Brand messaging is the process of defining what a product is, why people need it, and why people specifically need it from you. In effect, it is the message of your brand that keeps you in business because it is this message that keeps people buying your product.
Components of Successful Brand Messaging
Establishing your brand’s message to your coworkers, employees, or partners is called internal brand messaging because it involves establishing the brand within the confines of the business. Although internal brand messaging is important, external brand messaging is critical to a company’s success and ability to thrive because it focuses on actual customers. That said, if brand messaging does not exist internally, it will be hard for the company to coherently express the brand to customers.
Many times, the way an entrepreneur, brand spokesperson, or company delivers a message can have dramatic impact on the company’s ability to gain viewers or customers. For instance, many startup bloggers convey a purposeful snide or contemptuous tone in their writing or video because they are attempting to be edgy in their satire or reviews. However, the effectiveness of such a tone depends on what it is they are criticizing.
Political pundits and angry celebrities, for instance, use the tone of outrage to some success. However, for the average business, it might not be effective. When in doubt, you should aim for a tone that is objective, professional, and friendly. Such a tone might be generic, but it will certainly not get in the way of sales. That said, be it funny or angry, hopeful or helpful, it is ideal to achieve a match between your tone and your product or service.
In terms of framing your message, it is often an unfortunate practice to use boilerplate language when talking about your service. When someone is unsure about their brand and the services they are providing, that person or company might tend to obfuscate the message through heavy-handed, important-sounding jargon. Instead of jargon, you are best served with simple language.
This inability to state simply what you are doing or why could stem from the fact you are imitating another product that has already successfully defined itself. For instance, Russell Stover, unfortunately, ran into this problem some years ago when it attempted to market its caramel nut clusters. Caramel nut clusters might sound pretty delicious and fairly simple, but that description had already been made beautifully simple by a chief competitor to the caramel nut cluster. In terms of this one product, it does not get any simpler, and that product belongs to the candy manufacture, DeMet. The product is, of course, Turtles, which are, in essence, caramel nut clusters. Turtles, however, are fun, and the clusters look like little turtles. Basically, with one product, DeMet established the message that it makes delicious, fun candy–and they do. Although Russel Stover makes delicious candy, its competing product sounds more technical–and not as much fun.
3. The pitch
If you are seeking funding or attempting to talk about your business, it is common wisdom to learn how to express your pitch in one or two sentences. Movies successfully do this in what is called a log line. Business owners must do this when they describe to potential investors their product or service. If a customer visits your web page, he or she should instantly understand, within a sentence or two, what it is you do. This is the pitch. It is also called the elevator pitch or the water-cooler pitch. It should be brief yet powerful. In the same way that poetry should have impact, your pitch must be perfect–or nearly so.
For instance, if a company claims it is the world’s leader in technological medical solutions with a focus on external mechanical apparatus, the claim might not exactly be generic nonsense, but it is not nearly as simple as saying they are the premier provider of leg prosthetics geared toward veterans and first responders. In addition to being easier to understand, simple language is often more personable and memorable, helping to bolster trust and goodwill toward your product or service, which is part of the point behind brand messaging.
Because slogans must be both descriptive and memorable, conveying to potential customers a need or benefit, this section will be brief.
Udacity is a technical-training platform, and the slogan for this educational behemoth is simple: “be in demand.”
Nike’s slogan is “just do it.”
In the aforementioned example of the prosthetic company, the slogan is not the same as the pitch. The pitch might be that the company is the premier provider of prosthetics geared toward veterans and first-responders. However, the slogan must be even shorter and more powerful than this rather cold description. Such a slogan might be this: helping heroes get back on their feet.
5. The promise
The promise can be directly stated, or it can be implicit in the product or service. Additionally, depending on how the slogan or pitch is phrased, it might be obvious even if it is unstated. However the promise is conveyed, it must be apparent. In terms of the hypothetical prosthetic company, the benefit is that the customer gets his or her independence back. They receive newfound and long-lost mobility. In short, the promise is that the customer will get back his or her back.
The rule of thumb is that regardless of the pitch or slogan, the promise must be readily apparent. It might be difficult to come up with brand messaging that so clearly conveys the promise of the product, but it is critical that you work on defining your product until the promise is apparent. Of course, once you have made the promise, you must deliver.
6. The difference
Two products might promise the same thing, in one way or another, but they should, ideally, be different. For instance, if you are a fan of hamburgers, you can have the pick of any one of ten delicious hamburgers from any number of restaurants. The promise is always something akin to mouth-watering satiety, but the difference is one of taste, calories, and nutrition.
In many cases, nutrition might not even be a factor. Instead, how extravagant the burger is might be the difference. For instance, if the burger is topped with donuts, bacon, and lobster sauce, extravagance is the difference. However, for another burger, it might be a matter of redefined quality. For instance, you can define your product as a hamburger, or you can illustrate how it is different by describing it as a steakburger.
In psychology, authenticity represents how well a person’s outward behavior aligns with their internal belief system, whatever that might be. In business, authenticity has to do with how well all aspects of the product are aligned to make it attractive to a customer. For instance, authenticity represents how well a product’s function, brand, and ability to fulfill a promise come together. When these are expertly blended the brand feels authentic. Simply put, it manages to achieve a sense of je ne sais quoi.
One of the best examples of this is when Google first emerged. Its font, its name, and its ability to deliver fast search results came together into something that was perfectly flawless. It was authentic. Then, of course, it went and goofed around with the font to a degree that original adopters of the search engine screamed in outrage, but the new Google still manages to maintain its dominance. Regardless how you feel about the new font, Google, arguably, still feels authentic to many people.
What you are making or providing is, perhaps, the most basic part of your product or business. Other than the idea, itself, what you are making is often the first component in brand messaging to come into existence. Simply put, you should strive to understand what you are providing if you are going to successfully sell the product or remain in business.
Ironically, even if you do not understand what you are doing, as long as your product is useful, customers might still buy it and use it. If you pay attention, you can then redefine your brand’s message to match this usage.
For instance, it is well known that Coca-Cola once promoted its signature soft drink as a medical solution. This, of course, did not last. Similarly, bubble wrap, for instance, was originally invented to be used as textured wallpaper.
In each of these instances, the company knew what it was making but did not understand how customers could actually use it. Another example is Viagra, which was produced as a treatment for hypertension. Finally, Play-Doh was invented to be used as a way to clean off wallpaper without tearing or ruining the paper. In each of these examples, the product was viable, but the company did not understand what it was really making. At some point, you have to understand and be able to convey what it is you are doing, making, or providing.
Following understanding and being able to communicate what you are making or what service you are providing, you should understand your market. Additionally, you should be able to reach your market in a way that they understand your product is perfect for their needs.
It is important to note that if you do not know what service you are providing or what needs your product fills, you will likely not be able to target the right market. For instance, the makers of the original bubble wrap were not targeting what emerged as their final market. Similarly, people targeting homemakers and maids with a Play-Doh cleaning product were not really on target with their eventual market, children.