When people think of copywriting, it might conjure the image of Don Draper from Mad Men reclined behind a sleek, mahogany desk with a cigarette in one hand and a Scotch in the other. When Don isn’t getting drunk or having an affair, he can be seen crafting and pitching the staple of short-form copywriting--that is, taglines.
For a copywriter, every word counts. This is especially true when crafting the perfect tagline for a client. A tagline is more than just a cute, catchy one-liner. It has to capture a company’s work and identity with creativity and brevity. The tag has to convey a narrative that serves as the base for the company’s story. Remember, the narrative always comes before the line.
For example, one of my clients was a community development financial institution (CDFI). CDFIs help low-income communities rise out of poverty by providing resources through investment. The people who worked at this CDFI were a bunch of number-crunching investors who struggled with communicating the sentimental value of their work, so my job was to craft a tagline that conveyed how they use their head to show their heart.
The first step in writing a tagline is to create a story. The analogy I used for this client was comparing it to a gardener. The role of the gardener is to tend to his garden. Similarly, the role of my client is to tend to the communities it serves. In order to ensure a garden’s success, a gardener must first enrich the soil so that the plants can grow.
If a garden represents the community, then the plants are the people who inhabit it. The gardens my client tends to are in bad, nutrient-depleted soil, making it hard for the plants to thrive. These deprived environments lack the resources to sustain health, increase productivity and foster opportunity for growth. Businesses like my client exist to improve these environments so that the communities built up on them can flourish.
Like a good gardener, this CDFI targets the soil--the source--to create a healthy, thriving community where people have everything they need to live happy, fulfilling lives. That’s where I got the tagline: Good life starts with good soil.
It’s not easy to capture a company’s mission in six words or less. The first step, however, is to focus on crafting the story. The line will come later. Just remember, the line is never as important as the meaning behind it.