4 Common Mistakes to Avoid With Your Tagline

Pound for pound, your tagline is the most hard-hitting set of words you’ll write for your business.

An effective tagline will pique interest, highlight your strengths, and help your prospects instantly understand how you can help them.

When it’s well-crafted, your tagline is a major competitive advantage. When it’s not, it’s a lost opportunity and a liability.

So, how can you make sure you avoid the common tagline mistakes? Here are four things you should not do when writing your business’ tagline — and what to aim for instead.

1. Talking About Yourself

If you’re talking about your business, shouldn’t you be talking about …. your business?

Not exactly.

It’s the most common mistake we see at StoryBrand, and it happens because we assume that everybody cares about our business the same way we do.

Sad trumpet noise: they don’t. Your prospective customers want to know how your business will help them solve a problem, meet a need, save time, or make money. In other words, what’s in it for them?

Compare these two (completely made-up) taglines:

The Tri-State Region’s Most Highly Rated Provider of Medical Supplies


Good-quality medical supplies for a better quality of life.

You’ve seen variations of the first one before, haven’t you? It’s just about the business — a statement of fact. Hey, it’s good medical supplies! Neat.

The second one makes an emotional appeal and shows the business’ value to prospective customers. It’s not just medical supplies — it’s a way to help people live better.

By keeping it relevant to your customers’ needs and pain points — and how you can uniquely resolve them — your tagline will instantly become more engaging and effective.

2. Using Jargon and Insider Language

Did you know? A high percentage of SMB owners in niche markets employ market positioning strategies that fail to leverage customer-directed messaging tactics.

Wait, what?

Jargon happens in every industry (although marketing may be the most afflicted, as showcased by that trainwreck of a sentence you just read).

The insider terminology in your industry has probably become second nature to you. And that’s okay — there’s a place for it. It’s just not your tagline.

Compare these two tagline ideas:

Delivering customer-centric e-commerce solutions

We make it easy for you to get paid.

If people have to work too hard to figure out what you’re saying, they’re going to ditch you for a competitor who explains things plainly.

As you can see, the insider language slows down your ability to comprehend. If people have to work too hard to figure out what you’re saying, they’re going to ditch you for a competitor who explains things plainly.

Keep your language direct and straightforward. When you’re speaking broadly about your business, use short, common words. Try reading them out loud. If anything sounds out of place in a spoken conversation, chances are, you have an opportunity to be more direct.

3. Being Too Dang Clever

Professional clowns get a pass on this one. Everybody else: please don’t get cutesy in your tagline.

For a winning tagline that elevates your marketing and generates sales, clear beats clever every time.

It’s way too much fun to think of examples for this, but let’s say you run a sprinkler system maintenance company.

For a chuckle, you could go with:

Bringing in the Rain

But since laughs don’t pay bills*, you’re better off with something clear, like:

Reliable Sprinkler Systems for a Lawn You’ll Love

*The clown exemption applies here once again.

4. Not Making it Adaptable

Before you settle on a tagline, make a list of everywhere you’ll use it.

This could include: your website, your company letterhead, convention booth, business cards, email campaign header, video bumpers, and the side of your private jet (hey, someday!).

Make sure the length of your tagline suits each of these places. If you design a version of your logo that includes your tagline, check that everything still looks proportional. Mock it up on the smallest and largest placements so you know it will be readable and compelling wherever you use it.

Even a solid idea like this…

High-quality tutoring to help your kids reach their potential

…might have to be reworked if our fake tutoring company needed their tagline to fit on their outdoor signage. In that case, it might need to be shortened to something like this:

Amazing tutoring for amazing kids

Last of all, keep trying. Yes, you’re writing a tagline. But what you’re really doing is distilling the primary value of your brand down to a handful of words. And that’s not easy. Keep these tips in mind as you’re writing or editing your ideas, and you’ll have a great tagline to show for your hard work.

Your tagline is just the beginning.

The key to growing your business is to know exactly what to say when customers come around. In just a few weeks, I’m taking a group of business leaders through a workshop that will teach them how to do it. I want you to come. We will spend 2 days together clarifying your message so that you become a marketing and messaging expert. Register right now and join us.


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