Taglines vanishing from the brandscape

Taglines don’t just disappear. No one forgets to include a tagline. When the tagline is missing from an ad or a website, it is the result of a conscious decision, probably by many people, involving much discussion. I wrote an AdWeek column a couple years back about this trend toward dropping the tagline, and, (naturally), how foolish I thought this was.

I haven’t done the research to prove this, but it seems like the trend is continuing, if not accelerating. The industry-wide epiphany I predicted in my AdWeek column, the one in which taglines, and language in general, will be re-discovered, and will rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes, won’t occur for another five or ten years. First, the industry has to get this stupid impulse out of its system, and this takes time. All those brands who simply follow well-established trends haven’t yet jumped on the band wagon. They will need to see more of the brands they try to copy or emulate dropping their taglines before the wannabees will have the “courage” to follow suit.

Meanwhile, the Harris Bank brand, whose very smart, distinctive, useful campaign was anchored with the tagline, We Can Help, got swallowed up by Canadian banking giant BMO (pronounced, not B-M-O, as you might expect, but, rather, “beamo”, reminiscent of an anti=flatulance pill, or some scary clown with giant pockets overflowing with cash).

In the process of swallowing, apparently BMO thought it best to drop the tagline (curious, since, on the closely connected BMO Financial Group website, sits their tagline, Making Money Make Sense.)

Did they decide that for a bank to promise to be helpful was ill-advised, perhaps straining credibility? Whatever the reasoning, when I watch a BMO Harris commercial, I’m now left at the end with NO IDEA what they’re about, what they stand for or do well. I’m left with not the slightest hint why I might want to bank with them rather than the bank down the street. Just the image of that creepy clown.

Today I noticed a big ad for TD Ameritrade in USA Today, with tagline conspicuously absent. So, I’m left to wonder, why, again, you guys rather than Etrade? Or Chuck? Is it all that white space in your ad?

Pay attention and you’ll spot more and more big brands abandoning their taglines. The net result of this trend? More brand confusion then we already had, and that was plenty. This is simply a very visible symptom of the continuing devaluation of language in general in advertising. Being articulate, precise, and expressing a brand personality, other than visually, is SUCH a bother. It’s apparently SO much more fun (for the creatives) to play with pictures and games and apps and endless social media exercises, none of which communicates a brand’s differessence as quickly and clearly as a half dozen well chosen words.

Meanwhile, I’ll be here in the corner spinning handy little taglines for those brands that see the value of applying rational thought and the emotional power of language to their marketing and advertising.

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