By , on Business Planning.

Judging from the many disastrous slogans that state tourism boards have happily paid tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for, even marketing professionals often use totally subjective criteria to select tag lines. Do we like it? Is it catchy and memorable? Does it make us feel good?

I suggest replacing the “feel-good” test with five much more grounded criteria. When you’re trying to decide on the best tag line to accompany your organization’s name on the web site, brochures, business cards, stationery, ads, mugs and mouse pads, make sure your winner passes these five tests.

1. Does it apply to you and not to competitors? Few people would match “Great Potatoes. Tasty Destinations.” to any other state than Idaho. But there’s nothing in “Worth a Visit, Worth a Lifetime” to indicate Maine any more than Minnesota, Michigan or Montana. If your tag line does not highlight something distinctive about your company, it’s not making much of a difference to prospective customers, either.

2. Does it have nothing but positive connotations? I’m baffled about how “Seize the Day Off” is supposed to reflect well on Maryland. Are all the jobs in that state so horrible that everyone there lives for the weekend? Likewise, “Things Look Different Here” could equally be taken as a bad thing as a good thing about Oregon, which used that slogan for many years.

3. Does it have emotional oomph? “Greatest Snow on Earth” is certainly an energetic advertisement for Utah. Similarly, Kentucky’s “Unbridled Spirit,” which refers to its horse-related traditions, has emotional strength. Your tag line should convey energy rather than being flat and factual.

4. Are the tone and content appropriate for the target market? The District of Columbia has had “Taxation Without Representation” on its license plates, which functions well as an activist slogan for its own residents. But for tourists, that slogan would come across as bombastic and irrelevant. Always keep your target market firmly in mind when generating and screening tag lines. You are not writing it for yourselves but for those you want to attract.

5. Do you have good reasons for wanting to replace the previous tag line? Don’t toss it in the trash just because you are tired of it. Remember that because you undoubtedly hear and see your own tag line much more than your target market does, you may get tired of it years sooner than they will. It’s very rare for a state to keep a successful slogan alive for more than a decade because politicians and tourism officials get more and more itchy to put their mark on their entity’s branding. That’s a very bad reason to change. If the audience has stopped responding to it, or it has begun to be ridiculed – those are good reasons to look for a new tag line.

When you weigh your favorite tag lines with these five tests, you reduce the chances of choosing one that exposes your organization to ridicule. You boost the chances of coming out a winner.

About the Author
Marcia Yudkin is Head Stork of Named At Last, a company that brainstorms creative business names, product names and tag lines for clients. For a systematic process of coming up with an appealing and effective name or tag line, download a free copy of “19 Steps to the Perfect Company Name, Product Name or Tag Line” at http://www.namedatlast.com/19steps.htm