An ode to the Strapline

You are standing in your local supermarket aisle and need a pick-me-up. A sweet treat to keep you going for the rest of the day. An array of options stand in front of you, you’re hungry and need to make a decision quickly. All the products are screaming at you… ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry’, ‘Have a Break…Have a KitKat®’, ‘Feel the bubbles’… the list goes on. You don’t think too much as your hand glides towards a product. Which one was it? A main player in your decision here was your emotional tie to the strapline.

An advert is made up of various parts: visuals (the star), headline, strapline, logo, and body copy. The headline shouldn’t overshadow the visual but complement it, especially when the strapline carries the bulk of the message. Ever wonder where straplines come from? Are they born from some deep human truth, a little-known statistic, or a common fact that needs highlighting? In Caroline’s class, I discovered that there is an intricate dance between a strapline and the proposition in the evolution of an advertisement. A strapline is the catchy way to sum up your big idea, but condensing it into a couple of words is a real skill. Will the idea work across different media, conveying the same message and evoking the intended emotions? This is the test whether your strapline has legs, can it walk or is it sat still?

The key to a good strapline lies in a solid proposition. According to Caroline, propositions fall into three categories: blatant benefits, unexpected truths (Marmite’s ‘Love it or hate it’), or those unrelated to the product itself. While the latter may align more with brand values, it risks sacrificing integrity and jumping on the latest trends instead of cultivating enduring connections with their consumers. Dove, however, transcends this trend. Their propositions focus on societal attitudes towards women, fostering awareness, and empowering customers through authentic portrayals of real women confronting real issues. Their strapline is ‘Real beauty’, a product made for real women. This is evident in their ‘Dove Real Beauty Pledge’ as they promise to only use real women in their campaigns, no distortion of images and finally to help raise the self esteem of their consumers.

The trick here is a bullet proof proposition. Great thinking can get lost, so sticking to the strapline is crucial. Here I always think of Snickers, ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry’, playing upon the simple truth that people get grouchy when they’re sugar levels have dropped is something we can all relate to. The fact they play into the idea of a diva is a humorous and clever way to showcase this ideal. To become someone different altogether is genius, as I always say to people ‘I wasn’t being myself, I was just hungry’. What makes this advert so sticky? A strapline which accentuates an everyday human truth.

Caroline had a great piece of advice: orphans. To send your work out without any explanation, research or insights explained is the real test to an effective campaign. If someone can’t grasp your work in 30 seconds whilst they’re rushing to work on the motorway or squashed on an underground platform it doesn’t work. Show off your thinking, think more, write less, and remember that good writing can’t fix bad thinking. “Say it straight, then say it great” captures the essence of effective communication, a principle I’ll be carrying onto every project going forward. 


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