Does everything need a strapline?

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May 25, 2017

The best 4×4 by far.

The 4th emergency service.

Vorsprung durch Technik.

Just do it.

There have been many fantastic straplines over the years. Straplines that, I must be honest, I kind of wish I’d written myself. Lately however, it seems to have become the norm for absolutely everything and everyone to have a strapline. Or, at the very least, some kind of qualifying line to sum up who they are and what they do.

This is all very well – and, indeed, in some instances can help build a brand and communicate quickly and clearly what a company stands for. But I do wonder whether absolutely everything needs a line… and if, in some cases, it isn’t simply just overkill.

What got me thinking: a sign for the coffee shop at my kids’ school. Take a look at it in the picture above and see what you think. Now let’s be honest – I’m all for coffee shops at schools. We never had them when I was a lad… mind you, we never had Starbucks, Café Nero or Costa back then, either. I know they are very much the rage these days, and hey, why the heck not have one at a school?! But does the school coffee shop need a strapline?

I know it’s a coffee shop. I know it’s open (the sign tells me it’s open). But do I need to know it’s ‘where your (my) coffee counts’?

Okay. So, let’s take a look at what this phrase actually means (or could mean). I take it to mean that, because this is a school rather than a coffee shop or big, multi-national coffee-selling chain, some (or all) of the money I pay for my coffee will go to the school. Which is great. But does that need to be emblazoned on a sign? And, even if it is desirable to mention it on a sign (as a way of enticing folk in), would it not be better to actually explain what the school gets when I come in and buy a coffee?

For example: CORNELIA’S COFFEE SHOP… raising money for a good cause. Or: CORNELIA’S COFFEE SHOP… raising much needed funds for St. Nicholas CofE School. Or even keep the line vaguely creative: CORNELIA’S COFFEE SHOP… buy a drink, help our school – good brews all round!

Of course, this isn’t the only example. There are all kinds of companies, businesses and organisations out there who have straplines… who possibly don’t need straplines. From removal specialists to gardeners, estate agents to personal trainers. Whilst I accept that some of the straplines are possibly quite good and might help create a certain kind of empathy between a company / business and their audience / prospective audience, I question the need for everything and everyone to apparently require a strapline these days.

Am I being unfair? Am I looking at the past with rose-tinted glasses, when it seemed like straplines were only for the biggest and best of brands? Does Gary’s Garden Services have any less of a right to a strapline than, say, British Airways? Maybe, possibly and probably not (to answer all of the above). I suppose all I am saying is, fine, have a strapline if you want, but please try to make it a) clear and b) differentiate your product / organisation / service in some way. Which, when you think about it, all straplines should aspire to be / do anyway.

by Dave Washer