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Tagline are so over rated and mostly misunderstood.  I have stood in a crowd of masters and major business owners to talk about the value of loyalty and the essence of branding only to be greeted with requests, “I need you to come up with a tagline for me”.  “Brand me with a tagline and I need it in a couple of days”.  All I could say is, “Dear Lord, help me”.

Branding goes deeper than mere tagline and a logo.  It’s more that the colours of your namecard or the well designed corporate profile or other marketing collateral that catches the eye. Instead, the substance that creates branding lies in the creation of meaning that invites the audience to feel an association, loyalty and trust to products and services you want to offer.  These feelings do not exist in mere 3 lettered words put together by a copywriter, an advertorial that tells a story or a corporate profile based on your favourite template — but cleverly chosen words with clear intentions.

One of my favourite topics while lecturing at Taylor’s College is, “The word is not the thing” by I.A. Richards.  This topic basically tells us that meaning is created not by the word but by the meaning associated to it.  In business, brand essence comes through innovative communication based on your intentions.  This intention becomes the basis of you creating meaning for your audience who will in turn relate their understanding of your chosen words either based on their experience, culture or belief systems.

I purposely chose two separate taglines by two different entities with jarringly different intentions as the title of this blog.  If we are to ignore which brands they stand for, the message can be utilized as words of encouragement for a variety of target audiences:

  1. School going students facing examinations after failing their last.


  1. Patients going through physiotherapy after muscular trauma.


  1. Clients undergoing fitness training fighting obesity and related illnesses.


  1. Young mothers struggling to breastfeed while having to go to work 9-5 everyday.


  1. Special children getting bullied in school but wants to pursue a dream.


Think about these audience and the tagline JUST DO IT. DON’T QUIT.  Sounds apt, yes?  Yet, the intentions behind both tagline serve vastly different audience and for different purposes for the brands that they represent.

JUST DO IT, is the tagline for the brand NIKE.  NIKE champions sportsmanship.  Nike Inc.’s official mission statement is “to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.”  They are focused on the winner’s mindset.  They want to inspire and they want to innovate to support every athlete’s dream to win.  Considering the target market’s mindset, the intention of winning is well associated to the chosen words in the tagline.  Is the branding apt?  YES, because the message appeals to the audience experience, culture and belief system.

DON’T QUIT is the most controversial tagline in recent years by Indonesian cigarette producers, Djarum.  Interestingly their LA Light cigarette line is encouraging young smokers to ignore health and continuously smoke by keeping it trendy.  The subtle message (or intention) is that keeping friends and staying popular is more important than keeping up with good health.  Is it working?  Based on my research, they are doing a very good job retaining their audience by associating themselves to youthful programmes, trending artists and lifestyle that attracts the younger generation.  In rebellious years, the simple invitation to go against mainstream and authorities is quite clever especially with the given target audience.  Is the branding apt?  YES, because the message appeals to the audience emotions and belief system.

…but put them together, a whole new intention can be created based on the initial different target audience I listed, yes?

So, branding goes far beyond just words string together to sound clever.  Branding is in the essence of the communication, its intention and the target audience.  When planning to brand, ask yourself : What is the intention?  Who are you targeting?  What are you enrolling your audience to feel, believe and trust?

Now…have a look at your thoughts about your brand.  What exactly do you want your audience to associate you with?  What is it about you that they appreciate and value?  If you can find that answer, you will find the essence of your brand.  Once the word pops in your mind, play with it because a whole new world of communication has arrived for your to explore and own.

Enjoy the journey and remember…the WORD is not the thing.  Branding is and will always be in the creation of meaning.  Begin to OWN YOUR WORDS.





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