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Whatever it takes?

Essendon Football Club proudly displayed its 2013 slogan  Whatever it takes until February 2013 – only a few months after they launched it to their employers, players, fans and wider supporter base. This article addresses the lessons for organisations in Essendon Football Club’s launch and then early removal of its now, infamous, slogan.

It also outlines what a tagline or slogan is, why organisation should have one, prerequisites for good taglines and slogans and provide some examples.

What is a tagline or slogan?

A tagline or slogan is generally a memorable phrase used as an expression of a single important idea or purpose. It’s a description in a few words (usually five or less) of what is special or unique about your organisation, its plans or what it provides. It’s those few words that get to the heart and soul – or to the essence – of your organisation’s DNA to describe why it’s so different. It describes its differentiation in a way that should inspire your employees, customers and other stakeholders.

Taglines, slogans, mottos, mantras and rallying cries all send a single strong message to their target audience. In this thought piece, we concentrate on taglines, which are often included alongside an organisation’s logo device.

Why have a tagline?

A tagline is used to send a strong message, provide a call-to-action and to add focus and urgency to an organisation’s plans. An effective tagline will guide the future thinking, decisions, plans and actions of your employees, customers and shareholders. As your tagline or slogan is such a strong call-to-action, it will have a measureable impact on your organisation’s culture as it becomes embedded into its thinking, plans and actions.

Taglines can also occasionally fall into the trap of using clichés and pointless jargon. Ineffective or badly structured taglines can be vague, underwhelming, confusing, pretentious or ambiguous – and often communicate an inadvertent message.

Essendon Football Club’s 2013 slogan sent a strong message to its employees, players and fans about how serious it was about winning at all costs. The club’s message was defined as stopping at nothing. In hindsight, this was an inappropriate slogan for the club.

Prerequisites for a tagline

It is important that your tagline fits well and is aligned with your organisation’s vision and values. Your vision, values and tagline must be in complete harmony.

Whilst the Essendon Football Club’s 2013 slogan sent a very strong message to its employees, players and fans about how serious it was in winning, it sent the wrong message with regard to the Club’s ethics and integrity. Their slogan turned out to be a completely inappropriate rallying cry against a backdrop of accusations that the club had allegedly used performance-enhancing drugs and supplements. This may well be the reason the slogan was quickly removed so soon after its launch.

Whilst slogans and rallying cries usually have a shorter shelf life, most taglines should be designed to last for at least three to five years.

Because a new tagline or slogan can have such a significant impact on the organisation’s decisions, plans and culture, it should be considered and debated in-depth before it’s signed-off by the CEO, leadership team and board.

Local examples of taglines

National Australia Bank (NAB) launched its tagline, More give, less take in 2010 to emphasise the fact that it planned to have the lowest fees and interest rates of the big four Australian banks. This was a significant decision, which also meant that the bank would have to maintain a lower cost structure than its competitors or be encumbered with lower profit margins, which are unsustainable.

Insync Surveys’ tagline was recently updated to inspiring changeTM , to emphasise the fact that it inspires change whilst it partners with its clients on their journey to sustainable high performance.

One of BMW’s earlier taglines, Pure driving pleasure, captured the essence of what the German car manufacturer was selling and how it desired to differentiate itself from its competitors.

Canon’s tagline, Advanced simplicity, sends a powerful message to Canon’s employees and customers about their focus, the way the organisation thinks, the way it does business and most importantly, how it designs its products.

More information

Nicholas Barnett, CEO Insync Surveys, wrote and published the book GPS for your organisation® – how to energise your employees and build sustainable high performance. His book is a practical guide to help company boards, CEOs and leadership teams add clarity and gain ongoing buy-in to their organisation’s long-term direction, purpose and values. It also outlines how well developed taglines contribute to the process.

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