Don’t Take Your Marketing Metaphors Too Far

Since I named my small business marketing firm Zoo in a Jungle Marketing, it’s pretty clear that I approve of marketing metaphors. Taken from Peter DeVries’ quote “Life is a zoo in a jungle,” my company name promotes stepping outside the constraining zoo of your immediate business environment into the jungles of possibility.

But some brands take marketing metaphors too far. For instance, Roehr Insurance:

Don't Take Your Marketing Metaphors Too Far

When I first saw this banner, I thought, “Okay, a lion shield for a logo. I get it– lions symbolize strength, wealth and honor. Those are all desirable attributes in an insurance agency.” The lion shield serves as a clear, quickly-understood metaphor for the service you hopefully would receive from this firm.

Then I saw the tagline,”Put the Roehr back in your insurance,” and the pun-inducing groans started. Heavy-handed and silly are NOT desirable attributes for an insurance agency. (Not to mention confusing– what would it mean to have insurance that roars?)

While I certainly encourage the use of well-placed marketing metaphors, watch out for instances that give the impression of amateur efforts instead of well-crafted expertise.

Is Your Small Business Tagline Great… or Lackluster?

When a business doesn’t understand its customers or know what’s important to them, it’s tempting to “throw things at the wall to see what sticks.” The result is usually confusing and bland (what a combination!). Check out this supposed tagline on a newsletter I received from an HVAC company:

That's Not a Tagline

More Choices. No Worries. Less Hassle. Time & Money Saved!

That’s not a tagline. That’s an all-you-can-eat buffet. I guarantee this tagline is not an effective marketing tool for Logan Services.

Now it’s your turn. Compare your tagline with my Small Business Tagline Effectiveness Checklist to see how many elements you can check off.

Small Business Tagline Effectiveness Checklist

An effective tagline should be:

  • Memorable
  • Descriptive of what you do
  • Pithy
  • Differentiating
  • Interesting to your customers

If you scored less than three, your tagline definitely needs help. But if you scored a five, congratulations! Your tagline is a great tool in your marketing toolbox.

 

Five Terrible Small Business Marketing Taglines

Positive reinforcement can be very powerful, which is why I wrote Ten Great Small Business Marketing Taglines. But we often remember negative examples more clearly.  Here are five examples of bad small business marketing taglines, along with some tips for every small business.

Apollo – Quality Since 1910

What kind of small business do you think Apollo is? Based on the name and tagline alone, we have no idea. For small business marketing to be effective, the business name and tagline need to describe what the business does. (By the way, Apollo is an HVAC and plumbing company).

Tom Gill Chevrolet – A Business of Character

When Richard Nixon told Americans, “I am not a crook,” that didn’t work out for him very well. Americans expected their President to have that basic level of character. Everyone also expects small businesses to have character, and customers become suspicious when a business feels the need to tout its virtue. Make sure your small business marketing tagline goes beyond claiming to be honest and trustworthy.

Isaacs & Isaacs – One Call, That’s All!

Besides being unclear about what business this law firm is in, the tagline is misleading. Does anyone actually believe you can get a satisfactory settlement with only one phone call? Small business marketing taglines shouldn’t over-promise, or customers will be disappointed.

Gold Star Chili – Celebrating 50*Years

Here is a sad fact of life many small businesses don’t want to hear: No customer cares how long you have been in business. And they certainly don’t care about celebrating the fact with you. Don’t waste valuable marketing space telling customers how long you have been around. I’m sure Gold Star Chili has much more compelling reasons for people to eat their chili.

University of Indianapolis – Inspiring Excellence

This tagline is less terrible than boring. It makes my list because the sentiment is mundane. Don’t all universities aspire to inspire excellence? The tagline doesn’t give customers a clue towards what makes University of Indianapolis different from its competitors.

Take these examples and compare them to your own tagline. If you find any parallels, try tweaking your tagline right away. And then do some customer research to craft a great one.

And if you want to see some really bad, punny small business marketing taglines, follow this link for a laugh.

Ten Great Small Business Marketing Taglines

A Million Gallons of FunSmall businesses have many advantages over big businesses– the ability to build real relationships with customers, agility, flexibility, and more.

But brand awareness is one area where the big guys excel. Building Lasting Relationships with Clients and CandidatesThey have millions of dollars in marketing budget to educate customers about what they do and just why customers should care. Because of that, a big brand’s tagline can be esoteric, aspirational and vague. Think Nike’s Just Do It or Coca Cola’s Open Happiness.

Irresistible Ice CreamA small business marketing tagline has to work harder, though. It needs to tell the story of what you do and why customers love you in one small, memorable package. It’s hard work, and that’s why many small businesses don’t have a tagline. But the effort is worth it. Just check out these ten great small business marketing taglines:

Prompt and Proven Sprinkler Service Clearly a Better Carwash

  1. Newport Aquarium – A Million Gallons of Fun
  2. Graeter’s – Irresistible Ice Cream
  3. TriState Water Works – Prompt & Proven Sprinkler Service
  4. Lighthouse Carwash – Clearly a Better Carwash
  5. LMB Associates – Building Lasting Relationships with Clients and Candidates
  6. Dewey’s Pizza – Hey! Ho! Let’s Dough!
  7. Thrive Chiropractic – Adjust. Advance. Thrive.
  8. VooDoo Doughnut – The Magic is in the Hole!
  9. WAVE POOL – A Contemporary Art Fulfillment Center
  10. Yats – Cajun. Creole. Crazy.

Hey! Ho! Let's Dough!A Contemporary Art Fulfillment Center

Cajun. Creole. Crazy.Each one of these taglines combine with the business name to clearly communicate what the business does, while letting customers know what makes it different and special from competitors. For Dewey’s Pizza, VooDoo Doughnut and Yats, the tagline conveys the fun vibe found at these establishments. Others, like LMB Associates and TriState Water Works set their service models apart from competitors.

The Magic is in the Hole Adjust. Advance. Thrive.

 

Cookie Monster is Happy Again

A few years ago, in the face of the obesity epidemic, Sesame Street tried to give Cookie Monster a new slogan: “Cookie is a sometimes food.” Cookie Monster bravely faced this new challenge, giving up his favorite phrase, “C is for cookie. That’s good enough for me.” Fans were not so kind. Petitions, blogs and forums sprang up protesting the change to fans’ beloved furry muppet.

I’m pleased to see Sesame Street has finally listened to the fans who miss Cookie Monster’s favorite line. In this new music video parody, Cookie Monster sings “Share It Maybe,” and follows up with an interview assuring us he’s not giving up cookies:

Video – Sesame Street: Share It Maybe

So what does this story have to do with small business marketing? Cleverly hidden among the muppets is a marketing lesson. When you have something customers absolutely love, don’t change it. Marketing and product improvements are essential when customers simply like them (or don’t like them at all), but when customers love something about your brand, it takes discipline to protect it from changing fads and trends.

Also, I just loved having a reason to share an awesome music video featuring Cookie Monster. Happy Friday!

Taglines: Don’t Punt with Puns

Lately, I’ve noticed an uptick in the number of businesses that use puns in their taglines. As an avid lover of puns, you might expect me to approve of this marketing move. But using a pun in a tagline is the ultimate punt– it’s lazy and a way to escape truly thinking about how to communicate with customers. A tagline is an opportunity to succinctly tell customers what is most important to them about your business and leads them to want to learn more.

A pun might make customers laugh (or groan…), but will it convince them to buy? Usually not, because a pun isn’t designed to differentiate you in a meaningful way from your competitors. I saw an excellent example in Chicago this week of a business awkwardly trying to use a pun as a differentiator:

This bakery was advertising”We Bake to Differ” in an effort to differentiate themselves from competitors, but their attempt just doesn’t work. After reading this tagline, customers are left with a myriad of questions– What do they bake? How is it different? Do I care that unspecified baked goods are different, anyway?

To illustrate the difference, look at the tagline for Abby Girl Sweets in Cincinnati:

Although the graphics and tagline certainly aren’t perfect, “A Cupcakery. Every Batch from Scratch” is a much better tagline than a pun-based one. Customers know they can visit this bakery for a made-from-scratch cupcake. That’s relatively differentiated and much better than “We Bake to Differ.”

P.S. While scouring the web and my memory for bakery-based tagline examples, I realized the bakery world has scant to offer. I welcome any reader submissions and will update this post with any great examples. Just email amanda@zooinajungle.com.