Here’s a pop quiz my partner Dan Murphy gave our team at yesterday’s weekly Huddle.

How did you do?

Us either.

Here are Dan’s thoughts on the test, and why we all did so poorly:

What I found intriguing was that so many of these Fortune 500 companies—presumably with a few marketing dollars to spend—ended up with taglines that were neither memorable nor meaningful.

None of us can remember every corporate tagline ever crafted, of course, but in a roomful of marketing professionals, our “retention rate” was pretty abysmal.

Why? I suspect for these corporate giants it was tagline by committee—at least that’s how it seemed. When you try to please everyone (or offend no one) with the one phrase in a company’s entire marketing arsenal that’s supposed to generate impact, what you end up with is a whole lot of easily forgotten fodder for the critics.

And taglines that—to outsiders—fail to deliver on message, on meaning or on memorability.

Given information overload and cynical consumers, even a great tagline may not be seen or believed anyway. But if it is, it needs to do some heavy lifting.

Taglines have been called “strategy in a sentence.” The best taglines communicate some point of difference, and might even provide some categorical illumination.

It should compel, intrigue or entertain. It shouldn’t sound like everyone else. And it shouldn’t be interchangeable in the category.

One of my favorites is “More human interest,” used by Washington Mutual when they were working to reinvent themselves to be more user/people/human-friendly. They removed the traditional teller format, instead opting for stand-up customer service pods where you can stand next to the teller and even look at their screen.

I’m a WaMu customer, and to me it made “More human interest” ring true—it was like the glue that bound the company together on a focused mission to deliver personalized one-to-one service. It felt authentic. It felt believable. And for me, it worked.

Those were the halcyon days for me with WaMu. Now it’s all about Whoo-Hoo. Um. Okay.

So, do you have a favorite tagline?

Comment below to share.

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