Imagine you are looking for a movie to see with friends on a Saturday night. You open the movie app of your choice and begin scrolling through the selections. As you share the options with your friends, inevitably someone will ask, "what's it about?" Your answer is what's known in Hollywood as the logline, and they've been practicing the art since the days of Rudolph Valentino's silent movies. Brands should take heed.
Here's one of the more concise definitions:
A log line or logline is a brief summary of a television program, film, or book that states the central conflict of the story, often providing both a synopsis of the story's plot, and an emotional "hook" to stimulate interest. A one-sentence program summary in TV Guide is a log line.
Here are some loglines from movies you'll recognize.
The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son.
The lives of two mob hit men, a boxer, a gangster's wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.
Forrest Gump, while not intelligent, has accidentally been present at many historic moments, but his true love, Jenny Curran, eludes him.
A computer hacker learns from mysterious rebels about the true nature of his reality and his role in the war against its controllers.
SILENCE OF THE LAMBS
A young F.B.I. Cadet must confide in an incarcerated and manipulative killer to receive his help on catching another serial killer who skins his victims.
What Does This Have To Do With Branding and Marketing?
Think of the logline as your unique value proposition.
Ninety percent of consumers start shopping for a product or service through a search engine like Google, Bing or Yahoo, no differently than how they search for movies. When they type in a product you sell, they encounter a long list of entries with different company names, just like the long list of movies playing at the Movieplex. How do they decide which (movie/product) to choose?
Hopefully, you've invested in search engine optimization, and your brand's name is at or near the top of the list. Maybe your audience scours reviews on Yelp as closely as avid moviegoers read what the critics wrote in the L.A. Times or Rolling Stone before making a decision.
Regardless of your search engine ranking or online ratings, though, the searcher is now faced with a litany of company names who grow, produce, or manufacture a similar product, some of which might even sit next to each other on store shelves in standardized packaging.
The ability to quickly and emotionally distinguish yourself from every other widget maker on the market is what's going to keep you in business. If it doesn't grab your audience by appealing to them in a unique way, it won't get a second look.
Studios might hook you with name actors, which is their version of branding a movie. It's a pretty good guess if it stars Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, it's going to be an action movie, and The Rock is going to be the hero of the story. If you are a fan of action movies, that one will make it to the top of the list.
But how do they find out about your brand if you don't have the $20 million budget to have The Rock endorse you?
What Are Title Tags And Meta Tags?
If you want to form an immediate bond with your potential consumer to distinguish you from your online competition, you need to have a crystal clear title tag and meta tag, which are concise and accurate descriptions of the page's content. Here's mine.
The title tag is the headline in blue. Think of it as the name of the movie, and best practices suggest it should be less than 70 characters. In other words, like a movie title. Look at the movie titles above; none of them exceed the 70 character maximum. There are exceptions to the title rule in the movie, of course, but in general, studios try to keep them to four words or less.
The metatag is the logline. That's the black text in my search engine profile which describes what I do and who I do it for, and a one-sentence TV Guide summary is an excellent way to describe it.
Using my entry as an example, someone could search online for "branding" or "marketing," and my strategic consultancy might show up because these are inclusive topics just as if you typed into the search engine, "movies playing near me."
But just as there are numerous film genres, there are dozens of specialists and sub-specialists among marketing and branding consultants. The logline is key.
If your company is searching for marketing and branding help and you are in the cleantech or greentech sphere, my meta tag will likely pique your interest. On the other hand, if your company wants to sell more dog food, you're likely to scroll past my entry.
But what if two or three comedies are playing at the Multiplex or two movies with the same actor? How does your logline help you then?
Define Your Story At The Outset
When I sit down with new clients, questions I ask include, "What companies do you admire?" and "Who's image resonates with you?" because I want to help define the direction. All too often though, what I think they hear from those questions is "How can we be more like them?" when in fact that's the last thing I want to happen.
Not only should your meta tag share what you do and who you do it for, but it should also give the reader an emotional thread to grab. Think of it as the audience's introduction to the hero at the beginning of a story. That meta tag should make them want to know more.
My logline uses adjectives to spice up my persona for my audience. Words like "braggadocio" and "groundbreakers" are included because I like working with people who have a wry sense of humor and who aren't afraid to take risks. If you were a staid and conservative Fortune 500 financial company, would you be interested in a "brand braggadocio" and "message minstrel" to help you with your marketing? Probably not. But if you are pushing the bounds of physics to solve an existential problem like climate change? That's the kind of movie I make.
If your meta tag is colorless, it says you don't have anything to offer your audience can't find elsewhere. A litmus test I use asks, "Are you the only company in the market who can say this?" If the answer is no, you probably don't have a unique value proposition to sell, and the blandness of your search engine logline will transmit that message.
Since there are only about seven story types in our literary canon, it's almost a guarantee someone will be selling the same story as you. The challenge of loglines then is recognizing which genre best suits your brand and telling it clearly and using vivid language to separate you from the pack.
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