The Pros and Cons of Tagline Changes

Wendys

I recently came across a fun Hubspot blog post primarily focused QSR taglines. In the post, the author touched on Wendy’s recent change from the tagline “Now that’s better” to the new “Deliciously different.” Sure, Wendy’s is no stranger to changing taglines; in fact this marks Wendy’s 10th since 2003. However, this recent change gave me pause. In my opinion, “Now that’s better,” was succinct, memorable and direct, while clearly speaking to Wendy’s underlying message: That they offer a better, higher-quality fast food meal than competitors McDonald’s and Burger King.

“Deliciously different” had me considering the pros and cons to tagline change, which I see simply boiling down to the following:

Pros

More accurately define your brand
A tagline symbolizes a brand, with effective ones staking out brand claims in a consumer’s memory. If a tagline isn’t doing that, then a change could be in order. All too often taglines don’t offer a good brand description, or otherwise create confusion on what your company is about. Done right, changing a tagline can help properly reflect the priorities of your organization.

Stay current or readjust in the marketplace
Building on the point above, perhaps a tagline did at one time accurately reflect your brand, but for one reason or another has become outdated – maybe the company itself has changed, the competitive environment has shifted or consumer tastes have evolved. In these situations, a tagline change would benefit a company in many situations.

Cons

Further muddy the water
In changing a tagline, a company runs the risk of getting away from the “point,” or further muddying the waters for your audience. Odd verbiage, vagueness or wordiness can have consumers asking “who are you?”

To me, Wendy’s “Deliciously different” is an example of this. We still get the ideas “tasty” and “set apart” from this new tagline, but the brand is willingly losing the direct power claim of being “better” than the competition.

Lose staying power/forfeit brand equity
Frequent changing of a tagline loses all staying power that tagline might have in the marketplace and in the consumer’s mind, and to an extent, forfeits equity that the brand has built though said tagline.

Think about it: Wendy’s has utilized 10 taglines in 13 years. In that same stretch of time, McDonald’s has stuck with just 1: “I’m lovin’ it.” Virtually every consumer could tell you what McDonald’s tagline is, and they immediately associate the brand with that tagline and its sentiment. The same could not be said for Wendy’s.

Changing a tagline is rolling the dice on losing that quick link between a company name and the tagline’s message or idea.

In my opinion, there needs to be a good business reason, supported by strong logic and compelling facts, to support a move towards a new tagline; change for change’s sake has a much greater chance of backfiring than paying off. But what do you think – does Wendy’s “revolving door” approach to taglines work for their brand, or would they be better served by sticking with one?

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