Tips for creating your brand messaging
American business executive Meg Whitman once said: “When people use your brand name as a verb, that is remarkable.” It obviously helps having a short, snappy and distinctive name (Google, Uber, Instagram – I’m looking specifically at you), but what these brands have in common is more than just clever names, and is not just skin-deep. It’s about having a brand voice that is lived, breathed and felt by all in the organisation; the company DNA crystallised in brand messaging. Every single communication with a potential customer or external stakeholder reflects that DNA, to the point that it’s easy to understand what the business does, and its core values.
Obviously, each of these companies has had its fair share of controversy or criticism levelled at them, but aside from those odd crisis moments, they do what they say they’re going to do – help you search for things, grab a cab to the other side of London, or share pictures of your holidays. You might even use a service like Uber elsewhere in the world, but you can bet that if you’re hailing a taxi in Chicken, Alaska (yes, that’s a real place), the service will be pretty much the same.
Having strong brand messaging enables a business to provide that consistency, reliability and trust whenever they communicate with third-parties. Ultimately, it’s that consistency, reliability and trust that keeps customers coming back for more and investors continuing to take a chance on your business. But there’s a blueprint for messaging success.
With that in mind, here are some quick tips for any brand looking to nail their messaging, whether a start-up that wants to be known, a challenger brand looking to expand into new territories, or a blue-chip company wanting to re-brand or pivot.
What’s your why?
All brands have a purpose. Messaging should, therefore, reflect your ‘why,’ because if you can’t communicate this, then why should anyone buy from you? Remember, messaging is much more than just words on a page, describing your business. It’s also practising what you preach. I always use the same example in media training sessions I run with companies – a picture of Mr Bean. I ask participants to tell me what they know about Mr Bean, knowing that he doesn’t speak. He doesn’t tell you he’s funny, he is funny in his behaviour, in the sounds he makes, and in the micro gestures painted across his face. Communicate your purpose with your words, but also make sure you’re showing it with actions that mirror those words.
How well do you know your target audience?
Imagine you’re a consumer electronics company that has created a smart watch aimed specifically at young mums. OK, so your target audience is ‘young mums’, but how much do you really know about them? Do you know what motivates them? What nudges their behaviour? What gets them out of bed? And what gets their back up?
It’s not enough to know loosely who you’re targeting, because presumptions can be made that ultimately alienate your potential customers. With 95% of purchasing decisions being prompted by the unconscious mind, the aim with any brand messaging should be to target that hidden brain, and evoke emotion – anger, fear, hope, sadness – to demonstrate an understanding of how your solution could improve or change their lives. Before you put pen to paper, listing out bullet point after bullet point of product features or jargon, make sure you’ve done an in-depth analysis on your target audience’s personas, because this will significantly shape what you want to say in your PR or marketing communications.
KISS (aka, Keep It Simple, Stupid)
Once you know your target audience, you then need to feed that intelligence into the way you describe your brand, product and solution to external parties. When you reach this point, the mantra of the day is ‘keep it simple, stupid.’ Unless your target audience is rocket scientists with a PhD in quantum physics, then you’re probably not going to get away with a string of algorithms and jargon theorising how we can apply science to create ultra-precise clocks. Instead, try to use words and analogies that are going to be understood, that are relatable and that are memorable. While we jest, we often advise clients to run their messaging past granny or ‘the bloke down the pub’ – if they can understand what you’re saying, your target audience is likely to understand too.
Rinse and repeat
Going through these sorts of exercises really helps a brand to question how they are approaching messaging, whether they are speaking appropriately to target audiences, and whether they are emphasising the right issues and aspects of a product or solution. Ultimately, all of these questions should be answered in a written framework that outlines your ideal ‘personality’ which can be referred to by sales and marketing teams when communicating with stakeholders and customers. But remember to refresh your messaging regularly – once it’s written, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s set in stone. As a company grows, adds new products and services, or even undergoes a change in management, messaging will change, so be prepared to revisit these exercises and adapt your messaging document when it makes sense.
If you’d like to know more about how we approach messaging and positioning for our clients, and how this is the cornerstone of any successful PR campaign, get in touch and we’d be happy to discuss!