Tagline Parallelism – One That Works, One That Doesn’t

Today, I was driving behind a car that had a bumper sticker advertising some company (name will be withheld pending notification of next of kin). This company had a tagline of parallel statements that stated…well, precisely nothing.

Built on Product. Powered by People.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t go through life thinking about how I need “product.” Specific products, yes – but having seen this bumper sticker, I am left without a clue as to what this company offers.

As for powered by people – is there any company yet that was begun and maintained by robots?

On the other hand, I have been spending a large amount of time lately on airplanes (due to a large volume of work in the Chicago area – one reason for my infrequent posting of late!), and when I fly, it is usually on Continental Airlines. Some years ago, that company launched an effective “parallel” tagline…

Work Hard. Fly Right.

Why does this work, while the other falls flat? Well, the Continental tagline affirms something about me – it implies that I am a hard worker. And furthermore, since I am, I deserve the best airline experience – I should “fly right.” Bingo – Continental has tapped into something aspirational.

The lesson? It’s not enough to have a cute couplet of phrases. You actually need to tap into the desires of your target audience, and say something tangible in your tagline. Because no-one goes shopping for “product”!

(image credit)

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  1. There are some very interesting points in that article. I never thought about it as tapping into my audiences desires.

  2. Do you know what the company was Steve? I’m curious now to find out what they mean by “built on product”. The “powered by people” could have an intellectual spin. If the bumper sticker had no company name, it was a wasted effort.

    As for the Continental tagline. Work hard is the symptom, Fly rested would be a nicer benefit than fly right. What might the difference be between fly right and fly wrong? I find it an odd term. Maybe they (Continental) felt ‘right’ was a positive reinforcement and covered a range of topics.

    It’s getting late – I could just be tired. Another good article though, thanks.


  3. Hey Steve…Good article, it’s set me off trying to do the same sort of tag for our company…blinking hard though! Best I could come up with on the spur of the moment was “Live Life. Love Home” as we get a lot of clients who are just too busy to house hunt! Agree with you though Ed about the “Fly Rested”…that would really appeal – but maybe it was just the calling of your bed screaming out to you Ed 😉 lol!
    Good article Steve.

  4. Thank you, all, for the kind comments.

    @Ed – I googled the tagline, and the company is Market America.

    Coming up with a great tagline is REALLY HARD. Something that is quick, punchy, memorable, and still says something definitive and appealing – I think it’s one of the biggest creative challenges of all.

  5. Thanks for that Steve. I checked them. Once you understand what they do the taglines makes sense. I don’t think most people will do the legwork. They are product brokers who sell using one on one relationships.

  6. I think a lot of effort and talent is required to come up with something catchy and inspirational. I think the best qualified people to come up with a tagline for their company would be those who work for that company. They have the insight and knowledge about their industry and product/services.

  7. Obviously a clever retool of “straighten up and fly right.” Has more impact, as no one’s dad every told them to straighten up and fly relaxed.