One of the most important tests of a company or brand tagline is to ask this question: “If I were to replace my brand with my competitor’s brand, would the tagline be as effective?” If the answer is “Yes”, find another tagline.
For years Sony had a truly classic tagline: “Sony. The one and only.” That was a tagline they could own, and they did. “Panasonic. The one and only.” just doesn’t have the same zing. But several years ago, someone at Sony apparently decided to make his or her mark on the company, and the tagline was changed to “Sony. Like no other.”
Huh? What were they possibly thinking? The literal meaning of the new line was virtually identical to the one it replaced, but it lacked ownability as well as distinction. If you were to insert “Panasonic” in place of “Sony”, the line wouldn’t lose an iota of impact (not that it could afford to). Over the years, whenever I asked people what Sony’s tagline was, not one person ever recalled the new one.
I’m not going to claim that switching taglines is what has caused Sony’s market share and its reputation for innovation to decline over the past several years. But I don’t think these events are a coincidence, either. Rather, I think that when companies make bad decisions regarding taglines–as well as advertising and other communications–it’s often a signal that they are making bad decisions in other areas as well. And the fact is that had I had the wisdom to short Sony’s stock around the time of their tagline change, I would have made a lot of money.
I guess the lesson is: if they don’t own their tagline, don’t own their stock.