The other day my colleague, themarketingspot’s Jay Ehret, called my attention to another website, gettingattention.org, which sponsors an award program to recognize the best taglines from not-for-profit organizations. Nancy E. Schwartz runs this website and the Taggies, and I love that she works so hard to shine a light on the value of a good tagline. Yay Nancy.
Of course, as is my inclination, I was prepared to savage the 18 winning taglines. As it turns out, my critique doesn’t rise to the level (sink to the depths?) of “savaging”. But I would like to point out some interesting patterns that seems to reveal itself across these winning taglines.
First, let me list the winners. (They are broken out into subcategories, but I’m going to disregard those, as they don’t bear on my comments.)
New Depot Players Community Theatre. Play Your Part. (The tagline for their fundraising campaign.)
Indiana Association for Community Economic Development. You Make A Difference . . . (We Make It Easier)
Wounded Warrior Project. The greatest casualty is being forgotten.
Librarians Without Borders. Putting information in the hands of the world.
Youth Express. Potential Meets Opportunity
Lake Champlain International. Clean Water. Healthy Fish. Happy People.
The Jewish Federations of North America. The Strength of a People. The Power of Community.
University of Hawaii Foundation. For our University, our Hawaii, our Future
Community food & Justice Coalition. Food for People, Not Profit
Elder Services of Worcester, Inc. There’s no place like home
The TARA Project. Empowering Communities. Ending Poverty.
University of West Florida Libraries. The Quickest Way from Q to A!
Maryland SPCA. Feel The Warmth of a Cold Nose.
Enactus. A head for business. A heart for the world.
Vehicles for Change. Help Drive Change.
Funding Exchange. It’s all big when you’re changing the world (fundraising campaign)
Goodwill Industries Serving Eastern Nebraska and Southwest Iowa. Your Future Is Calling (For an employment program involving phone-based customer service jobs.)
Ecological Farming Association. Feed the World You Want to Live In
The good news is that all of these lines are pretty clear about the message. The bad news is that, given the importance of emotion in funding and supporting these organizations, I found only three to be emotionally resonant and/or evocative. That is to say, only these three lines reached deep enough for me to feel.
The Greatest Casualty Is Being Forgotten. This is, at face value, a powerful line. but it has a really nice double meaning that takes awhile to get to, because it’s initial meaning is so powerful. As I read it, it can mean “To be forgotten is, itself, the greatest casualty”, and “We are forgetting the greatest casualty”.
Feel the warmth of a cold nose. This is one of those taglines that digs a little deeper to make its point felt.
It’s all big when you’re changing the world. This tagline states a deeper, borderline profound truth, eloquently.
Notice, please, what all three of these lines have in common. They are all complete, coherent thoughts. Right away, that puts them in a strong position in contrast to the two and three part staccato, proto-thoughts. The latter taglines have rhythm, parallelism and sometimes juxtaposition in their favor. But because they don’t express an actual thought, it is far less likely that they will reach the reader on an emotional level.
Oh-oh, I can feel it welling up inside me, one of my favorite old saws: Don’t say it, convey it.
I was tempted to include The quickest way from Q to A! but it contains a couple of flaws that I couldn’t get past. First, it’s that dang exclamation point. Granted this was written by a student, so maybe I should forgive the overpunctuation . . . nah, it’s unacceptable, I don’t care how young or old you are. The other problem is that I’m not sure it’s credible. If I understand the message that this tagline is supposed to be conveying, it’s about the value of a librarian, versus the internet. It is at least debatable that getting help from a librarian is faster than researching on the internet. It might be a superior choice for other reasons, but if you’re adept at internet searching, it’s pretty dang fast. Maybe I’m being too harsh here. Thoughts?
Fully one third of these taglines resort to the well worn two-part or three-part tagline template. Some are better than others, but I generally regard this approach as the lazy or easy way out.
Some of the other taglines, for me, laid a little flat. they are what I would consider serviceable but unremarkable:
Potential Meets Opportunity, Help Drive Change, There’s no place like home, Putting Information in The Hands of The World. None of these is a bad tagline, it’s just that they don’t get to me. I recognize that much of what I’m saying here is pretty subjective, but, hey, welcome to my world.
Interesting to me is that Putting Information in The Hands of The World didn’t evoke much for me, but Feeding the world you want to live in did, a little bit. One difference is that the former simply states what they do, whereas the latter line injects some aspirational emotion into its characterization of what they do. It’s not just about feeding the world, but about transforming it in the process. Whereas the former line doesn’t take the thought that extra step. Some allusion to what effect putting information into the hands of the world might have, might have helped.
What I’m really pleased about is that a competition like this even exists. Anything out there that will shine a light on the function and value of good taglines is oh so welcome. So, kudos to Ms. Schwartz, and to all those who cared enough to submit their taglines for consideration. I only wish there were a comparable competition in the for-profit world.
For another take on the Taggies, check out Jay Ehret’s TheMarketingSpot blog, where he tells me he will be posting his thoughts this week.