I became a fan of Live Arts, a performance theatre, soon after I moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, when my oldest daughter enrolled in a summer acting class there. I loved the space, off the old downtown pedestrian mall, and I loved the infectious enthusiasm of the instructors and volunteers.
As a nonprofit marketer, I also loved the slogan splashed across the t-shirt my daughter came home with: “What role will you play?” Clever, I thought.
She still wears the tee, even after our move to Boston last year. And I still like the slogan, and I started thinking about why.
“What role will you play?” is short, memorable and a neat nod to the business of the organization. Better still, it’s a challenge, really, more than it is a question. It immediately puts you at the heart of the story Live Arts seeks to tell.
And like the best slogans, taglines and mottos, “What role will you play?” is a snappy way of explaining a deeper truth.
“It speaks to what we put on stage, sure, but more it speaks to the real core of our business, which is engaging people,” Matt Josyln, Live Arts executive director, told me last week. He explained that the slogan is tied directly to the mission statement: to forge theater and community.
“It’s an invitation to come with us on that journey,” Joslyn said. “Our business model is based on increasing commitment. First people buy single tickets to a show, then they become subscribers, then they subscribe and volunteer, then they subscribe, volunteer and donate.”
In many ways, Live Arts productions are a means to the greater end. Today, the slogan is paired with the more prominent mission statement, “Forging Theater and Community,” that serves as a de facto tagline on the Live Arts website and other materials.
San Francisco-based Tides took a different approach to its tagline: it’s both a question and an answer.
“What’s Possible,” which is paired with the simple “TIDES” typeface in the visual identity, lacks a question mark, true. But one can’t help but read it both ways.
“It’s a question about how we can help make the world a better place and a promise of how we act as innovators to help our clients do more with their money, ideas and ideals,” explained Tides Communications Director Kate Byrne.
Tides — a network of organizations made up of Tides Center, Tides Foundation and Tides Shared Spaces — adopted the tagline in 2008.
“We wanted a tag that would encourage donors, social entrepreneurs, investors and visionaries to dream big and aim high,” Byrne wrote me. “Tides is the conduit for making expansive, ground-breaking social programs possible.”
I like it because it’s short (you knew I would say that) but also because it’s aspirational. The best taglines, slogans and mottos are emotional, not rational. They aim at the heart, not the head. Just like the brands they represent.
Visiting central Virginia? Catch a show at Live Arts. Learn more.
Check out some smart branding here at Tides.