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July 13, 2009

Tag(line), You're It!

Ah, the tagline -- that memorable phrase that pithily encapsulates the tone and premise of your brand or service.  No short string of words has ever proven more  frustrating to compose, or produced such satisfying results when it hits the right note.  After all, a terrific tagline (like solo David Kaufman's We Do Business Brawls or David Fuller's Lawyer for Tough Times) simultaneously conveys what you do while letting you stand out, while a clunker (We Care Because You Pay Us To) draws groans.  Perhaps the worst, however, is the the litany of utterly non-descriptive, generic taglines ("Committed To Your Success"; "A National Law Firm Creating Solutions") that run common to law firms and don't generate an iota of memorability.

Importance of a Tagline 

Creating the right tagline for your practice is a challenge for several reasons.  First, a good tagline begins with self-knowledge -- what makes your law firm unique and how that uniqueness benefits your clients.  So tagging your firm as "Compassionate, caring attorneys" addresses only one, the "uniqueness" part of the equation (and to be honest, compassion and caring isn't all that unique), but doesn't share how these characteristics will benefit clients.  An improvement on this tagline could be "Compassionate, caring attorneys who fix your credit problems, not criticize you for them."  It's not a great improvement, but the new tagline has some alliteration and more importantly, tells clients who may be ashamed about their financial situation -- that you'll help, not judge them.

The other tough part of a creating a tagline is making it sing -- finding the right rhythm and clever phrasing -- so that it sticks in people's minds.  This task is particularly difficult for lawyers accustomed to writing briefs and memos in thudding prose that lacks the light, bright precision that makes for a great tagline. 

Below are some ideas, from posts around the blogosphere, on ways to create your own unique tag line.

1. Take the tag line seriously.  Set aside some real thinking time to develop a tagline rather than just attempting to toss one out in an offhanded matter. You don't have to devote weeks or months to creating a tagline, but you should allow yourself six to eight hours over the course of a week to come up with some ideas.

2. Don't get caught in perfection-paralysis.  Some lawyers get too bogged down in creating a tagline, trying to anticipate all of the directions that their practice will take so that they can achieve nirvana with a tagline, when nifty would serve just as well.  The point is that taglines aren't set in stone; if your practice takes you down another path -- as it invariably will -- just change your tagline. 

Even major corporations' taglines evolve over time.  Growing up, I associated McDonald's with the tagline, "You deserve a break today," but now I'm accustomed to hearing my daughters' chanting, "I'm loving it" from the backseat as we go through drive-through.  In fact, according to Wikipedia, McDonald's has changed its slogan 23 times over the past 45 years.

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