It’s nice to meet someone who’s as obsessive about clearly articulating a brand’s message as much as I am. So we’re especially pleased to feature Gemma Went of Red Cube Marketing, as she drives home the importance of Brand Messaging:
When I’m taken on to handle a marketing or PR activity I often have to ask the client to backtrack a few steps. All too often brand messaging is confused and needs redefining before we talk execution. This confusion can lead to a brand appearing to have multiple personalities, all telling a different story.
Messaging is key to every brand or business. It’s part of how people define ‘who’ the brand is and decide whether they want to engage. But when you’re working ‘in’ the brand, it’s easy to miss the mixed messages that are being sent out through various channels.
In Wisdom London’s last blog post, Jill Ruthenberg gave us a great example of an Emotive Brand. This stuff is gold dust and the ultimate goal of all brands, big or small. One of the key components of creating this emotional attachment is the right messaging. From a strapline to an elevator pitch, messaging is what connects the brand with its audience. Get it right and you’re on your way to achieving those all important business objectives. Get it wrong and you’ll leave people confused, disconnected and less likely to buy from you. It’s that simple.
I recently held a messaging workshop for a client with 15 of its senior team. Ahead of the workshop I sent out some questions. One was simply “Who is xxxxxxxx?”. I received 8 variants. EIGHT. And that was only a small portion of the team. I also asked what was the USP and had a similar response. Now imagine each of these people speaking to prospects, telling a completely different brand story. Imagine the emails they were sending out, describing what the business is and what they can do. None of this would match the marketing message and those prospects would be both confused and disconnected, unsure of what the brand does or whether it’s right for them.
Unfortunately this is a common problem. Employees get busy doing their day job and without clear guidelines of what the brand messaging is, will make it up based on their own internal experience of the brand, which can differ hugely from employee to employee. And this is just internally. If this messaging hasn’t been developed, tested and agreed the messages used across all branding, marketing and PR activity will be equally confused.
So how do you create clear, relevant, coherent messaging?
- Listen to the people that matter. Listen to what others are saying about you by running a survey amongst your employees, current clients/customers and other stakeholders (Survey Monkey is great for this). Ask questions that will help you understand clearly how your brand is perceived and what you need to change. Ask simple questions such as
- What does the brand do?
- What does the brand do that’s different to competitors?
- Describe the brand in 5 words.
- What’s the value of the brands approach?
Also plug in to social media and use listening tools to find out what people are saying about you online.
- Take time to understand what’s important to your clients or customers. What are their core values? What do they need from a brand such as yours? What issues do they have that need fixing? Your messaging should be all about ‘them’ and less about ‘you’, so be clear what they need from you and use this to drive your messaging.
- Understand your business goals and objectives. What are you trying to achieve? What messages can help you to achieve that?
- Take a look at your competitor’s messaging and think about how you can position yourself away from them.
- Think about your touchpoints, the messaging has to work across things like email, conversations (you know, the face to face stuff), advertising (above or below the line), PR activities, social networking sites, your website, your blog, guest blogging, commenting on blogs and forums, rich media … and such like.
The core messaging elements
Once you’ve immersed yourself in the above research, develop your core brand messaging elements:
- Your USP. What you do that’s different. The thing that makes you stand out against your competitors.
- Your brand values. This is your foundation, the building blocks of your brand personality and should run through all messaging.
- Your strapline (if you need one).
- Your elevator pitch. The short sentence you give when people ask who you work for.
- Your positioning statement. Usually 50 words or less and covers what you do, who for, your benefits and why prospects should choose you.
- A longer descriptor. This goes into more detail than the positioning statement and covers your product/service offering and more detail on your benefits and why prospects should choose you.
- The language and tone. This will define how formal, informal the language and tone will be.
- Core messages. I find it useful to create a list of core messages that fit with each area of a business. If they have a range of departments, services or products. It details the messages that need to be communicated for each and how these fit with the overall messaging.
Once these have been developed, test them on your staff, key clients or customers that know you well. Check they resonate and tweak as necessary. Once you’re messaging is right, create guidelines and train your staff to ensure they’re comfortable with it. And of course, ensure they are used across all marketing and PR.
The right messaging is hugely important to your brand. Is yours working for you? Is it creating the right action? Are people confused about who you are?
With many thanks to Gemma Went.