Elements of a Successful Brand 8: Messaging
A brand is a complex organism. This is part eight in a series of articles in which we examine a successful brand's component parts.
Every brand needs a voice. Messaging provides the words that help customers and prospects understand a firm's value (why its useful) and values (what it believes in). It articulates the brand's promise and stimulates desire for a firm's services. A brand's messaging sums up all of the experiential characteristics of a brand and rallies them behind a single flag. In the war for customers' hearts, messaging leads the charge.
Messaging can take various forms—a tagline, ad slogans, headlines—but they all share a few common traits. Persuasive brand messages are always brief and convey critical aspects of a firm's brand. Effective brand messages usually oversimplify something that in reality is complex and nuanced. This oversimplication is a good thing, however, because the goal of a brand is to be noticed, remembered and desired. In an over-communicated world, the only way to get inside the minds of prospects is to whittle away at your message until it comes to a sharp point. You may leave some details on the floor, but the thrust will really drive home.
The Core Brand Message
Behind every great brand is a fundamental core brand message: a compact statement that declares why the brand matters and what it stands for. A core brand message communicates the values and key differentiators that define the brand. And above all else, it makes people in a firm's target audience sit up and care.
The core brand message will shape all of a firm's subsequent brand marketing messages. A firm's tagline or ad slogan may closely match the words in its core brand message, or they can take a different form. What's important is that all of a firm's brand messages describe aspects of the brand that are relevant to the needs of customers.
Creating a Message
We create messages to address different needs. A firm that struggles to differentiate itself in the marketplace, for instance, may formulate a tagline or marketing campaign theme that contrasts itself with the rest of the industry. Messages often convey specific services or benefits ("Visa. It's everywhere you want to be."). A message can even be a call to action ("Got milk?"). Whatever form it takes, a brand message has to be authentic to the brand and customers' actual experiences.
Crafting a message that's short, memorable and relevant to your audience can be a lot tougher than you think. After you've gone through the process (an outside facilitator or consultant can be a huge help), you'll be a lot better prepared to explain your brand. And once you've found your voice, you'll discover that people suddenly do a lot more listening.
Your Messaging Checklist
Not sure if you've got your messaging right? Check your brand messages (those that speak for the entire the firm, not just a single practice or product) against the following criteria:
- Does your core brand message offer anything different from your competitors?
- Is your messaging short, simple and clear?
- Do your messages reflect reality? (Or are they aspirational?) Brand messages must be authentic to be believed.
- Do your messages resonate with your target audience? Do they say anything interesting?
Messaging's Many Faces
Messaging—the words that a brand uses to describe itself—can appear in many places. Advertising, brochures, websites, business cards and email signatures are all appropriate vehicles for delivering a brand's message.
And messaging can take different guises.The way you talk about your business in a client meeting is messaging. Of course, ad headlines and taglines (often associated with a firm's logo) can convey critical brand attributes or benefits.
The medium is far less important than the consistency of the message itself. Resist the temptation to put forth too many messages in multiple forums. It's far better (and in most cases preferred) to focus on a single benefit than risk confusing your audience with a host of attributes or features.
Check out our free Brand Building Guide for Professional Services Firms to learn more ways to build and strengthen your brand.