Writing taglines for a law firm — or any professional services organization — looks easy. The truth is that it’s much more difficult than it looks. Here’s another truth: Not all taglines are memorable. While their value can be debated, a good tagline will help set expectations for your clients, recruits and prospects, as well as the media.
In the mid-’90s, when law firms first began to design and develop websites, the average homepage often opened with a welcome message and a mission statement. Thankfully, law firm websites have evolved and moved beyond that “brochureware” phase; their homepages began offering the firms’ latest news, promoted thought leadership pieces and eventually added positioning statements to help tell the firm’s story. Taglines soon started appearing on the homepage – sometimes tucked under the firm’s logo, or alongside the navigation – or, visible when the reader scrolled down the page.
The difference between a tagline and a positioning statement
What is the difference between a tagline and a positioning statement — and why does it matter? For starters, a tagline sets the stage in a creative manner by suggesting personality, emotion or action. As a catchphrase, a tagline takes on an advertising form, creatively promoting a brand characteristic or differentiating itself from competing businesses through a clever combination of words. Taglines come and go, and may evolve like an ad campaign.
A tagline is designed to be used in conjunction with the brand identity as a subconscious trigger that makes the brand more memorable. Taglines are pithy, playful and creative, and the best ones are thought-provoking. Here’s a good marketing axiom to remember when developing a tagline: “Taglines are designed to be read, not said.”
A positioning statement is the grown-up version of the tagline. It is designed to quickly explain what you do and how you do it. That is the brand promise. Like the tagline, it is an opportunity for an organization to illustrate brand characteristics and differentiators, but the purpose of a positioning statement is to clearly outline the who, what and how. The format is more sentence-like. Although it also can be written in clever ways, it has to be clear and direct, because it should articulate how you/your firm can help the viewer/client.
For a tagline to be effective, it should include these four attributes.
Memorable — Just like the most-famous and distinctive taglines, which we recognize without seeing the company’s name:
- “Think Different”
- “Just Do It”
- “The Happiest Place on Earth”
Ownable — This is sometimes referred to as “differentiating.” Can your firm make this statement where no one else can? Does this tagline infer something that is immediately identifiable with your firm?
Easily understood — Like this point, your tagline should not confuse the reader.
Elicit positive responses — This doesn’t necessarily mean that the tagline has to make you feel happy. For a law firm, a positive tagline could elicit a response like the feeling of being well taken care of:
- “I can trust the advice I will get from this firm.”
- “This certainly looks like a powerhouse firm.”
Need some inspiration?
Here are a few examples of good law firm taglines:
- Fragomen: A World of Difference in Immigration
- Fish & Richardson: Clients come to Fish to solve their IP issues
- Hunton & Williams: Aligned with your business
- Perkins Coie: Counsel to great companies
How to handle the naysayers
Chances are, you’re going to encounter responses to your new tagline like “I don’t get it“ or worse, “I don’t like it.” A colleague of ours, who has helped several AmLaw 50 firms with their rebranding, recalled one of his most-significant engagements: Expecting pushback, he shared the new tagline with several carefully selected clients. Turns out, the clients loved the new tagline and even read more meaning into it than had been originally conceived! Armed with that excellent client feedback, and being able to explain how the tagline supported the firm’s new brand and core messages, helped smooth the program’s rollout.