I’ve been thinking about a simple test for company taglines. I call it the “van test”.

The principle is simple: If you’re out driving and a company employee is ahead of you in a van, could you work out what the company does, and why you’d give it business, just from the tagline on the van?

So, what does this gang do for a living?Would your company pass the “van test”?

Really, it’s the ultimate elevator-pitch scenario. You’ve got no context in which to place the company to give you clues (all kinds of businesses have vans). They’ve only got a few words to accompany their logo and company name. You’re initially disinterested (after all, you’re going somewhere else), so the tagline has got to grab your attention. And, unless you’re in a traffic jam, you’ve not got long to work it out before the van has been and gone.

The sad thing is, probably half the vans I see (I know, I’m sad, I look at van livery) fail this test. Andtellinglythe ones that do best are the simplest. Plumbers. Builders. Electricians. They often state what business they’re in, and offer a simple benefit: friendly; local; 24-hour.

Now, for those of you in the business intelligence, semiconductor foundry, cloud services or IT consulting space the “what is my company and what makes us different” questions are probably not so easy to put down in five words for the layman to understand. Everyone knows what a plumber does. Not everyone (even after all the buzz) knows what cloud is.

But that’s all the more reason for you to put in the time to get that one-sentence explanation crystal clear. If the layman can understand it, so will your customers. And you can go from there with a sound basis of understanding.

Posted by John on 4 November 2010