In the world of marketing, you’ve likely heard of a tagline before. But what about a brand purpose? These two short statements serve very different functions, but are both essential parts of a well-defined brand strategy.

In this article, we dive into the differences between the two and share a peek behind the curtain to see how we help our clients arrive at each statement.

What’s a brand purpose?

Everything for a business comes back to the brand purpose. It’s what gets you up in the morning—the reason your company exists.

Simply put, your brand purpose is an internal statement—an intangible differentiator that creates a belief about your organization for your employees that sets the tone for everything they do. The brand purpose is typically a short, memorable statement to rally your team around. 

In other words, your brand purpose defines why you do what you do. A well-articulated brand purpose guides all your business decisions, right down to who you hire and what kinds of brands you choose to partner with. It sums up what’s non-negotiable about how you operate.

What’s a tagline?

Your tagline is an external expression of your purpose—it gives you the space to create a belief about your company for the wider public. A memorable, often pithy, branded statement, your tagline articulates the key differentiator that separates your company from your competitors in the eyes of your audience. It’s commonly used throughout marketing materials and might show up on business cards, your website, or other channels specifically for use in various marketing applications. 

Arriving at your brand purpose

So where do you start? We generally find it’s easier to focus on the brand purpose as a jumping off point. When we go through brand positioning with our clients, we arrive at a brand purpose by first leading our clients through the golden circle exercise.

Made popular in a TED talk delivered by Simon Sinek that’s now been viewed over seven million times, the golden circle exercise is Sinek’s innovative method of breaking down your business into three components—your what, your how, and most importantly your why:

  • What we do – our services
  • How we do it – our differentiators
  • Why we do it – our belief about why our work matters

Sinek believes many companies limit themselves when they lead with their What, whereas the brands that thrive lead with their Why. 

By defining each of these terms for your own organization, you can work backwards to land on a definition for your company’s Why. Take Monday, as an example. When we went through our own golden circle exercise, here’s where we landed:

Monday’s Golden Circle

  • What: We are a branding and content marketing agency.
  • How: We build brands that enhance human potential. We find and tell your story, and empower you to keep the conversation going.
  • Why: We believe active outdoor living brings out the best in all of us.

Once you’ve defined a Why statement, translate it into a brand purpose by simplifying the language and making it into a memorable statement that all of your employees will remember off the top of their head.

When it came to crafting our brand purpose, we wanted something memorable—a simple statement that summarized our Why in a way that would ignite our collective imagination. Ultimately, we landed on this brand purpose for our agency:

“We want to seduce people into the outdoors.”

For Monday, our North star is ultimately to create a world where health and movement and nature are the most desirable ‘products’ available. We work with brands who also care about health, wellness and helping individuals reach their potential.

As another example, we helped client Flourist land on their own brand purpose. A small-batch grain mill and bakery, Flourist landed their own unique brand purpose to explain why they do what they do:

“We create demand for nourishing, traceable food.”

Your brand purpose should feel unique to your organization, nailing down something tangible about what gets you out of bed in the morning and what inspires your business decisions day in and day out.

Crafting your tagline

Once you’ve zeroed in on your brand purpose statement, you’re well on your way towards a tagline. 

More and more, we purchase from value-aligned companies that care about what we care about. With this in mind, start by considering your target audience. Having a clear, defined audience persona is essential. That’s because a successful tagline expresses the sentiments in your brand purpose in language that will resonate with your target audience. 

When we work with our clients to transform a brand purpose into a tagline, these are some of our key considerations: 

  • You want something memorable, so keep your tagline between 2–5 words 
  • Consider different ways to articulate the core sentiment of your Why 
  • Keep your brand voice in mind, as your tagline should feel like an extension of your brand’s personality
  • Research competitors and see what their taglines are, to make sure yours stands out and says something unique

Examples of great taglines

To see it in practice, let’s examine a few companies with carefully-crafted taglines.

Outdoor Voices tagline Doing Things is simple, effective and memorable targeting two audiences
Outdoor Voices tagline statement Doing Things emphasizes their brand purpose to focus on the the journey

Technical apparel brand Outdoor Voices kept it simple for their tagline, choosing the phrase “Doing things.” This tagline appears on a variety of promotional materials, from their website to advertisements to clothing labels. 

In Outdoor Voices’ own words, the thinking behind their tagline is:

“There’s no start or finish. It’s all about getting out there and having fun with friends daily.”

While it’s a simple phrase on the surface, this tagline actually says a lot about the brand itself:

  • It showcases Outdoor Voices’ casual brand voice
  • It appeals to their two different target audiences (athletes and athleisure enthusiasts) simultaneously
  • It emphasizes their focus on the journey (enjoying being active and connecting with others) vs. the destination (fitness goals)
  • It’s short and extremely memorable
The Apple tagline Think Different is a famous tagline example that speaks to the Apple brand purpose as referenced in the Simon Sinek TED talk
Apple computers Think Different tagline speaks to the brand purpose and resonates with the Apple target audience

Another famous example of a tagline that speaks to a brand purpose is Apple’s incredibly effective ‘Think different.’ It’s an example Sinek himself references in his TED Talk:

“I use Apple [as an example] because they’re easy to understand and everybody gets it. If Apple were like everyone else, a marketing message from them might sound like this: ‘We make great computers. They’re beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. Want to buy one?’ ‘Meh.’ That’s how most of us communicate…Here’s how Apple actually communicates. ‘Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?’”

Apple’s tagline speaks to the brand’s purpose, nailing down a value that immediately resonates deeply with their target audience while also creating a strong belief about what Apple hopes to bring into the world. 

While on the one hand it pains us to celebrate such a blatant break from the grammar norms, one of the more genius choices Apple made was to choose the tagline ‘Think different’ instead of ‘Think differently.’ By committing to a grammatically incorrect phrase, they show instead of tell—you read that one phrase and know that Apple is a company all about challenging the status quo without them having to outright say that’s a core belief. This ungrammatical tagline highlights Apple as visionaries in the technology field, consistently releasing products that feel 5–10 years ahead of schedule.

Ultimately, your brand purpose and tagline are almost like thesis statements for your brand. Nailing down these two seemingly simple statements will streamline your company culture, give you a framework for making business decisions, and help cultivate a concrete belief about why your brand exists for the public.

Convinced your company could benefit from defining these statements, but still not sure where to start? We can help. Send us an email.