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Clients often ask: is a ‘brand positioning’ or a ‘brand idea’ the same as a ‘tagline’?

In short, the answer is ‘no’. But, in truth the answer is ‘sometimes’. I’ll get to that in a moment.

Brand positioning or brand idea (I use the two terms interchangeably) is what you want people to think of when they see or engage with your brand.

A brand idea should last in perpetuity, whereas a tagline often changes usually to coincide with a new ad campaign.

Brand ideas are strategic, taglines more tactical.

There are times when we’ve created a brand idea that the client loves so much that they want to use it as a tagline. Of course, that’s fine.

So what’s a brand idea? It’s the essence or embodiment of what you stand for that infuses an emotional dimension into your brand.

Take Starbucks for instance, their brand positioning/brand idea is “The third place”.

Huh? Yeah, I know, I can see you scratching your head so let me elaborate a little bit.

Starbucks wants to be the ‘third place’ in your life: you have home, then work, then Starbucks. Get it? It’s the notion that Starbucks is an integral part of your lifestyle. It’s a big, simple and aspirational idea that makes the brand stand for more than gourmet coffee, frappuccino, or a place to meet a friend at 11am.

‘Third place’ works as a call to action to encourage customers to engage more with the brand. Plus, ‘third place’ is underscored by Starbucks’ footprint of 20,000 stores – it’s an idea that’s unique – and one that only Starbucks (when compared to other coffeehouse brands) can truly occupy.

Starbucks doesn’t currently employ a tagline but they have done in the past.

At one point they used the tag “Life happens over coffee”. This tag supports the idea ‘Third place’ but does so in a more colloquial, consumer-oriented and tactical way.

Here’s another great example and one of my favorite brand ideas: think of Spiderman. ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ Do you ever see this line on a movie poster? Do you see it next to the Spiderman logo emblazoned on his Spider Suit? No, of course you don’t. Yet, everyone who knows Spiderman, knows it.

What’s your brand idea?

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