[CEO Friday] How to Create a Tagline for Your Startup

David Barrett —  December 5, 2014 — 2 Comments
Coming up with a company tagline isn't always easy

Coming up with a tagline isn’t always easy…

“Expense reports that don’t suck!”

People often chuckle when they hear our tagline – it’s memorable, it’s catchy, and it captures a feeling that they’ve probably experienced before. As an occasional advisor to growing startups, I often get questions about product branding during our early days. Where did our tagline come from? How did we decide on this one? Here are three quick points to consider:

1. What’s the Point?

A tagline helps explain your product in one short, powerful statement.

Think about why you’re starting this company and what kind of need you’re trying to satiate. If nothing else, ask yourself:

  • What is your product trying to solve?
  • What is your product’s value added?
  • How does it differentiate from other products on the market?

These aren’t new questions — as an entrepreneur, you should already be thinking about these things anyways, but using the questions above can help you begin brainstorming the message you want to use to hook in potential customers.

2. Positive or Negative — Does It Matter?

As long as it resonates with the target customer, my opinion is that it doesn’t matter if the message has positive or negative value propositions. Case-in-point: Salesforce has done pretty well with their whole “No software” thing, as antiquated as it sounds today. In our case, most people would agree that expense reports *do* suck; thus, finding an expense reporting software or product that *doesn’t* suck would call out to them.

3. Does Your Current Tagline Need a Facelift?

Think you need a new tagline? I’d suggest only doing so if the new tagline creates a more visceral, immediate, emotional reaction from people who come across it.

For example, if we were to improve “Expense reports that don’t suck,” we would try to think of:

– any term that resonates more strongly with our target than “expense reports”
– any way to make it more obvious what kind of expenses you are entering, and into where
– any way to make it more clear who you are targeting

Personally, I think that “Expense reports that don’t suck” is the most concise and powerful description we could come up with to describe our value proposition to the target. In fact, we’re surprised no one else came up with that before us!

Bottom Line

Go with your gut, then test it in your pitches. See how people react when you say it and go with whatever feels right to you. At the end of the day, there are no right answers, and you’ll never know if you made the best decision. So just do what feels good, get comfortable with that uncertainty, and go focus on something else.

Seriously, there are other things to be done.

How did you come up with your company’s tagline? Have additional tips to help other entrepreneurs? Leave us a comment below — we’d love to hear from you!

David Barrett


Founder of Expensify, destroyer of expense reports, and savior to frustrated employees worldwide.

2 responses to [CEO Friday] How to Create a Tagline for Your Startup


    Great post. Expensify has one of the best and boldest taglines I’ve seen in a while.

    Most companies shy away from being too bold or embracing a negative and end up with the dreaded 3 word tagline (“Manage. Optimize. Accelerate.” – probably a real tagline somewhere), or a tagline that’s too long and tries to explain too much at once.

    The challenge more often than not seems to be herding the stakeholders of small companies towards a clear, memorable tagline, and getting them past perceiving memorable as equal to too edgy.

    P.S. I’m an Expensify user for tracking personal stuff, and was delighted when I found out my new employer uses Expensify! Expense reports no longer suck.


    Thanks for the kind words David — glad to hear our mission is proving to be true already for some users :).

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