Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The brand promise: tag lines

In my last post, I wrote rather generically about branding. In this post I’d like to talk about a specific element of branding: tag lines. A tag line is a short, memorable phrase that summarizes the essence of your MFI – its brand promise. Tags communicate a positive feeling about the MFI through a simple slogan that is easily repeated (repetition is critical to successful branding).

FINCA International, for example, uses the tag, “Small loans — big changes.” It’s a brilliant tag line, explaining in four words what FINCA does (makes small loans) and what benefit the loans provide (big changes). What’s particularly effective about this tag is that the brand promise – big changes – can apply to all FINCA’s clients, regardless of country or target market.

Typically, an MFI has a short tag, which is five words or less, as well as a longer tag – up to 25 words. The short tags can go just about anywhere – from business cards to letterhead to ad copy. Longer tags are frequently used in addition to the short tags, in brochures and other marketing materials where space isn’t as limited.

Action item – develop a short tag line:

To prepare, collect tag lines from other companies. Notice how they catch your attention. Are they easy to remember? Why? What do they communicate?

Next, determine your brand’s promise. Brainstorm the answers to these two questions:

  1. What need to we satisfy in our customers better than our competition?
  2. What benefit to we provide to our clients?


List the top 8 or 10 most important things you want to say about your MFI’s brand promise. Next eliminate repetition as well as items that don’t really communicate the benefits of your MFI or what makes you special. Whittle your list down to 3 or 4 central elements.

Based on the above, develop a five word or less tag line for your MFI, to be used in all your print materials (possibly beneath your MFI’s logo) – from letterhead to business cards to website to ads. Use simple, everyday language.

Finally, test your tag line. Is it short? Is it memorable? Is it distinctive? Does it communicate a positive feeling about your MFI? Does it communicate your brand promise?

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