Taglines & Positioning Statements

By Camille Leonard

Taglines & Positioning Statements

One of the most daunting tasks for a destination marketing organization (DMO) is making the decisions necessary to rebrand the community they represent. Branding often includes a tagline that captures what it is that makes your community different from other places. But before you craft the perfect one, you have to ask whether you need a tagline at all. Read time: under 3 minutes

One of the most daunting tasks for a destination marketing organization (DMO) is making the decisions necessary to rebrand the community they represent. Let’s face it—expectations are high. The marketing decisions made should produce results to grow the buzz about your city. Measurable results can include more heads in beds, feet on fairways, people in parks, meetings booked, and more travel writers taking notice. Buzz about the new tagline that makes your destination look smart and draws new visitors by the dozens. Realistically, crafting that tagline is hard work. There are board members, stakeholders and civic leaders who are expecting the tagline to promote the aspects of the destination they hold most dear. Can a few choice words describe the depth of your offerings?

Do You Need A Tagline?

Let’s define what your tagline should do for your DMO—capture what it is that makes your community different from other places. Better yet it describes what a visitor might expect to feel when experiencing your destination. Taglines should be brief and absolutely true. A good tagline supports your brand. Taglines cannot convey every appealing aspect of your community. But avoid being so broad and general that your tagline could be used by just about anywhere—and therefore provides no value to a visitor considering your destination. Tourism taglines are often knocked (Colombia: The Only Risk Is Wanting to Stay; Washington State’s “SayWA.” (Say whah?); Oklahoma is OK—even NBC News weighed in on this) and knocked off (New Zealand 100% Pure; Pure Michigan; Pure Grenada). There’s much ado about tourism slogans in the industry—but let’s remember we want to lure visitors, not just to have an empty catchphrase to put under our logo. There are quite a few effective taglines out there—The Florida Keys: Come as you are. It speaks to the barefoot, unbuttoned nature of a place that welcomes visitors from anywhere.  Another good example—With Love, Philadelphia, handwritten typography looks personal, and supported by the city’s longtime moniker—The City of Brotherly Love, uses its assets to charm and evoke emotion. Everybody’s favorite (except the Las Vegas Police)—What Happens Here, Stays Here was certainly a reference to Las Vegas. Even a good tourism tagline takes time to catch on. Buy-in from the local press and stakeholders help give your tagline boost, but exposure to potential visitors is the real test of its value to your brand. So how to tackle the tourism tagline? It helps to understand your brand—the experience you can actually deliver to the visitor. Delve into the facts—why do people travel to your community? If you’ve partnered with a specialist to conduct in-depth visitor intercepts and research, you’ve got a start. Use that research to understand who you are speaking to when you craft your tagline. What do your visitors think about you? Use the results as a road map to lead you to the messages you need to communicate to the groups that can influence your success as a DMO. Visitors. Stakeholders. Media. And more. Only after your organization thoroughly understands the direction its purposeful messaging should take, does creative begin. This strategically thought-out direction is your position. It, not a tagline, forms the creative intent.

Do You REALLY Need A Tagline?

A good tagline is nice to have. A mediocre tagline, as long as it does no harm, is okay. But, make sure it’s not a bland, “me too” line and that it translates inoffensively to mainstream international travelers, then use judiciously. However, if there’s not a single solution tagline that sings solo, move on to a chorus. You see, the best thing about attempting to compose a tagline is the analysis that proceeds creative. Use the position formed in this process to populate all channels of marketing—richly. You can use photography, headlines, smartly worded URLs, and harnessed social channels and customer reviews to communicate a well-formed brand. And that can beat three to six words by a mile.