If you research “how to write a tagline” or “the purpose of a tagline” or “do I need a tagline?” on Google, you’ll find page after page after page of results.
Some of these articles will tell you that most taglines are terrible, and therefore, useless. Others will tell you that a tagline is absolutely essential to communicating your brand’s key benefits and differentiating it from all others. And still others will declare taglines a “nice-to-have,” but not-necessary-to-have, part of your online branding.
Unfortunately, once you start researching the topic, you’ll come across so much information that places such a heavy burden on what a tagline needs to accomplish if you do choose to have one, you may give up in frustration on creating a tagline at all.
And that would be unfortunate, because a tagline done correctly is like a beacon to your most likely clients, customers and collectors, letting them know they’re in the right place, and piquing their interest in exploring your website to find out more about your work.
Back in the day when I worked at an advertising agency, one of the things I did as part of a larger creative team was help create taglines for our clients’ businesses.
And I saw how this one little thing – a big deal in some ways, yes – but this one little part of an overall brand made our small business clients absolutely crazy.
This was because many of these business owners believed that a tagline needed to be the be-all, end-all perfect phrase that defined their business for all eternity.
But that’s waaay too much pressure to put on a tagline. And it’s not true.
First, let’s define what a tagline is.
At its most basic, a tagline is a phrase, usually situated near your logo or in your website’s header that succinctly communicates your brand’s unique message to your intended audience or likely buyers. The best ones convey an immediate benefit and the essence of the brand.
Think Amex’s “Don’t Leave Home Without It,” Nike’s “Just Do It,” Apple’s “Think Different,” Southwest Airlines’ “You Are Now Free to Move About the Country,” and FedEx’s former tagline, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”
(One important caveat, though. You can only afford to use a vague tagline like “Just Do It,” “Think Different,” or “Don’t Leave Home Without It,” if you have a big, established, well-known brand. If those taglines were separated from the company name and you didn’t know anything about the company in question, the tagline wouldn’t work, because it wouldn’t mean anything. You’d be asking yourself, “Just do what?” “Don’t leave home without what?” “Think different about what?”)
Taglines are especially important online for a couple of reasons: the enormous competition on the web in nearly every category of thing out there, including art, and the fact that you’ve got just 2-7 seconds (and some experts say, 2 seconds, period) to catch someone’s attention.
In a sea of competing sites that also sell art, you have to do something to stand out and instantly get the attention of your ideal buyer, and a good tagline can help you do that.
So, what does a tagline need to do?
Well, it does not need to define your business, your philosophy, and your offerings for all eternity.
And as we mentioned in a previous post, 3 Effective Copywriting Hacks Artists Can Use to Sell More Art Online, the purpose of your tagline is also not to convince anyone to buy anything, or to become your BFF. ☺
An effective tagline will communicate your brand’s message in way that resonates with your ideal audience and gets them to stop and take notice of your business.
It simply needs to get your most likely buyer – not everyone, but only your most LIKELY buyer – to stay on your site long enough to explore your work and determine what they want to do next, whether that’s peruse your galleries, inquire about your work, or sign up for your email list.
How do I know what a “good” tagline is for my business?
That will depend on your goals, but if you are new and/or not well known in your niche, then start out with the simple goal of having your tagline get the attention of your ideal audience and most likely buyers.
If you do that, you’ve created a “good” tagline. You may want to change this tagline down the road, but if you meet this simple goal to start, you’ve nailed it.
The absolutely critical, don’t-even-think-about-skipping-it, key first step to creating an effective tagline is this:
Get crystal clear on who your most likely buyers and collectors are, and what they’re looking for.
Everything flows from that.
Who are they, why do they buy from you, what is it about your art that attracts them?
This information will come from your previous interactions with potential customers at gallery shows and art fairs, feedback from your past and current buyers & collectors, comments you get on your social media platforms, and email inquiries from prospective buyers – essentially, any communications you have with buyers and potential buyers.
And sometimes, copy you can easily use for a tagline will come from something buried deep in your website copy or in your other marketing communications.
For example, I was talking with the owner of natural skincare company recently who had no tagline, and was in no position to hire a copywriter to create one for her. I saw the phrase “Luxurious skincare, naturally” in one of her emails, and told her to use that for her tagline to start. She can refine it later if she needs to, but this will help differentiate her online and begin making the connection in her web visitors’ minds of what her “brand position” is.
So it’s possible your tagline is already created and hiding in plain sight somewhere in your current website or marketing materials.
Once you have a clear idea of who your ideal audience/most likely buyers are, the easiest way to create a tagline is to use this simple formula:
Here’s some examples:
Boring though these taglines may be, they serve the purpose of compelling the audience they’re meant to “call out” to stay on the website and explore, because they instantly convey clarity about what web visitors will find on the site.
Here are some other examples using this tagline style from outside the art world:
Another way to come up with a tagline is to simply and succinctly describe your work, like so:
Again, none of these are especially “catchy” or “clever,” but they pass the effective tagline test in that they will compel potential buyers looking for fine art photography of the American Southwest, renaissance style illustrations, or contemporary architectural photography to slow down and peruse the rest of the website.
And while they all could probably use a little extra pizzazz, they’re fine to start with, and better than having nothing at all.
Obviously, the “thing you do + who you do it for” and “describe your work” tagline templates are just two of many ways to create a tagline. But I always like to suggest these tagline creation methods to new business builders, D-I-Y-ers, and others whose forte is art, not writing, because they’re simple templates anyone can follow, no copywriting training required.
Of course, you don’t have to follow either of these formulas for your art business tagline.
Remember, the goal here is simply to give your most likely buyer a reason to stay on your site and explore, and there’s more than one kind of tagline that will accomplish that goal.
So if you want to be poetic, be poetic.
If you want to be straightforward and functional, then be straightforward and functional.
And if you want to be a rebel and have no tagline at all, then by all means, go that route. Just be sure everything else on your website is crystal clear and compelling, and it’s blindingly obvious to your ideal buyer within 3-5 seconds of landing on your site that they’re in the right place for the kind of art they’re looking for.
Caveat to all the above: Most branding and copywriting experts will tell you to be clear, not clever, in your tagline, and I wholeheartedly agree, but there’s nothing wrong with adding some personality into the mix. In fact, I recommend it.
So if you can find a way to add some personal flair to the straightforward tagline you create using one of the simple templates here, go for it. (That’s why I added “Because we don’t believe in the term ‘Starving Artist’ around here” to my basic tagline of “Copywriting for Creative Rebels.”)
Just don’t spend too much time trying to craft the “perfect” tagline, because it doesn’t exist. Come up with something based on one of the templates here, and get it on your website as soon as possible.
If after a few days you decide you’re not happy with it, tweak it, change it, or remove it all together and start from scratch.
Your business will not live or die based on the tagline alone.
If you could still use some more help developing a tagline for your business, find me on the ASF Forum where I regularly critique taglines, slogans, and even entire websites.
Kimberly Houston is an AWAI (American Writers & Artists, Inc.) trained copywriter who specializes in helping creative pros rise above the online fray with personality-driven web copy and web marketing.
For more on her services, check out her website.