a great job of communicating a focused message in a memorable way:

GE | We Bring Good Things to Life ™
UPS | What Can Brown Do for You? ®
State Street Global Advisors | Precise in a World that Isn’t ℠

What’s the takeaway here?

The most important thing is to get your core message right. Don’t get hung up on word count at the beginning of tagline creation. A shorter tagline isn’t necessarily better if you aren’t in agreement about what you want to communicate.

Consideration #2: How are you going to use your tagline?

Now we can truly get into a discussion about the ideal tagline length.

Typically, I find that short taglines – and by short, I mean taglines that are two, three, or four words in length – provide the most versatility.

A short tagline works well with a logo. It looks clean and appealing. It’s simple.

(And ironically, in branding, simplicity is often the hardest thing to achieve.)

A short tagline also gives you the ability to easily use it across web, print, and other media. You have more flexibility.

Here are several examples of companies that have deftly worked their short taglines into the ends of their television commercials and radio ads.

The Home Depot:
More saving, more doing. That’s the power of The Home Depot.”

Sylvan Learning:
Learning should be personal, and at Sylvan, it is.”

The beauty of a short tagline is that it’s highly versatile.

Consideration #3: How memorable do you want to be?

You’ll find a lot of articles that tell you:

Short taglines = Memorable taglines

I looked for research to back up this claim, and I couldn’t find much data. So instead, I explored what makes ideas memorable. According to Scientific American magazine, scientists believe that our ability to remember an idea (or experience) is based on several factors:

  • How much we’re paying attention
  • How original and interesting the idea is
  • The types of emotions the idea evokes
  • And how well our neurons keep time (who knew?)

So what does this mean for tagline lengths?

The fact that a tagline is short doesn’t mean it will be memorable. Think of one of the most overused slogans:

Exceptional Service

This tagline is only two words, but it’s a dud. It isn’t interesting or emotional. It incorporates overused words and a tired idea.

However, a short tagline offers an opportunity.

If you can use just a few words to convey a message in a compelling and visceral way, that’s when your tagline becomes memorable.

Here are a few examples of short, distinctive, and memorable taglines from the past and present:

Chrysler | Imported from Detroit ®
Nike | Just Do It ®
Wendy’s | Where’s the Beef? ®

So, how long should a tagline be?

Good taglines come in all lengths, but a short tagline – one that’s just a few words long – offers greater versatility and a big opportunity to be memorable. Start with your core message. Then, find a way to share that message in a simple, succinct, and interesting way.

Other articles to help with tagline writing:

Until next time!