Why Some Brand Taglines Are Better Suited for Interactivity

Examining the Difference Between 'We Try Harder' and 'Just Do It'

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Calle and Pelle Sjoenell
Calle and Pelle Sjoenell
We work together on assignments for a variety of brands as a hybrid creative director team. Calle comes to our partnership with a background in the digital space and Pelle comes from a more traditional advertising background. This duality of experience and background has allowed us to approach our creative work from an interesting place.

Because of our completely different types of professional training, we each view a creative brief from different points of view. As we've worked on brand ideas, taglines and concepts, we've found something interesting: some taglines are better suited for interactive work than others. This isn't to say that interactive is better than other forms of marketing, but one type of tagline leads to a monologue and the other type leads to a dialogue.

Let's first clarify that when we use the term interactive we do not mean digital, per se. To us, interactive work means work an audience can interact with, one way or the other.

Let's use the brilliant tagline "We Try Harder" from Avis to study this idea. "We Try Harder" is about the company itself and is, therefore, set up to deliver messages from the inside out. This doesn't mean it is a bad tagline, it just means that this tagline does not really provide consumers something to interact with -- rather, it gives consumers something to reflect upon about the company and the brand. It is a vehicle for a monologue, not a dialogue.

The tagline "Just Do It" from Nike, on the other hand, is about the perspective of the user and calls for work the user can interact with, from the outside and in. Consumers can have a dialogue with the company rather than be on the receiving end of a monologue. They can find themselves in "Just Do It." This does not necessarily make it a better tagline, but perhaps better suited for interactive work. Another iconic campaign that was probably helped by having an interactive tagline was Burger King's "Subservient Chicken." That campaign may not have happened without the tagline "Have it Your Way."

Recently, we were invited to speak at the VCU Brand Center's executive program for creative directors in Richmond, Virginia. It was a real honor and, as we prepared for the lecture, we explored this phenomenon of how some communication platforms are better suited for interactive marketing and some platforms are better for non-interactive routes.

Our preparation for this lecture ended in a class exercise where we put up taglines, separated into two groups. One bucket contained messaging like "Das Auto," "For Life," "Drinkability" and such. The other had "Impossible Is Nothing," "Have It Your Way," "Think Different" and so on.

We asked the students to add to the two groups the various taglines they've worked on and we began pulling taglines from the buckets. It quickly became clear that the VCU students were the perfect group to test this exercise.

They started to share stories of difficulties coming up with ideas and, even more so, presenting those interactive ideas to clients who had inside-out perspectives. Now they understood why -- they knew which taglines would help steer the work in an interactive direction.

So, what do you think? Is your tagline interactive, or ain't it?

Pelle and Calle Sjoenell are exec creative directors at BBH, New York.
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