Theme line or Tag line? What’s the difference?

The Difference. Theme line or Tag line.

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

23 March 2017

Theme line vs tag line

A tag line is not a brand theme line

Don’t confuse an advertising tag line with a brand theme line. They serve different purposes. A tag line is a catch phrase used in an advertising campaign. Tag lines reinforce a tactical message.

Because adverting campaigns change often, tag lines have a short shelf life. Brands change them frequently.

A brand theme line

A brand theme line is the gateway to brand permission. Created properly, it carves our space in the market for the value that the brand owns. The advertising tag line supports the brand theme line.

A theme line is a higher calling. It is the brand’s flag. For employees and the functions of the brand’s business, the brand theme is a pledge of allegiance.

“I pledge allegiance to…”.

An example of a brand theme line

Stealing Share recently rebranded American Fidelity. As a business, this Oklahoma-based insurance company provides supplemental insurance coverage. Its honed their skill set has propelled it to prominence in vertical markets. A major player in education, government, and automotive related industries. American Fidelity is a highly successful privately held company.

Previously, American Fidelity did not have a brand theme line. It had advertising tag lines, but the closest it came to a theme line was a reference to the company itself.

“Our Family. Dedicated to Yours” was the closest it came to a brand theme line.


“A theme line says why you do what you do. Tag lines say what you do.”

Make the brand persuasive. Make the promise clear.

After our exhaustive analysis, market research and strategic mapping, Stealing Share recommended a new brand position. One built on the brand’s heritage and ethics.

As a result, American Fidelity had always been significantly different from the competitors. As a large, but family owned corporation, American Fidelity looked at customers and prospects individually. The family owned culture was REAL.

As a result, in competitive proposals, American Fidelity had an impressive win rate. So, it approached the business differently. Bidding for a corporation’s business was American Fidelity’s weakness. The right to sell policies to employees.

In the category, most competitors (like Aflac for example), expounded the benefits of owning a supplemental insurance policy. The Duck was a TV icon. The brand had high awareness. But nothing in their practice of servicing the clients was different form the array of competitors.

The theme line… A different opinion

American Fidelity seized the high ground in the category. The brand theme line of “a different opinion” positioned it against every competitor. The strategy was to leverage what American Fidelity organically practiced. It was, in fact, different.

The theme line quickly pervaded the internal culture. It was not a change from sop. But it had never expressed it so clearly within the culture.

A logo lock-up

The new logo for American Fidelity redefines who its customers are: Those who always seek a different opinion.

We designed the new logo and mark to express that theme. But the logo is now locked-up with the brand theme. The logo never appears without the theme. They are conjoined twins. They cannot be separated.

So, the advertising tag line (sometimes we refer to it as an equity line) will change and evolve. Currently, American Fidelity promises that it specializes in vertical categories.

As a result, the logical train of thought reads like this. American Fidelity promises a different opinion (from everyone else) and, by the way, we have great experience in your category (the tag line is in support).

Expect the tag line to change and morph. But count on the fact that everything it says will support the brand promise. “a different opinion.”

Read a market study on rebranding insurance companies here.


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Theme line or Tag line? What’s the difference? was last modified: July 10th, 2018 by Tom Dougherty
Categories: Brand AdvertisingBrand ArchitectureBrand DevelopmentBrand EquityBrand meaningBrand permissionBrand PositioningBrand PromiseBrand StrategyBrand ThemeInsurance BrandingRebranding
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