Tag, You’re It.

Hashtags. We get it. To some, they are all the rage. To others, they are just a fad. And to even others, well, they just don’t get their purpose. Even Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake had another video go viral showing just how extreme and ridiculous they can be. 

And let’s be honest, brands have jumped all over using hashtags. You cannot see a print or TV execution without a plethora of clever and timely hashtags associated with different campaigns and products
So, with that in mind, here is a quick pop quiz for you. I am going to list some recent hashtags associated with brands, and I want you to see if you know the company responsible:
Well, how did you do? It was pretty hard, wasn’t it? Well, let’s see if you do better with this quiz. Now, I am going to give you taglines that have been associated with these brands. Let’s see if you do better this time around:
Okay, the answers are Wendy’s, JC Penney, Subway and McDonald’s. Did you do better? 
Let me be clear, in this day and age, a brand needs both a strong tagline as well as solid hashtags when appropriate. I don’t think there is any coincidence that they both share the word “tag” in them. The word symbolizes a label, a culture and an experience. It works. However, there are two important factors to bear in mind when trying to create both of them in this day and age. 
  1. Regardless of how creative or unique they are, both have to represent the brand’s culture and mission. They have to be recognized by the consumer as an association with that company. We all know the great ones – Coke, Nike, McDonald’s, but what about all the other forgotten ones that we cannot recall? They failed to create that connection. Hashtags don’t have the intended mileage of a tagline, but they should be easily identifiable with the brand. Too many hashtags created by brands often cannot be traced back to that company. In a later column, I will address this in further detail as I gain more examples, but remember this down the road. 
  2. Taglines and hashtags also have to be consistent with each other. Yes, most brands will have one overarching tagline and then several hashtags depending on the campaigns at any given time. But, the hashtags should be driven behind the brand essence that was determined to spark the creation of the tagline. If the tagline is chosen to represent what a brand’s promise, mission and intent are to the customer, then a hashtag should be chosen carefully as well to represent how the brand wants to engage with customers online. In essence, that is the brand’s suggested calling card for sparking a conversation. 
With all the hype now around hashtags and every communication/marketing professional pushing companies to fully engage in digital media, they are here to stay and to be executed in a smart way to help gauge feedback. However, it is important to not forget the tagline. After all, this is the overarching quick statement a brand wants its audiences to know. Everything else will flow from that. If it weren’t important, it would never be changed. That might sound counterintuitive, but as brands emerge, change focus, change missions and direction, then the tagline is the first thing amended to signify how important it is. Many times, that cannot be captured in a quick hashtag. 
Taglines and hashtags will continue to be a force in your marketing arsenal. The question is, are they being created with the brand’s longevity in mind?