6 great movie taglines and what copywriters can learn from them

The movie tagline is one of the more glamorous examples of short-form copy. It’s also an important ingredient in the commercial success of a film. As Oscar night approaches, here are 6 of the best and the lessons they can teach digital copywriters

 6 great movie taglines and what copywriters can learn from them

1. ‘In space no one can hear you scream.’

Movie in question: Alien (1979)

Why it’s a good tagline: It sounds like the movie feels. It conjures a sense of isolation, dread and menace which perfectly matches the experience of Sigourney Weaver’s astronaut as she’s pursued by a monster on board the spaceship Nostromo.
Lesson for digital copywriting: A brand should have a single tone of voice, consistently expressed through every piece of copy. That voice might flex a little – you might write differently on Twitter compared with a white paper, for instance – but your tone should always reflect your brand’s personality and values. If you’re not sure how to get started, try this quick and easy 5-step guide to developing your tone of voice.

2. ‘Who ya gonna call?’

Movie in question: Ghostbusters (1984)

Why it’s a good tagline: It uses the tried and trusted call and response formula. Even 30 years on, chances are that if you shout out ‘Who ya gonna call?’ in a crowded room, people will shout back ‘Ghostbusters!’. 
Lesson for digital copywriting: A Q&A is always a popular and useful content format, especially if you can deliver it across more than one channel. 

3. ‘Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…’

Movie in question: Jaws 2 (1978)

Why it’s a good tagline: It’s a sentence whose final meaning is left hanging, inviting audiences to complete it in their own minds. In other words, it’s suspenseful, just like the film. The use of the word ‘safe’ is a nudge towards thoughts of jeopardy while ‘back’ is a reminder of Steven Spielberg’s original film.
Lesson for digital copywriting: Suspense is a neat trick to use if you want your teaser copy to hook audiences. In your blog posts, use your standfirst to hint at what’s to come, and never underestimate the power of an ellipsis…

4. ‘Catch it.’

Movie in question: Saturday Night Fever (1977)

Why it’s a good tagline: The laid-back pun echoes the street smart sensibility of the movie, which documents the dance culture of Brooklyn (back when it was a working-class neighbourhood). Plus, it tells audiences straight out what it wants them to do.
Lesson for digital copywriting: Tempted to use a pun online? Don’t. It makes users work too hard and probably isn’t as clever as you think it is. Do, though, make your call to action as concise as possible. To find out how tweaks to small copy elements like button names, CTAs and reassurance text can increase conversion rates on your site, see our tips on micro content.

5. ‘You’ll believe a man can fly.’

Movie in question: Superman: The Movie (1978)

Why it’s a good tagline: It’s a promise focused on the ends not the means of the movie’s special effects. Audiences were prepared to turn a blind eye to back-projection and wire work. What they really wanted was to enjoy the romance of Christopher Reeve’s gentle giant flying over Metropolis.
Lesson for digital copywriting: When writing to sell, always focus on product benefits, not product features, by modelling outcomes rather than tasks. Show your readers how they’ll benefit from using your product and they’ll soon start to realise why they need it.

6. ‘A romantic comedy. With zombies.’

Movie in question: Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Why it’s a good tagline: It gives an entirely accurate description of the film’s content. Plus, the tone of the line, in its deadpan incongruity, gives an indication of the humour audiences can expect from director Edgar Wright and actor Simon Pegg.
Lesson for digital copywriting: Keep your messages and headlines descriptive and instantly understandable. Work in some of your brand’s tone of voice if you can.