How to Make a Motto

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Call it a tagline, a slogan or a motto, this brief statement of purpose or attitude sums up salient aspects of a company's approach to its products, customers and marketplace. Chosen without regard for the goals and strengths of a business, mottos often prove to be nothing more than catchy slogans. When it encapsulates the essence of an organization and does so in a way that clings to the reader's memory, the result can provide instant identification for the company that uses it as a distinctive part of its branding.

Create Your Value Proposition

Analyze what your company stands for — the essence of how you do what you do — to clarify the gist of your value proposition. That statement equals what makes you different from and, presumably, better than your competition. For example, if the speed with which you deliver a service sets you apart, that attribute should become part of your brainstorming.

Start Motto Writing

Start the motto writing process by writing out every thought that comes to mind when you contemplate how to convey your value proposition in a brief statement. Focus on creating short, punchy phrases or sentences no longer than five to seven words, but don't censor your efforts. Capture all your slogan ideas, setting your work aside when your inspiration slows down and revisiting the effort later. You may find this process more straightforward with pen and paper than in a computer document, but any writing method works so long as it serves the purpose.

Read Your Ideas Out Loud

Read aloud through your list of motto candidates. Mark off any that turn out to be tongue twisters or that don't make immediate sense on further review. Omit any that overstate what you do in a way that could become a liability in comparison to your customers' view of your value. You don't want to describe yourself as the equivalent of the best thing since sliced bread if the comparison might make you look unduly boastful.

See Them in Writing

Print each remaining prospect in large type on a single sheet of paper. Attach all of them to a bulletin board or wall where you can review them. See how they look from a distance, as if they've been inscribed on a company sign.

Ask for Advice

Ask others – colleagues, friends, family, focus groups – for input on the remaining candidates. Focus your questions on whether the tag lines communicate a clear, uncluttered statement of your brand and mission. Set aside any alternatives that fail to win votes, even your favorites.

Check for Problems

Check the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office search system to verify that your chosen motto doesn't already exist as a trademarked slogan. You might also double check the phrase on Google to make sure you're the only business using it. It's true that great minds think alike and just because you didn't know another company already used the slogan doesn't mean you can or should use it.

If your company does considerable business in other countries or with speakers of other languages (or if you may do so in the future), poll individuals who represent those locations and languages to assure that your motto doesn't translate into or suggest something rude, ambiguous or inappropriate.

Test your motto over the phone to a friend in order to avoid using a motto that's difficult to hear clearly over a telephone connection. You don't want to waste time clarifying or spelling it out in conversations. Consider the example of the Coca-Cola company's attempt at a tagline for its Tab diet soda: "Let's taste New Tab" sounded like "Less taste, New Tab."

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Resources

About the Author

Elizabeth Mott has been a writer since 1983. Mott has extensive experience writing advertising copy for everything from kitchen appliances and financial services to education and tourism. She holds a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in English from Indiana State University.

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