Branding 101: Shaping The External Brand Positioning Line

Get Results: tesco strapline example
Get Results: tesco strapline example

The external brand positioning line is often referred as the STRAPLINE.

Here are a few examples for you:

  • John Lewis: Never Knowingly Undersold
  • Tesco: Every Little Helps
  • Nike: Just Do It
  • Orange: The Future’s Bright
  • O2: We’re better connected
  • Budweiser: King Of Beers
  • AUDI: Vorsprung Durch Technik
  • McDonald’s: I’m lovin’ it

Let’s deal with the first question first. My rule of thumb is that a very good strapline can be a real asset, and a hardworking one into the bargain, in the following circumstances:

  1. You are operating in a crowded marketplace in which a ‘line’ can help you to differentiate yourself from your competitors.
  2. You have a strong reputation but you want to add some reassurance or another nuance to your brand.
  3. Your business needs a bit of quick explanation in some way, to help people understand what’s on offer.
  4. Your brand name is a bit dry and functional, in which case a line can help give some emotional flavour or punch.
  5. Your brand name is quite abstract in which case a line can help deliver some useful information.
  6. Your brand name is abstract and/or emotionally based rather than functional, but you want to add even more emotion.
  7. Your brand name has been around for a while but you want to change your brand ‘meaning’, in which case a new line can help to reposition you.
  8. You want to encourage people (inside and outside the organization) to enthusiastically gather around some kind of campaign, in which case a line can be a powerful distillation of your message

Writing a strap line

There are some simple rules.

  1. Keep it short. It’s a slogan, not an essay. I can’t think of a wellknown strapline of more than six words, and most of them are three or four.
  2. A line should either ‘evoke’ an emotional response or deliver explanatory information, not both. The choice of which way to go depends of your circumstance (refer back to the eight scenarios above).
  3. Use simple language, unless you specifically and deliberately want to create an effect by using unusual words.
  4. A strapline is not a motto: at all costs avoid Latin, avoid quotations, and avoid any kind of pomposity.
  5. Try to write a line that can be substantiated (i.e. one that will be proven by experiencing the brand). Audi’s line, along with Byford’s and John Lewis’s, are all true and ‘specific’ to them. For this reason (and a million others) please do not ever use ‘simply the best’ or any other words like these.
  6. Please try to avoid being too ‘puntastic’. I don’t hate puns per se but I think they are dangerous in straplines. They just look like they’re working too hard. O2’s We’re better connected is a case in point. We all get the double meaning, but there is something intrinsically smug and non-communicative about double meanings like this. My advice: avoid them.
  7. Make every word count. As far as possible, avoid too many non-working words like ‘the’, ‘and’, ‘in’, etc.
  8. Write ten different lines before you choose one.
  9. Test your favourites on other people before you make a final decision.
  10. Have at least one other person check the line carefully for grammar and spelling. I have seen too many apostrophes in the wrong place and misspellings to take this for granted. There is a town not far from me in which an office supplies shop proudly proclaims on a huge (professionally produced) fascia board that it is the district’s ‘finest stationary supplier’. Staggeringly, I have seen another business in the area offering ‘Freshly caught fishs and chips’. Honestly

Look at other brands positioning lines and then drafting your own

Branding 101