Go Hollywood? Or Go Mankato? Out-of-town businesses rocked the Hollywood tagline competition

I learned the essential rule of storytelling from Lou Grant.

Or rather the New York editor who inspired the irascible character Ed Asner played to Emmy and Golden Globe-winning acclaim on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Lou Grant.”

The rule I learned was this:

Lessons in storytelling | KOTAW Content Marketing“Sell your story in 10 seconds or don’t bother.”

It was a painful lesson — “irascible” doesn’t begin to describe the real-life Lou Grant — but it is one that I’ve repeated in gentler terms to all of my personal and corporate branding clients.

The lesson followed me across the country to Los Angeles, where about 1 in 2 roadside billboards advertise a movie or TV show. Now that I’ve gone Hollywood, I advise clients to do the same: write your company slogan as if it were a tagline for a blockbuster movie.

And for a recent series of articles for the Los Angeles Examiner and a guest post for Kuno Creative, I challenged brands to a tagline-writing contest. More than 150 companies responded, and it turns out that proximity to the major Hollywood studios is no guarantee of storytelling success.

Based on readers’ votes, the best movie-style taglines were generated by companies in Minnesota, Georgia and Colorado.

Go Hollywood tagline writing contest swing vote category winner

SEOWhat?. Its tagline “Armed for Algorithms” was the favorite among voters who helped select taglines for company CEOs who couldn’t decide among their own multiple choice options.

Participants in the “Vote today LA — write a Hollywood-style tagline” contest selected “Armed for Algorithms” over the company’s current slogan, “Where are you ranked today?”

Owner Catherine Seven runs her SEO consulting business 1,800 miles northeast of Los Angeles in Mankato, MN. But she does have some California in her background — she lived in Orange County for several years.

Go Hollywood tagline writing contest regional category winner

SundryShop. Susan Lindsey’s tagline was less about her company than it was about her passionate fight against the proposed Marketplace Fairness Act, which would require many small business owners to collect sales tax on behalf of states other than their own.

Enough “Go Hollywood” Examiner readers agreed with her sentiments to make this tagline a winner: “SundryShop joins forces with eMainStreet.org to fight the Marketplace UNfairness Act that will cripple all main street businesses and burden all Americans with more taxes.”

This was a win for business owners who oppose the MFA and another win for businesses east of Los Angeles. SundryShop is headquartered in Denver.

Go Hollywood tagline writing contest general category winner

Appetizing Aprons, located in Atlanta, garnered more votes than any Los Angeles company — or any company period — for this tagline:

“It’s not always the oven that heats up your kitchen.”

Two Voters Win Taglines Created by KOTAW Content Marketing

The owners of Appetizing Aprons, SundryShop and SEOWhat? win bragging rights as the top vote-getters in the tagline-writing contest.

Two voters won a tagline that I will write for them.

Debbie Shank cast one of the winning votes for “Armed for Algorithms.” She also liked these taglines:

“Perfect vision is just a click away,” which I submitted on behalf of Eyeglasses123.

“Fun and romantic wedding ceremonies,” submitted by Great Officiants.

“The bitterest truth is better than the sweetest lie,” submitted by Sollars Security Shield.

Julie Hunter, who voted for the SundryShop tagline, also won a Hollywood-style tagline written by me.

Write a Hollywood-Style Tagline for Your Company

Want to find out if the slogan for your company or personal branding strategy meets the Hollywood-standard — or would get you booted out of Lou Grant’s office?

Write a brand tagline in the comments section below and let readers evaluate its effectiveness. Or send your proposed brand taglines to me via email at katherine@kotawcontentmarketing.com. And follow me on Twitter to learn more about the 10-second storytelling rule.

Mr. Grant may hate spunk, but I happen to think it’s pretty great. So embrace your inner Mary and have your voice heard!  Submit a comment below!


  1. Paige says:

    I love your spunk!! And your writing. Are you the real-life Mary Richards??? Judging by your picture you look waaay to young to be, although you really look like Mary Tyler Moore in her prime! And you knew the real Lou Grant?? Wow. Well your spunk has most definitely paid off, so take that Lou Grant! :)

    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      You made me laugh, Paige! As far as I know, Mary Richards was entirely fictional, but Mary Tyler Moore made the character real enough to inspire a lot of women to follow their dreams, with or without a man at their sides. Thanks for writing and hope you’ll return to read other posts.

  2. Myles S. says:

    “See your story in 10 seconds or don’t bother.” Well you’ve sold me! You had me hooked before 10 seconds with your 1st sentence about Lou Grant! And kept me hooked all the way through.

    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      I’m thrilled to hear that, Myles. I’ve been fortunate to have known some interesting people — and hooks!

      • Myles S. says:

        Sorry about my typo! That should have been “sell,”, not “see,” which I guess you know since it was a quote from your blog but I just wanted to clarify! : “Sell your story in 10 seconds or don’t bother.” I will remember that! :)

  3. Nina Garcia says:

    Love the Hollywood tagline concept for businesses! What a great idea! I also love your idea of embracing your inner Mary and letting your voice — and spunk! — be heard. You’ve sparked my interest and I can’t wait to read your next blogs.

    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      Thank, you, Nina. If we tell our stories to the most impatient person we we know — and that person listens — then the rest of the world will, too. If you register for the newsletter, you will get notified of all blogs as soon as they’re published. :)

  4. Cameron says:

    Your tagline-writing contest is a great concept. I found your three Examiner articles about the contest and enjoyed reading them all. Utilizing the Hollywood movie tagline style when developing a business tagline is so smart and such a unique concept that you’ve developed. Right on! PS- I didn’t know that Mr. Grant was based on a real person. That’s cool.

    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      Thanks for writing, Cameron. Yes, I was fortunate to meet the real Lou Grant and the real Don Draper. (although Don Draper is more of an amalgam of the Mad Men of the 1960s, one of whom was Steve Frankfurt, who convinced millions of Americans that no one could eat just one Lay’s potato chip.

  5. Sophia says:

    It’s impressive how your articles and blogs combine utility and wit — everything you write is so helpful and informative but at the same time, it’s also entertaining and fun. I have a small start-up company so I’m always looking for information on how to grow my brand. Other authorities on content marketing and branding are so dry and boring. Even if they write something useful, I tend to not even absorb the information because it was delivered in such a mundane way. Have you by any chance written a book on content marketing? Or do you plan on publishing one in the future? I’m very interested.

  6. Adam Masson says:

    Did some of the companies vote for themselves? Some of the taglines that got the most votes are pretty awful. But others that didn’t win were really good, I thought. One of the winning taglines isn’t even a tagline, but a opinionated call-to-action. What do you think Katherine? It would be interesting if, as part of your series, you wrote an article where you give your own opinion about the deserving winners and losers.

    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      Thanks, Adam. I agree that some of the best taglines didn’t win. But since I made the rules (and the rules didn’t prohibit ballot-stuffing) I had to go with popular vote. But you give me a good idea for a future post — so thank you for that too!

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