DAVID VS GOLIATH: Tagline Vs Hashtag

Photo Credit: Roxanna Samii

Once upon a time when companies embarked on branding exercises, one of the important items on their to-do-list was the conceptualization and development of a tagline.

Alina Wheeler describes tagline as ” a short phrase that captures a company’s brand essence, personality, and positioning, and distinguishes the company from its competitors.”

Tagline is that “compelling” text that accompanies the logo. And branding literature recommends that taglines:

  • convey a clear message
  • embody brand’s value proposition and values
  • be creative in phrasing
  • include a benefit
  • be likable
  • stir emotions

Back in 2012, Cisco spent $100 million for its “Tomorrow Starts Here” tagline. And trust me they were not an outlier.

Check Cisco’s website and see if you find any trace of the $100 million tagline investment….. And then search for #TomorrowStartsHere hashtag……..

“The broadest shift I’ve observed has been a shift from brand taglines (designed to last for several years), to product or ad campaign tags that spike higher for a shorter amount of time”, says Jason Elm, Executive Creative Director at Heat.

Over the years, communication, marketing and messaging have moved from the analog to digital world. As a result, companies can now exploit new opportunities to amplify their messages.

One of the biggest and perhaps the most important paradigm shift is the ability of engaging in two-way or even better multi-directional conversations.

To remain relevant and to survive, companies realized that they needed to master the art of engagement. And as a result they started to complement their return on investment metric with return on engagement.


When Cisco invested $100 million for its “Tomorrow Starts Here” tagline, they were hoping to use and exploit their hefty investment for many years to come, so that they could amortize it.

Sadly, the static and proprietary nature of taglines has ended up being a double-edged sword which may have led to the demise of taglines and the ascent of hashtags.

Think about it, could anyone else, other than Cisco, have used “Tomorrow starts Here” tagline? The answer is no, because it belonged to Cisco. You may have noticed that folks around the world used and are still using #TomorrowStartsHere hashtag, whilst the tagline has disappeared completely.

Dynamic and communication savvy companies have realized that to meet their changing needs, it is wise and more effective to adopt and use hashtags. This is because hashtags allow you to share a message whilst having a conversation with the audience and more importantly keeping an eye on and “listening” to what the audience has to say.

Taglines by nature mimic the company’s vision and the mission statement. They do not offer a platform for conversation and engagement. They are unidirectional….. They tell you what the company wants you to hear, not what you want to hear or have to say about the company.

The versatility of hashtags and the fact that they act as aggregators, make them front and center for owned, paid and earned media. When you come up with a cool and compelling hashtag, you start using it both in the analogue and digital world.

You see hashtags on posters, banners, flyers, printed material and more. Born for the digital world, hashtags are king on social media! Through social buy, they help you amplify your messaging. You can measure the earned media when influencers and others start using, amplifying and adopting your hashtags. And you open the champagne bottle when your hashtag starts trending locally and worldwide, not because a catastrophe has happened, but because your messaging has resonated.

I do not recall having ever read or heard of any bubbly being opened over a trending tagline.


With an average of over 130 million hashtags shared on a daily basis on social media, crafting a memorable one with a long shelf-life and one that goes viral requires you to be an artist, a composer and a strategist – all in one!

The very principles of creating and crafting compelling taglines apply to hashtags as well. When you sit down with your team to brainstorm for cool hashtag, make sure your hashtag:

  • is consistent with your brand
  • evokes emotions
  • is action oriented
  • is short and sweet
  • is clever and humorous
  • resonates with your audience and leaves no room for “misinterpretation”

Six years ago, as a passionate early adopter I made the case that hashtags are the new taglines. Six years later, I make the case that companies will get a bigger bang for their buck if they craft compelling hashtags instead of spending millions on taglines.

It goes without saying that I #StandtobeCorrected!!!!

Roxanna Samii

Chief Digital Strategy at UN Environment https://www.unenvironment.org/

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