Paging through Fast Company recently, I came upon an ad for Arconic. Having read the ad, I have very little sense of what they do. They seem to be an engineering firm.They make “materials and technologies.” Another thing they make, as evidenced by this ad, is taglines. Three of them in this one ad alone.
Two of the taglines are in customary positions for taglines. There’s this one positioned directly below the logo:
Innovation, engineered. Boring and generic.
Then there’s the tagline that sits in bold at the end of the block of body copy:
Arconic. Where the future takes shape.
“Future” = “Innovation.“ “Takes shape” = “engineered.” So, at least they’re being consistent, both with their brand’s message and with how boring and generic both taglines are.
Having two taglines is a cardinal branding sin for several reasons. Do I really need to list them? I’m going to assume you can think of a couple on your own.
But what about that third tagline? It’s the one that sits in the position where a headline would customarily sit, right above the body copy. This tagline proclaims:
Where Science Fiction Becomes Nonfiction
Far and away the best of the three taglines. The language in this tagline isn’t so horrifyingly worn out as words like “innovation” and “future” are in tagline land. Talking in terms of science fiction and nonfiction is a little more interesting, and the mild “fiction” parallelism provides a little something to engage the brain.
When a company sends an ad out into the world carrying three taglines, it tells me that, while they may be good at what they do, they are less than clueless about how to communicate what’s so great about their brand. Instead, it communicates that, at least in their marketing, they are unfocused, indecisive and unfamiliar with the notion that the essence of strategy is sacrifice.
This company is presumably populated by engineers, who are notoriously bad at doing advertising. In this case, they have employed, among other things, redundancy, which in engineering can be a very smart thing, but in advertising, tends not to be.
By the way, I should mention in fairness that, upon my fifth perusal of this ad, I learned a little more about what they make. The visual of this ad is some kind of futuristic vehicle and three futuristic spheres, all sitting on the surface of a hostile, other planet-like environment. There are callouts subtly overlaid on this visual identifying characteristics or features of these objects, things like “dynamic thermal barrier coatings” and “solar-powered propulsion, integral to the structure.”
So now I have a little better idea of what they make. These callouts are small and in white type, which is part of why it took me five perusals to discover them.
Finally, let me point out that the most interesting bit of language in the whole ad is the last line of copy:
Bring us figments of your imagination, we’ll help you put them in the history books.
This should have been the headline, because it’s evocative, contains a call to action and is nicely supportive of what should be their tagline. It wouldn’t take much to re-engineer this ad according to the instructions I’ve provided. I don’t expect that will happen. Instead, I imagine the folks back at Arconic are congratulating themselves on how innovative they’ve been with this ad, which may be the first ad ever to feature three taglines.