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In our over-communicated society, the problem is how to stand out from the crowd.

 - First, you need to identify your audience.
 - Then you have to know what they are predisposed to hear. 
   ( Notice I didn't say what is your message. I said "what
     will they hear?") 
 - Finally, you need to distill your message to its essence.
 - This is what we mean by theme or tag-line development.

Theme or Tag-Line Development

"The Ultimate Leadership Experience"

Tag lines or themes are powerful for their ability to establish a memorable image and streamline an organization's mission statement or a candidate's message. They offer a tremendous opportunity. ARG is often called upon to find a new, updated, and fresh identify for clients through the use of research and the following story explains a big success. Parts of this story were also published in an article by Dr. Dale Paulson in "Association Management Magazine."

Future Homemakers of America (FHA)

This was a national organization founded in the 1940's with student members and teacher/adviser members and was very popular in many parts of the country. Over time the organization changed to mirror the changes in society and in the 1990's it had many young men as well as young women members, and it evolved to offer a variety of programs from child development to community youth violence prevention. These changes resulted in FHA changing its name to Family, Career and Community Leaders of America or FCCLA.

Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA)

FCCLA executives and the board liked the new name but felt it still did not convey to students the excitement of an updated, modern image. They decided that development of a new tag line should be a key part of creating its new image and called ARG, which had done many surveys for the organization, to help. ARG understood that since this is a student-run organization with over 200,000 members, it was important to reach out and get their opinions and ideas.

It should be noted that FCCLA's Board of Directors had tried for several months to select a tag line, but the votes usually split about 50-50 for each of two choices, and they were hopelessly deadlocked. ARG had a better idea.

How Did we Develop the New Tag Line?

To find the best tag line we quantified the process and counted points. In focus groups we gave various members 100 points and asked them to spend points on possible tag lines or words they found most appealing. The top picks were then tested again with another 100 points. And so on. This methodology is a fixed-sum preference scale and it allows quantification of the entire process to produce a clear winner. This is easier for respondents and more fun than ranking long lists, and it is more effective because it reveals both preference and intensity.

Words had to test well with both students and teachers and here are some results."

"Potential" 320 points from teachers   65 points from students
"Leadership" 130 points from teachers 105 points from students
"Build"   30 points from teachers   75 points from students

Because the word "leadership" tested well with both groups, its inclusion in the final tag line is no surprise. "The Ultimate Leadership Experience" became the clear tag line winner and the board approved it in 15 minutes.

To emphasize again how important it is to quantify this process, consider another tag line that was considered. "Release Your Potential" received 215 points from teachers but only 70 points from students. This shows that teachers felt three times more strongly about this tag line than did students. Students didn't like the word "potential" because they believed they were already leaders!


"The Board of Directors tried for several months to select a tag line, but the votes usually split about 50-50 for each of two choices. By hiring a consultant who used the fixed-sum preference scale for words and ultimately a tag line, we were able to develop a tag line that was clearly the favorite of the entire group."

Executive Director, Alan Raines, FCCLA

Contact Info

Dale Paulson, Ph.D.
Allegiance Research Group
3213 Duke Street, #803
Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone     703.772.5263
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