Agency branding: When taglines turn to ‘word salad’

By Molly Dooling, D+P 2019 Intern

How are agencies differentiating themselves and their business from the rest of the noise?

As I was exploring potential firms for my Spring internship, this question occurred to me as I looked at several agency websites. Then I came across an article posted by PR Week titled “Agency branding must be much more than a word salad.” In a nutshell, the article talked about how a majority of the larger, top public relations firms in the country all have very similar taglines. Taglines, in fact, that are almost too similar.

“Cohn & Wolfe’s former tagline was ‘Dig Deeper. Imagine More.’ Burson-Marsteller’s was ‘Being More.’”

In a short study, most of the taglines from these top firms consisted of “meaningless phrases” that “focused inwardly on the agencies rather than highlighting the value firms can offer to their clients.”

It can be difficult for potential clients to tell agencies apart with these vague, short catchphrases.

In the competitive environment that is public relations, agencies must go deeper and prove their differentiation beyond the tastelessness of their mushy, leftover word salads.

When looking for agencies to represent them, clients are looking for anything but these vanilla taglines.

So how can an agency truly differentiate from the rest? Focus on what your agency does best but not all at once and make an emotional connection to potential clients.

Although it may have a plethora of services it provides, don’t promote them all at once. If you are promoting everything, this gives the impression that you are OK at a lot of stuff, but not great at one or two significant services. This focus engenders more trust from prospective clients.

Advertising that your public relations agency specializes in one or two key services will also make it easier for clients to choose which agency will work best for them. For example, if your agency shows that it specializes in community relations and internet marketing, you may find more business in clients that know exactly what they want and need because they see you clearly provide it.

These ambiguous taglines are also very short. They consist of three to four words of indefinite verbs and adjectives in a tagline that means virtually nothing. Giving a little more insight into your agency might also make clients gravitate toward you. How long should a tagline be? It should be long enough to reach an emotional connection in the client’s mind. D+P’s tagline, Rest Easy, makes that emotional connection by suggesting how the client will feel when we work for them.

Obvious yet critical, first impressions to clients are everything, and its crucial agencies make a positive first impression. Seeing the correct words can be the determining factor when clients are choosing which agency they want to represent them.

Regardless of its tone, the tagline of an agency represents a key opportunity to cement an image of your brand in the head of your prospective client. It can be tempting to remain broad and ambiguous and resist focus. However, done correctly, it can be very beneficial to narrow your focus and target your services. A more specific slogan and promotional strategy could potentially lead to more clients. Remember, originality is key!

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