Some brands want and some brands need a capsule phrase, a signature line that makes them famous, or so they hope. Other brands don’t because they believe the totality of their communication will get their message across. What’s the right approach?

The One Liner

Very often a business is tempted to find a pithy way of describing what it does. Fresh English Apples; Smart insurance to cover your risk, or Cleaner and Cheaper Energy. The virtue of claims such as these is that they’re transactional. They essentially tell the world what you sell. You’re setting out your stall, ready to trade. Alongside all the other stalls, with essentially the same apples, insurance and kilowatts. 

Given the ambitious briefs and strategies for transformation that clients typically bring to v3, finding the line risks missing the most interesting aspects of a company’s self-expression. In our view, it doesn’t represent progress.

A line like Fresh English Apples describes what’s on offer – the product to expect. It’s mildly helpful, but essentially historic. It’s a statement of present fact, not an inspiring promise of a better future that could set you apart or motivate people to join your journey. Reduced to a shout-out, it falls short of a progressive vision of what’s next. And perhaps bores people.

Imagine if Apple had stopped at Easy Computers on Every Desk rather than also challenging us to think different, and do things for beauty and creativity.

Imagine if Apple had stopped at Easy Computers, it would be like Nike talking about Faster and Lighter Running Shoes. Instead Nike in all its communications tells a captivating story about everyone being a winner, if you have a body you’re an athlete, and it shares it’s Just Do It attitude.

Would Audi have got far with Better Engineered German Cars? Audis unique mix of compelling brand promise, engaging personality and a great product has seen it pull ahead. Literally Vorsprung, head-start, edge, progress. It’s a much bigger idea than great cars (at a time when all cars are pretty great).

Sky could have left it at the best TV (a very attractive product), instead of inviting its people and customers to Believe in better. This unstoppable spirit of positivity and activism repositioned a brand that was almost universally resented, as the UKs and now Europe’s best loved entertainment innovator. 

Imagine if XL Catlin shouted out: come get your insurance cover here. All risks covered! Instead, it invites you to Make your World Go. To move and power your business forward, never held back by risk. You’d rightly trust them for insight, empathy, understanding and therefore, better and smarter pricing and a more responsive service than its competitors.

Talking compellingly about your product is necessary of course, but it is not sufficient. The product proposition only has magic when fused with the company’s purpose:

  • Why the product and its impact is different, because you’re different
  • Why your company exists
  • What you uniquely hold out to the world
  • Why the world would be a lesser place if you withdrew
  • Why you’re the real thing in a world of safe sameness

An important and deep purpose positions you clearly, owns a salient idea and drives all communications and actions in the same direction.

It gives people reasons to go with you, rather than just transact with you. To buy into you, rather than just buy from you. Purpose creates lasting links with people, and lifetime relationships are so much more valuable than a momentary transaction.

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