Creating & Protecting Your Tagline

Written by Paige Dawson Rodriguez on Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Businesses develop and use taglines to build their brands and share their compelling difference or value…be it a promise, philosophy, mission, benefit, personality or culture. When clients embark on a rebrand, we inevitably tackle tagline creation – and with much glee. Below are three crucial phases we use to develop a perfect tagline.

Crafting a Clear, Compelling, Concise Phrase

The first step is data collection and brainstorming.

  1. Develop a list of words or phrases you want associated with your company, product or service. This freeform list will include benefits, value, points of difference, experience, personality. What makes you different? What do you want to be famous for? How do you want your buyer to feel? What do your clients say about you?
  2. Conduct a group brainstorming session with your team covering the above questions. The power of collective thinking can yield new terms and phrases. (Our firm conducts 2-hour Key Message Workshops for just this purpose. We run through about two dozen questions to hone in on your brand’s essence.)
  3. Call or survey your clients to gain their insights and words. Why do they work with you? What do they see as your greatest value? How would they describe the experience? What would they tell others about your business, product or service? This step is especially crucial to see how the outside world views you. When we conduct calls, the customers tend to be a bit more forthcoming, and calls work better than surveys or email at securing the emotion.
  4. Take the research and play with phrases. Look for powerful verbs, repetitive words and consistent themes. Explore synonyms and definitions. Craft dozens of taglines with variations then narrow, poll, test and sit with the final option(s).

Vetting Against What Exists

Once you’ve settled on a tagline, ensure your ideal message is available and not a conflict in your industry or location.

  1. Review your competitors’ taglines to confirm that your tagline is not too similar in terms of message, style or format.
  2. Search the trademark database on the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) website to see if the tagline is in use by a company in a similar industry or in the goods and/or service class desired. The USPTO may allow several companies to use the same tagline, provided they are not in competing industries or the same class.
  3. Conduct a simple web search to determine if anyone is using the tagline in the market. Companies may use taglines without filing for official protection and even display the superscript TM or SM symbol in conjunction with the text.
  4. For short taglines, cross-reference as a domain name to see if the tagline is registered as someone’s domain address.

Securing Intellectual Property Protection

Now you are ready to officially register your tagline for a trademark or service mark.

  1. Hire an intellectual property attorney to review the mark and file protection. (You may file independently with the USPTO’s trademark process.) Either way, you will need:
    • The tagline text (or the stylized art)
    • The month and year of first use
    • A description of the tagline
    • The class for the goods and/or services
    • A specimen — a sample file of the tagline in use and with the proper protection symbol (i.e. a website screen shot or brochure works well)
  2. Budget $325 to the USPTO per class and $1,500-$3,000 for attorney fees. (The range covers USPTO questions or if someone opposes the mark.) International protection has separate forms and fees.
  3. Mark your calendar. The initial mark is valid for 5-6 years from the registration date and then available to renew at 10 year intervals. The process can take up to or more than one year.
  4. Use the proper symbol designation before you file, while waiting on approval and after approval:
    • A superscript TM for a product (or service) — ™
    • A superscript SM for a service or intangible idea
    • The protection symbol is required in the first instance of use in a document; subsequent uses may be shown without the symbol.
  5. Switch to the circled capital letter R format — ® — to designate your protection once your mark is officially registered with the USPTO.


If you need help crafting your tagline, we’d be pleased to discuss our process.  If you need legal counsel, consider Chester & Jeter or CARR, both well-versed in taglines.

Happy brainstorming!

About Paige Dawson Rodriguez

Paige Dawson RodriguezWith expertise in marketing, business strategy and public relations, as well as ‘in the trenches’ experience as a business owner, Paige Dawson Rodriguez brings a unique blend of talent to clients. As president and founder of MPD Ventures Company, Paige works with executives and entrepreneurs throughout the country to develop key messages, marketing strategies and measurable campaigns, driven by client business goals. She has extensive experience providing counsel for professional service firms, technology companies, associations and nonprofits.