Have brand taglines evolved to become hashtags?

As advertisers weigh in on the nuances of branding and the role brand taglines or organising ideas play, the agency players highlight that they aren't permanent and can evolve with changing times, but it shouldn't happen too frequently

Shreya Negi
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Have brand taglines evolved to become hashtags?

Most advertisers say that one of the main elements of brand communication is the ‘organising idea’ or tagline. But while the ad fraternity shares the notion that taglines are not dead and hold utmost importance in the current scenario, why don’t we see them being actively used in ad films, jingles and product packaging? tried to understand whether it is the brand taglines that have evolved over time to become something else owing to the rise of digital or if have they succumbed to the practices of the modern world.

Ashish Khazanchi

According to Ashish Khazanchi, Managing Partner, Enormous, a tagline binds all the communication of a brand, makes its offerings stand out and has a certain role to play, because it gives cohesion to an entire campaign and doesn’t differ between several ad pieces coming out.

“Even if they are distinct in their communication lines, there is still a binding thought to the entire brand idea in society. Also, the tagline should not be a manufacturer’s statement and should match with the brand’s product offerings as it is all about how one can engage with the audiences,” he opined.

He also stated that taglines will always be relevant, but they can certainly evolve with the changing society over a period of time.

“The only formula to a successful tagline is that it has to be distinctive, insightful and solve a real problem in the consumer’s lives.  In fact, one of the big problems in advertising is that at a time, there are dozens of campaigns that are going out, so how does one make sure that the appropriation of one’s campaign is to the brand itself? Otherwise, an Asian Paints ad can look like a Nerolac Paints ad and so on and so forth,” he stated.

Garima Khandelwal

Garima Khandelwal, ex-CCO, MullenLintas, also opined that while memorability is the number one objective and creating a brand world is another, what a tagline essentially does is that it gives shape and structure to brand guidelines and what makes its language distinct by giving it it’s a unique voice.

“Purpose, vision, values, audience, market, goals and especially personality and voice are all that a tagline can communicate, in a way that it’s sticky and unique. The simplicity of it is what is key. It becomes a part of the brand, it's not descriptive of the offering but what the brand stands for,” she added.

She also went on to emphasise that a tagline essentially helps complete the loop in brand communication. In fact, any of the memorable ad campaigns done for any brands actually stood out because they had a tagline, she added.

Agnello Dias

Agnello Dias, a.k.a Aggy, brand consultant, opined that the explosion of impulse purchase behaviour over the years - with consumers around the world ‘trying out’ rather than buying into a brand has resulted in a lot of rungs on the ladder of the conventional brand strategy being junked. 

“One can create a large market merely by jumping straight from Attention to Action without even worrying about affinity and brand building etc. This is a sign of the times we live in – width consumerism has taken over depth consumerism,” he said.

Moreover, he also opined that a brand’s voice is never cast in stone and is highly contextual, which is why the brand’s personality can evolve, sometimes rapidly, depending on the context in which society is operating. 

Akashneel Dasgupta

Akashneel Dasgupta, CCO, Network Advertising, opined that in this digital world, hashtags have become the new taglines as it is much easier to build traction around them. 

“In fact, a smart hashtag has become a go-to way to reinvent taglines as the same principle of stickiness applies here as well,” he stated.

Additionally, he also pointed out that while taglines definitely help people to remember a piece of communication over the years, being consistent with them is also important.

“Nike’s tagline ‘Just do it’ is what it is because the brand has stuck to it over decades and keeps finding newer and newer interpretations of the same. It wouldn't have been iconic if they did ‘Just Do It’ for a year and then switched to 'Impossible is Nothing' the next year,” he stated.

Sukesh Nayak

Similarly, Sukesh Nayak, CCO, Ogilvy, also emphasised that since longevity in today’s world is a very difficult thing to hang on to, the progression of a tagline is also very critical not just to manage a brand but to run the journey of it because people associate themselves with it. 

“Cadbury’s ‘Kuchh achha ho jaaye, kuchh meetha ho jaaye’ is a generational progression altogether of ‘Kuchh meetha ho jaaye’,” he said.

He added, “The core of the idea must be summed up in the most memorable manner, which in today’s world is captured in hashtags, for example- #PalatDe is a life ethos- when the world tells you it’s not possible, you say I’ll make it happen. Therefore, in the world of social media that we live in, taglines are not just important but they better be good and be truly shareworthy!”

Ajay Gahlaut

Ajay Gahlaut, former Group CCO, Dentsu Creative India, stated that if one wants to build a brand solely on digital marketing or performance marketing, so as to use data to get a hold of the consumer’s mind space, one can keep trying; but if one wants to actually send out a brand or marketing message, one needs to not just have but also build on its organising idea.

“A brand tagline is usually an essence of the organising idea and calling it a mere tagline, therefore, is almost insulting the best-encapsulated version of what the brand stands for in one line. Would you call ‘Just Do It’ a tagline? Hundreds of billions worth of shoes have been sold because of that. It is the organising idea, the thought, the value call, the philosophy and the ethos of the brand,” he added.

With this, he also went on to emphasise that it is only of late that the value of the organising idea has diminished because people are enamoured of data and technology. 

“Since you are ultimately selling to human beings, you have to make it attractive and what actually makes any brand attractive is its philosophy. Therefore, one needs to communicate the philosophy through the organising idea, and not just popping up on various touch points in the consumer’s life,” he stated. 

Abhijit Avasthi

Similarly, Abhijit Avasthi, Founder, Sideways, also stated that what has happened these days is that marketers and brand builders have lost patience and they don’t want to give anything the time to register, let alone the tagline. “In a way, it is all a reflection of the times we are living in wherein most marketers are not taking a long-term view of building a brand as everybody is focussing on tactical stuff such as acquisition strategy, performance marketing, lead generation etc.” 

In his opinion, the trend of marketers switching jobs and agencies every now and then doesn't help the cause either as there is no sense of ownership of the brand.

Enormous’ Khazanchi also went on to suggest that taglines can be one of the various elements that help the brand in breaking the clutter, but if people solely rely on taglines for differentiation, then it's too much pressure.

“A 1+1 doesn’t remain an arithmetic 2 in the case of taglines as it starts multiplying because one is building something more than just a particular side of the brand’s story every time one sends an ad out,” he remarked.

Network Advertising’s Dasgupta also shared the viewpoint that in his experience hardly does a marketer make an effort to go through the classical method of 'nine elements' of brand strategy in the contemporary world and even if they do, it is seldom mentioned. 

“Right now, it's more about solving a specific problem in the best way in the shortest possible time- which does not leave you with enough bandwidth to cover the entire 22 yards,” he said.

While most of the advertisers agreed that the brand taglines or organising ideas have evolved with the changing times wherein digital is the key medium to many brands, Gahlaut, on a concluding note, shared the view that it is rather immature that the ad agency people think of social media hashtags or campaign sluglines as brand taglines.

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