The Art of the Essential Startup Tagline

It’s the day before launch, the servers are fortified and ready for action, but a founder almost has an apoplectic fit when he realizes he hasn’t picked his startup tagline.

It should be simple, short – perhaps only a few words – but like the company name or the visual design of the logo, it should answer, “What does this product do for me?”

Ideally, most entrepreneurs think about this earlier rather than later, and there’s no easy recipe for composing a winning tagline.

Here are a few great examples and tips on what makes a great tagline pop. And for an overall guide to your startup’s content strategy, check out our ultimate guide.

Ask the users

StockTwits, a social platform for investors, asked its community what the tagline should be and picked the best one, CTO Chris Corriveau told The Content Strategist on Twitter.

With a free service like StockTwits, users are invested emotionally rather than financially, which can make them eager to contribute. After all, avid users know a startup’s value proposition the best.

“Real Investors, Real Ideas, Real Time” was the tagline StockTwits crowdsourced.

It works because it references the key value of the service — real time — and notes that StockTwits is a place investors can find fellow investors and therefore valuable conversations.

Allude to key value

For MySpace, in its heyday, the value was that your friends were already there. “A place for friends” suggested it was the only place for friends. The rhyme between “place” and “MySpace” helped the tagline sound like a perfect fit and made the tagline memorable.

The very first iPod was released with “1,000 songs in your pocket” as the tagline. The play on something tangible—the devices’ storage space—with something essential, carrying one’s favorite music everywhere, sold products.

Keep it short

Storyful’s “News from noise” is three words, and addresses the pain point the product aims to solve: noise.

Even if the service iterates, this phrase is general enough that it captures its mission as well as any specific products that may emerge from the platform.

YouTube needed just two words—”Broadcast yourself.”

Not all startups can be as concise — if a product is new, sometimes a tagline that offers a little more explanation into what the the product does is necessary. But most notable is the fact that the YouTube has kept this tagline since the beginning.

Don’t be averse to changing

eBay’s tagline was “Your personal trading community” in 1998 and changed to “The world’s online marketplace” in 2001, and was recently “Shop victoriously” in 2007. Others include “Whatever IT is, you can get it on eBay,” ”Your global pawnshop solution,” “Better odds than Vegas,” “More fun than a monkey” and “Buy it new, buy it now.”

Replacing a tagline doesn’t mean the first one failed—sometimes a new tagline can capture a different aspect of a startup’s value, or address a season or new market opportunity.

The worse move would be to stubbornly hold on to a tagline that doesn’t reflect the product, especially if the product or target market changes.

Corriveau said that StockTwits followed this logic, for example, and now uses “The fastest, real-time, free social network for investors and traders.”

Image by Flickr
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