The Unrecognizable Taglines of the Community Platform Space

Over the last year I’ve been trained to make my points not just with opinion but with data, so I’ve done just that with this experiment. In a crowded market (esp if you’ve 100 competitors) having an at-par product isn’t enough. Strategic market will out position your competitors and make sure you’re considered and then preferred over others. Sure some strong brands like GM don’t need a tagline, but others that have ingrained “just do it.” are now part of culture.

In a few short days I created, fielded and collected data from a small survey set of folks that read my blog and are connected to me on twitter, the results are below.

Data: Tag Line Recognition, all respondents
Out of a base of 60 respondents, which is on the smaller side, we could quickly see a trend on which taglines were the most recognizable.

  • 90.00% were able to recognize Twitter’s “What are you doing?”
  • 30.00% were able to recognize Kickapps’s “Social Networking Software Platform and Soical Media Community Building Applications”
  • 28.33% were able to recognize Lithium’s “Successful Communities On-Demand”
  • 25.00% were able to recognize Liveworld’s “Your Brand Lives in the Voice of Your Customers”
  • 25.00% were able to recognize Jive’s “The Business Social Software Leader”
  • 21.67% were able to recognize Mzinga’s “On-Demand Social Software Solutions for Marketing, Support and Learning”
  • 21.67% were able to recognize Awareness’s “The Leader in Social Media Marketing”
  • 18.33% were able to recognize Leverage Software’s “People-Centric Social Networking Solutions for Business”
  • 16.67% were able to recognize Telligent’s “Enterprise Online Community”
  • 15.00% were able to recognize Pluck’s “Leaders in Social Media”
  • Considerations
    First of all, this isn’t a completely scientific study, with a small sample base, this isn’t a formal market research project that I do on the day job, but it is fun and does help me to make a point about marketing in a crowded pond.

    Despite it being a small sample size, the audience reading this blog and those connected to me are certainly in the space. Since this was launched on my blog and twitter account, it is targeted in the social software space, this wasn’t a survey that went to grandmas in the congo.

    I wanted to do a larger sample of taglines that spanned other vendors like Blogtronix, Neighborhood America, OneSite, HiveLive, and on on, but I realized I didn’t have enough bandwidth for this project –nor easy to use tools.

    Findings

    Most of the respondents were influencers or decision makers. 10 of respondents worked for community platforms, but only a half of them were the vendors listed above. 12 of the respondents replied they were a decision maker, I can see the emails and some work for large corporations. 27 said they were influencers. 5 were unsure what this market is, or were not involved with this market. the rest had misc write ins.

    11 of the respondents already had a community platform, 20 of them had no need for a community platform, but about half of them worked at the vendors themselves. 8 were unsure and needed to learn more if they needed a community platform, 17 of the were researching this market, and 1 said they were ready to buy.

    Even the most recognizable tagline by Kickapps (I’m not sure how anyone could recognize that beast) has nothing to be proud of, at best, less than one-third of the market could recognize it.

    Some responded they worked at community platform vendors, and while they got their own company right (I misread the data before) they didn’t recognize the taglines of others.

    I threw twitter in as the first question just to get people feeling good, and it’s somewhat of a control sample, they are clearly in this space. It is interesting that 90% of them clearly could recognize this call to action.

    In a market this crowded (100 vendors) creating a tagline or brand that makes you standapart may be key. On the other hand vendors like Six Apart and Social Text (both long time recognizable) brands don’t have a tagline at all.

    Although Pluck’s “Leaders in Social Media” and Awareness’s “The Leader in Social Media Marketing” are nearly identical, Awareness has a 5 point gain, why is that? I’ve often thought Jive’s enterprise octopus was fairly unique and fun, and told a story that other serious minded enterprise vendors failed to get.

    Conclusions
    The vendors in this space, at least by tagline are for the most part, indistinguishable, I can back this up with my frequent client calls of brands asking for vendor recommendations and general confusion on who does what –good thing we published a Wave report helping with that. While some of the vendors had more of a descriptor than a tagline, they were for the most part, not different from each other.

    Doug Haslam writes that he found this experiment interesting, and although he’s in PR and covers this space, could only identify one tagline in the space.

    Voices from the community
    I asked the respondents what would they do if they were the CMO of these vendors, because of the large amount of text, I’ve moved them to a seperate page, but you should read some of the cherry insights they provided.

    Thanks everyone for this quick and interesting experiment.

    Here’s Doug’s Podcast discussing the topic, listen in.

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    • These results are quite interesting. I am a bit surprised so many of the respondants acturally recognize the taglines. It leads me to believe that the marketing departments have done a pretty good job to get the taglines out there. And, most of them have used new media methodologies, vs. ads during the superbowl to “just do it”. Thanks for sharing.

    • Ugh…this is depressing for so many reasons. This must change.

    • Jeremiah,
      The power of taglines lies in their ability to quickly identify a company’s position in a marketplace. A product made for resellers can identify itself as such, rather than something for consumers. Taglines can also help differentiate products/services. What you have really identified very well here appears to be abject laziness — these taglines are all me too. Only twitter stand out from the crowd by asking a consumer-oriented question (even if we users never actually answer that question any longer). I disagree with the idea that taglines are not useful — these just don’t work.
      Arthur Germain (@ahg3)

    • Until companies learn to craft taglines like professional ad agencies do, what would we expect? These are product descriptions (aside from Twitter’s, which I don’t consider their tagline but more of an associated phrase.) Great taglines create emotion in the heart of the customer or potential user… Just Do It, Nike says. There is an atmosphere created where the brand becomes the life coach, because they know of our tendency to sit on our rumps, or if active, not reach our full potential, unless pushed a bit. The more alarming concern I see is not that people are unable to associate bland words with the various companies that mix them up in uninteresting ways, but that these companies are in sore need of a brand-maker and molder who can add some personality into the offering. People remember personality and attitude, far more than specific descriptions of an offering. Create a brand, not just a product or company, to stand out among the masses. Just Do It! 😉

    • Well spoke Kristi, I take it you’re well seasoned in branding.

    • This is amazing! If you allow for the fact that most people knew Twitter and there were clearly some people in the pool that did know at least one vendor well – it seems that the math works out to an even odds across the board.

      Of course this is marketing’s perpetual challenge – who really remember’s any given product’s tagline unless they pour millions into commercial advertising like a Nike (Just Do It) or Staples (That was Easy).

      For the companies in this space that have much smaller budgets that kind of investment makes no sense at all. I would argue the better investment is to build the best products and solutions possible and to stay on top of an incredibly dynamic market. That is the way to differentiate and grow.

      @crbrowning

    • Are the taglines purely for recognition? I think they are to allow you to direct the energy/meaning of your company name and logo to your current mandate or strength.

      Its pretty obvious from our Awareness Inc tagline that we are focussed on “Social media marketing”. This is a change from the term we used a few months ago “Enterprise Social media”

      Mind you I think its different for giant consumer brands like Nike.

    • Great to see them all lined up like this — makes you realize the herd mentality that takes over. Everyone wants to be a leader. I’m struck by how declarative they all are, rather than opaque or emotive. Time for marketing folks to “think different” and take some risks.

    • I think you have just proven that taglines really aren’t that important, especially for small companies, since no one can remember them. It is not until a company gets mass appeal that people begin to remember a tagline.

      I agree companies need to differentiate and be unique in a crowded market but taglines aren’t going to do that.

    • David

      True, taglines have different purposes, but considering how crowded the space is do you really want to be descriptive? Or stand out?

    • Jean
      You wouldn’t believe how many briefings I get where they’re positioned as the leader in X space, or Y space or some made up quadrant where they vendor puts themselves in the right right.

      Ian
      A good interpretation, a young market (to David’s point above of Awareness) is that maybe descriptions are important in an immature market.

    • I think this proves that companies think they “have” to have a tagline, and thus the unenthusiastic and somewhat obvious, boring taglines. But do they need one? A second part to this interesting survey would be surveying the companies without taglines and finding out what it is that influencers and leaders in a space most remember about the branding: the logo, the ad, the tweets, the website design, etc.

    • One of your findings is that “I threw twitter in as the first question just to get people feeling good, and it’s somewhat of a control sample, they are clearly in this space. It is interesting that 90% of them clearly could recognize this call to action.”

      I actually strongly believe that you biased this question with the hint in your initial blog post “The first one is easy.” I did not know the tag line for Twitter, but was primed that Twitter was the answer, given your experience and activity on Twitter. Therefore, it is my feeling that the 90% is, in fact, over-inflated.

    • This is appalling. I better change this immediately. Mmmwhahaha!

    • Oh boy. What would the octopus say?

    • Gayle

      You’re right…yet the twitter question really doesn’t matter so much in this poll, the crux of the matter was to get recognition patterns of taglines within the community platform vendors.

    • Engage. Listen. Act.

    • Jeremiah,

      Good thoughts as always.

      BTW One way to measure the impact of tag lines on brand awareness would be to use a cloud tool such as BrandTags. You can see quickly which words from the tag line feature prominently in the cloud. For example, this tool shows that “just do it” has among the greatest awareness when associated with the word Nike. (Interestingly, the words “jordan” and “fast” are also very prominent.)

      http://www.brandtags.net

    • Humorous concept for an analyst survey! Fun stuff… I assume you meant it as a light-hearted post.. I think all of the players you mentioned did the right thing and focused on trying to help our prospects and customers understand what we do, rather than writing a pithy tagline. Mzinga’s (for example) is clearly not a tagline but rather an attempt to help our website visitors make sure they came to the right spot. We felt claiming “leadership” in the line is a waste of text and not credible, so chose words that would resonate with the end user (or tried to anyway!).

      Do the readers of this post think we should go for a unique, pithy, “marketing-differentiated” tagline or help our prospects know what we offer? let me know

    • Patrick

      This isn’t light hearted at all, Patrick.

      It makes sense to be descriptive in a young market where people don’t get fully what you do. Nike, Coke, and Apple don’t have that problem as their markets are matured.

      The risk is, taglines that are descriptive end up not just describing you –but your competitors, and that’s why they all look the same.

      Here’s a few dozen responses from the survey respondents, read here:

      http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/about/what-would-you-do-if-you-were-the-cmo-of-a-community-platform-vendor/

      Keep in mind out of the 60 respondents, 11 were already customers of community platforms, 17 of the were researching this market, and 1 said they were ready to buy. That’s nearly half of the respondents that have indicated they are your market base.

    • I guess I will come out of the closet as the CMO that Jeremiah referenced as a catalyst for this conversation. Having recently joined Lithium — and this industry — my observation was that everyone was using the same, generic words, whether it was tagline, boiler-plates or other. These results definitely bear that out :-).

      Taglines or boiler plates or marketing messages can typically do one of 3 things…1) make aclaim like ‘leadership’, 2) describe the compnay or space, or 3) say something about the VALUE to a customer.

      I agree with others on the thread that say “leader” claims are meaningless and don’t help customers or prospects. We are partial to #3…what is the value…that is of course why people should be writing a check.

      For all of us in the industry — we owe the market and the customers better.

      So, a question to those influencers, decision-makers, and buyers out there…what is the VALUE that you are most seeking from online customer communities?

    • Sanjay, thanks for reminding me, I was going to update the post, and I just did (the previous one) Good insights.

    • Jeremiah, thanx a lot for starting this conversation…I think it will be great as our space evolves. have a great weekend

    • Jason X

      Hello Mr.Owyang,

      I think you are on to something with this survey. I work for one of your chosen tagline vendors in this post. I think the study would be very interesting if it was on a larger sample set and segmented by geography. I am on the sales side so what we see on a daily basis is the competition for projects changes by geography. By no means is this accurate for all deals but a heavy majority. When working on opportunities in the Southwest, especially Texas where there’s a lot of activity, we see a dominance of Pluck, Telligent, Small World Labs. You rarely hear about Awareness, Jive or Mzinga. You go into California & Northwest and you hear a lot about Jive, Pluck and Kick Apps. In the Midwest, only in Chicago do I hear about Jive as you mostly hear LiveWorld,Leverage, and Lithium. In the Southeast, you hear Mzinga, Awareness, Leverage and KickApps. Northeast, Awareness and Mzinga. Just my two cents from the frontline.

      Cheers,
      Jason

    • Jeremiah, thanks for instigating some healthy conversation on the topic. The only issue with this experiment though is that it assumed that what’s in your HTML title bar is in fact your tagline. That’s not often the case though. Consider Home Depot, whose brilliant tagline is “You can do it. We can help.” That’s quite different from what you’ll find between their HTML title tags, and for good reason… Positioning a brand is somewhat different from positioning a web document.

      In Pluck’s case, we’ve left our HTML doc title as-is based on its historic contribution to our SEO strength. While typically market our business through the tagline you see under our brand mark on the home page and throughout the site: “Pluck – Integrated Social Media for Publishers, Retailers and Brands”

      Wanted to point out this important distinction, and hope this helps to clarify how we position the company. Having said that, you’ve sparked some productive conversation on Pluck’s positioning internally, and we’re taking a look at how we might improve.

      Thanks as always for keeping Pluck, our customers and our competitors on our respective toes!

      Best,
      Adam

    • Adam

      I lookrd for tag lines, in many cases, I didn’t find them so resulted with the HTML title tag.

      To your point, if everyone’s suggesting the description is the same –that still leads for little differentiation.

      So, whether we measure descriptors or tag lines –the differentiation still isn’t apparent.

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