Living by the “Tagline”

Written by: Rajib Chowdhury
About the author: Business Head – Consumer Durable Service & Revenue



I was part of a home improvement retail chain and we were having a brainstorming session to create a “tagline” for our brand.

We, all experts in their respective fields, knew the market inside out. We were aware of our brand strengths. As a premium brand, we knew our target customer segment also. So the suggestions started pouring in almost instantly. 

Best Customer Service

Best Product Design

Best Product Quality

Best Product Range etc..

In an apparent view, this seemed to be an easy task and the session could be over by afternoon tea. But actually, it went for two long days. 

Let’s analyze a few of the suggestions to understand why it took us two days to decide a simple three or four words phrase for our Brand.

Best Customer Service

In India, the Home Improvement sector like Furniture, Interior Designing are mostly run by the un-organized sector. In any un-organized sector, Customer Service comes as the last thing on the priority list. So, to differentiate ourselves from the un-organized sector, almost everyone in the room was interested to go with “world-class customer service”. Then the next question came. “What do we want to give to the customer as a part of Service, which is unique?”

Silence started to creep in. ‘Service’ is a vast world, having different perception parameters for in different line of businesses. A service level that will be perceived as a great experience at a railway enquiry counter, may be considered as pathetic by the same customer while in a star rated hotel.  Unless otherwise, you define the service according to your business vision, it is meaningless to a customer. Like Domino’s has a 30-minute pledge. Or Indigo Airline used to bank upon “on time” service. 

So the question asked in our meeting, can we pledge “promised 2-hour service or else 50% off on your next purchase”? Not too many heads were nodding in affirmative manner. It is possible but needs investment in the system and resources. Also, the processes of all the functions need to be changed accordingly. Failure of one department will badly impact the target of other departments. Our retail chain was relatively new and was financially not comfortable to take all these changes. Also, we were not sure of the long term consequences of such a pledge. Not enough data was available to do a cost-benefit analysis.

Best Product Design

This is a relative matter. Unless you have a product line that you are patented with, it is very difficult to define what makes you the best. More difficult to communicate to customer when you yourself are not so sure. As a retailer, we only trade products designed and manufactured by others. So the discussion on it ended as soon as it started. 

Best Product Quality

It was the next best-liked subject for all the participants. Everyone wants a quality product and we follow a robust quality checking procedure before we finalize any product. So can we say “we provide best quality product”. We definitely can, but will you find any shop-owner or brand saying their product is of inferior quality? Then, what is so ‘unique’ about our statement?

Customer can experience quality only when he uses the product for a long time. For a brand to successfully live with a “quality” tagline, it takes more than a decade to finally convince the customer about the quality of their product. So can we wait so long to see our “quality” tagline working? Obviously “no”.

But there is a shortcut path available. Pledge something against your quality statement. Like “complete replacement of the product if it fails within 5 years .. no question asked”. In this way you can convincingly convey your seriousness and commitment for quality to the customer. We all know how the acceptability of e-commerce companies grown over the years because of their “no question asked return policy”. 

Now our QC Head and Category head started sweating inside. Can they live with such a big statement? Well, not so sure.

By now, you must have realized that creating a Tagline is very easy but to live by it needs conviction, confidence and trust. Not everyone has the courage to commit to it. Almost all brands come with a tagline, but very few live by it. That is why we only remember a few taglines associated with very few brands.

The tagline should be free from all external influences. The changes in the socio-economic situation, market fluctuation, political instability etc. can affect every other aspect of your business like profitability, product line, expansion plan etc, but you just cannot let go of your commitment towards the “Tagline”, it is sacrosanct, non-negotiable. It is like if you are in the food business and someday the price of Onion touches 150/- a kg, still the quantity and quality of onion should remain the same in your salad menu. If a Domino’s outlet needs to prioritize between taking a new bulk order and to deliver a Pizza within 30 minutes, the direction is very clear, live by the Tagline even at the cost of revenue. If an Indigo flight crew has to decide whether to wait for the snacks to arrive or take-off on time, obviously the choice will be the second one.

A tagline is a statement that works from outside to inside. Once you pledge with the customer, your entire internal process has to be aligned for the same goal. Backward integration to be done for all individual activities to fulfil the pledge. So a Tagline helps any organization to streamline their processes, align their workforces towards the same goal. It helps in decision making when a conflicting situation arrives – your pledge to the customer will always have the topmost priority.

Tagline is for businesses who are serious and committed to live by it. It is difficult, challenging and risky but the rewards are huge and everlasting. A successful ‘Tagline’ will ensure that your business is admired by the customers, always.

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