Posted by Jennie Winton on April 13th, 2015
Posted in Blog, Nonprofit Branding, Nonprofit Communications, Nonprofit Taglines
We had a great tagline, and it served us well for over a decade. And then our tagline stopped working.
How did we know? It just didn’t feel like us anymore. It wasn’t bad; it just wasn’t as good as it could be. It wasn’t as good as the Mission Minded of today.
Consider our old tagline:
Marketing Communication for Nonprofits and Other Do-gooders
When we created Mission Minded in 2002, other professionals and agencies dedicated to serving the nonprofit sector were few and far between. That’s not true today—there are increasingly more individuals and companies devoted to doing good in the world by helping nonprofits succeed with stronger communications. And there’s a growing emphasis on the importance of brand, which is a good thing.
Our old tagline implied that Mission Minded was a firm of general communications consultants. But we’re brand strategists, and we needed a tagline that alluded to the big picture work we do for our clients. Beyond that, our tagline didn’t help you connect with us, and it didn’t tell you what’s so special about working with Mission Minded in a crowded field of alternatives.
We’re a branding firm so our tagline better be of best-in-class caliber. Our old tagline had fallen into “good enough” territory. We needed a great tagline. “How hard can that be?” we asked ourselves. It’s what we do for our clients every day.
As it turns out, it was harder than we thought it would be. First, we made the same mistake made by many. Zach and I, the founders of Mission Minded, decided to just “bang one out,” hoping for a fast flash of brilliance. When that didn’t happen, we asked the other Mission Minded team members to join in on the brainstorming. And our amazing team of brand strategists pointed out our mistake. A great tagline is rooted in the brand. We needed to think strategically about Mission Minded and not rush things. So Zach and I, as the clients, “hired” the team to walk us through the same process we use to help each of our clients generate a fantastic new tagline.
We take great care and thoughtful consideration with our clients in crafting taglines, but we had underestimated how illuminating—and effective—the process would be for us. After a robust, formal, strategic process—the same one we ask our clients to commit to—we came up with several really good contenders, and ultimately, settled on the very best one:
Amplify the good
Round after round, amplify the good stood above the rest. But we weren’t immediately jumping up and down, congratulating ourselves on a job well done. In order to pull the trigger and make the final call between our top contenders, we had to navigate a few stumbling blocks. Here’s what we learned (or really, reminded ourselves):
1. Your tagline doesn’t have to say it all. It’s better to evoke emotion than to dryly describe.
One of the main reasons we started this process was because we wanted a tagline that more precisely signals what we do—brand strategy for nonprofits. Yet our new tagline doesn’t explicitly make that clear and it doesn’t even mention nonprofits. How could we have such a strong reaction to a tagline that does almost nothing to literally describe us?
We reasoned that anything we could feel so positively about was worth a deeper look. As we wrestled with this contradiction, we remembered a nugget of wisdom we often share with our clients who face the same dilemma: Your tagline doesn’t have to say it all. In fact, a tagline that tries to is doomed to be boring and unmemorable.
A tagline is part of a flexible system of brand hallmarks—your key messages, your logo, your website, your name, your collateral—that work together to represent who you are. A great tagline is an invitation to learn more, and amplify the good is just the beginning of the conversation. It ignites curiosity and it’s provocative, even if it doesn’t spell out what services we offer.
For Nike, Just Do It doesn’t mention athletic gear. Their logo isn’t a sneaker or a basketball jersey. Yet, the name, tagline, and the swoosh in their logo clearly symbolize the best of the best when it comes to athletics and athletic gear. Just Do It embodies the spirit of Nike. It doesn’t describe the products they sell.
We love amplify the good because it speaks to the heart of Mission Minded—who we are, what we do, why we do it, and how. It is so indicative of our company’s style and values that it relays more while explaining even less. It makes people feel something and that’s better than a description any day.
2. Your tagline can also be your brand promise.
Initially, we thought we couldn’t adopt amplify the good as our tagline because it’s our internal brand promise. We’ve long argued that a brand promise and a tagline aren’t the same thing, and we stand by that.
However, we’ve also always said that if your brand promise does its job of clarifying your brand and inspiring internal stakeholders to live the brand every day and can equally inspire external stakeholders, it can double as your tagline.
As our brand promise, amplify the good is perfectly in line with our vision and supports all of our day-to-day actions. We use it to direct our thoughts, perspectives, and behavior on a daily basis. Sit in on an internal Mission Minded team call, and you’ll likely hear one of us saying it. “Amplify the good.” It’s also an inspiring, clever message and sends an immediate signal to the external world of what they can expect from us at Mission Minded. A tagline is often an external expression of an internal idea. In our case, the two are one and the same.
3. Your tagline is one of your most important messages.
This may seem obvious, but as we began to implement our new tagline, we were reminded of its power as a communications tool. We realized that our old tagline “lived” very few places. What should’ve been one of our most important key messages was lurking as an afterthought, not living front and center.
We counsel our clients to repeat, repeat, repeat and yet, we weren’t employing this tactic ourselves because our tagline wasn’t necessarily a message worth repeating. As we explored all of the places where we could share our new tagline, the possibilities seemed endless. That’s another mark of a great tagline. Amplify the good works for us in more ways than one—as a newsletter title, on every page of our website, in our presentations, and in the everyday parlance we use with each other—as a strong tagline should.
When deciding between the final taglines, we considered the long-term appeal of amplify the good as a key message. We say you shouldn’t change your tagline more than once a decade—does this new one have the stamina to endure the test of time? Given its track record as our brand promise, we’re sure it does.
In the end, we did what we ask our clients to do every day: Take a leap of faith. Does our new tagline fix the initial problem we set out to solve? No. Is it OK for our brand promise to be our tagline? Is it on brand and does it evoke emotion? Yes, yes, and yes. Most importantly: is it a great tagline? We think it is. We went with our gut, and we are so happy we did.
We love our new tagline, and we hope you do, too. Please share your input with us in the comments below!
Jennie Winton is a Founding Partner of Mission Minded, a 25-year marketing veteran sought for her expertise in branding nonprofit organizations, and a one-on-one leadership coach.
See all posts by Jennie Winton
This was an excellent article on the importance of brand messaging and keeping true to who you are and what you stand for. Well done!
Thanks, Jennifer! Glad you enjoyed it.
Thanks for sharing this! I love how you articulated our internal struggle and ultimate success. It’s a great reminder that we are always learning and improving as we strive to amplify the good!
Kirsten, Thanks for all you did to help us make the right choice!
An excellent article–and an excellent tagline. Congratulations! And thanks for sharing the story behind it as well.
Very helpful explanation. One thing you left out, however, is that one reason your more succinct, but less descriptive tagline works is that your name, Mission Minded, already says so much.
Those five words — Mission Minded: Amplify the Good — demonstrate your branding skill.
John, That’s a great point! And proof that a tagline doesn’t have to say it all. Paired with a name and powerful visual identity the tagline is one of the entire set of signals an organization sends. Thanks for taking the time to write.