Several years back I started and ran an online learning company with the branding line “Learning to Change the World.” I’m not sure if we really managed to change the world much, but the linguist in me always liked that line. That “learning” is a gerund , a word that has characteristics of both noun and verb, just seems so right for its role in that phrase. “Learning,” taken independently, suggest an action—and certainly learning happens through action—while the phrase as a whole—“Learning to Change the World”—acts as a thing and suggests an accumulation of a certain type of knowledge.
I won’t belabor the analysis. I suspect few of our prospects or customers were conscious of the grammatical drama playing out before them, and yet I could always tell the line had an impact and was effective for us. That was important. We were a small company trying to bootstrap and create a brand for ourselves. We needed a line that would really resonate with our target customer base.
Nancy Schwartz over at Getting Attention is also a big believer in the power of taglines, and she is specifically interested in how nonprofits can us them more effectively. As she puts it:
In today’s competitive marketing (including fundraising, of course) environment, nonprofit taglines must be strong enough to get attention and provoke questions.
Effective taglines complement an org’s name, convey the unique value its delivers to its community and differentiate it from the competition. (Americorps’ "Getting Things Done" is a great example of a tagline that works on all three fronts.)
But more often, nonprofit taglines are vague, ambiguous, over-reaching, too abstract or simply non-existent.
So, to help pave the way for better nonprofit taglines, Nancy has launched a survey to gather more information about how effective nonprofit taglines are. You can access it at:
It involves only six brief questions and takes just a few minutes to complete. Those who do complete it can request a free copy of the report that will come out of it.
The one thought I would add to the work Nancy is doing with this survey is that taglines don’t just apply to overall organizational branding. They can also play an important role in the promotion of specific organizational products and services—like, for instance, an online learning or social media initiative.