If you’re ever stuck writing a tagline, before you send another draft to the client, do this.

Photo Illustration by Tug Wells

Photo Illustration by Tug Wells

Taglines. We love them and hate them. As word puzzles, they’re creative and challenging, in a good way. They give writers a chance to show off their copywriting chops where they count the most. Crafting the right slogan also lets companies know we get them from the ground up. There’s really no better proof that you’re in sync with a brand vibe than nailing their message in a handful of words.

For the most part, while writing taglines can be tricky and even big agencies don’t always get them right, if you scope out a brand well enough, and give clients a few options, you can usually produce a winner.

But sometimes you can’t. Sometimes your brain feels like it’s moving through a total whiteout with no right words or intimations of right words forming anywhere on the horizon. If you are completely stuck—if you can’t step into the shoes of a brand long enough to find five words that tell the world what it is—it may not be your fault.

There’s really no better proof that you’re in sync with a brand vibe than nailing their message in a handful of words.

There are times when you’ll run into a client who has a vision for their product, mission or service that they can’t articulate themselves. Which may mean that they haven’t actually arrived at that vision yet.

Rather than spending days going back and forth, taking stabs in the dark trying to intuit what a client wants to say about their company, we recommend doing this.

It’s sort of a word game we invented to help clients articulate their brand visions. We call it the Tagline Game.

The tagline game works like this. If you’ve already tried out a round or two of taglines with a client and the feedback isn’t getting you any closer to a viable option, ask them to sit down and describe their company in three words.

These three words should be the essence of the client’s vision, or the brand stripped down to the bone.

When you actually see those words, as a writer you may be in for a shock. Your creative brief and all the conversations you’ve had with the client up to that point might have led you down a rabbit hole. In other words, you may have been writing about the wrong company.

There are times when you’ll run into a client who has a vision for their product, mission or service that they can’t articulate themselves. Which may mean that they haven’t actually arrived at that vision yet.

Frustrating? Maybe. But at least you have a concrete direction to head in now.

This can be an eye-opening and exhilarating exercise for clients too. Companies may realize for the first time what they were really trying to say all along, and this always feels good.

When the tagline games works, you’ve facilitated authentic communication between yourself and the client—a brand mediation as it were—and you did it in just three words.

Of course, three words a tagline doesn’t necessarily make, but now you at least have the axes of the brand, i.e. what it is and what it’s not. You’ve stepped out of the fog and into the bright, shiny world of creative copywriting. Now you can start writing.

Next week on the Storyline Blog: Oberlo, Free Slogan Maker.