Brand messaging — to cut through, you need a strategy

Brand messaging — to cut through, you need a strategy


Q: Want to communicate your brand's message and values to connect with your target audience?

A: Meaningful messaging strategy.

To craft a messaging strategy for your brand, build an arsenal of words and phrases that convey your brand’s vision, purpose, and proposition—delivered with your unique personality. The aim: hit your target audience, where it matters to them, with high impact.

Think of each message as an ‘arrow’ in your armoury of copy, to be used across various platforms, including your website, your social media communications, and your sales pitches.

Note that the terminology used to describe these tools can be confusing, and experts may not always agree on their specific meanings. But what we call the tool is less unimportant than how it’s used.

Plan, on purpose

One key element of your toolbox is your brand’s ‘why’ (purpose or promise). This is the core of everything you do — and the reason for your business exists. Every decision you make should be guided by this purpose and it serves as a starting point for all other elements in your messaging platform.

Purpose can be lofty, or pragmatic. For example budget airline Ryanair’s mission is clear and functional: To offer customers the lowest possible prices and the best possible service. Staying with the same sector (but at the opposing end) ... Emirates’ purpose is ‘to provide air transportation services of the highest quality, embracing safety, reliability, comfort and economy, to serve the needs of the people of the United Arab Emirates and the regions we serve.’

The key with your ‘why’ is to discover what really drives you as a business, beyond financials. By discovering this essential truth — why you care, it will help reveal why others should care.

Here’s a proposition

Your unique value proposition speaks directly to customers. It explains how you’re going to help them and how you make their lives better. It’s important this hinges on your unique benefit or selling point, the thing that will make customers choose you over your competitors. This can also address your customers’ wants, needs, and fears. For example, Ryanair's proposition is ‘to offer low-cost air travel, with a focus on on-time performance and customer convenience.’ While Emirates uses its relatively low cost base to add great perceived value to their offer, adding comforts and extras. This is encapsulated in the core message embodied in the tagline ‘Fly Better’.

Your proposition tells your potential customer why they should choose you above all others. To do this you must spend time understanding the customer. Do the work. This is the launchpad for an effective brand messaging strategy.

What’s the story?

Another element of your toolbox is your brand narrative. This is the story that you tell about your brand, the way you communicate the essence of your brand, and the emotions that it evokes. Your brand narrative should be authentic, unique, and consistent across all platforms. It should also align with your brand's vision and mission statement. A strong brand narrative helps customers connect emotionally with your brand and creates a sense of trust and loyalty.

For example, while Ryanair’s story is one of disruption and democratisation of travel, Emirates’ brand narrative is constructed around being at a strategic point well placed for long-haul journeys, and making a luxurious, technologically-advanced flying experience more accessible.

Your founding story, the customer need, your deeper purpose. These can all spark the inspiration for your brand narrative. While this is distinct from your messaging, it is worth some work, and the two are intimately interwoven. Look to the most successful brands and you will see they have a clear narrative thread. This does not compete with your core messaging, it should support and work seamlessly with it.

Core Messages and Messaging Pillars

Only when you are clear on the above, are you ready to craft your message pillars and core messages. The pillars are built out of your customer needs and their ‘pain points’. Think of these pillars as the individual pockets that hold messages to address each need. These individual messages should be clear, consistent, and easy to understand. They should also be used consistently across all platforms and throughout all communications. For example, Ryanair’s core pillars might include a number of messages around low-cost air travel and on-time performance, while Emirates’ core messages might include luxury, comfort, exceptional technology, and premium service. This will be communicated at all product levels; e.g. ‘You get so much more in Emirates Economy’.

Focus and consistency is key here. You may get bored of your messaging long before your audience has registered it. Remember, you are not the audience. Repetition and variation of similar messages will establish the link in your customer’s mind.

‘I don’t appreciate your tone’

They say people pay more attention to how you say something than what you are saying. The ‘how you say it’ is a representation of your brand personality and should embody your values.

Back to our contrasting airlines, and Ryanair’s tone is informal, direct and sometimes downright cheeky. Emirates on the other hand leans towards luxury and experience... ‘We’re on top of the world’.

Ignore this at your peril.

The tone and voice of a Ryanair communication, whether you love it or hate it, is recognisable. It reflects the values and behaviours of that organisation. This makes it a valuable asset. Consider a few words that would describe your tone (and your visual branding, as these must complement each other) and use these coordinates to rewrite some of your core messages. Then begin to apply these principles through everything you communicate.

Making the human connection

Whether your offer is more focused on cost and function, or it’s a more premium, value-added offering, building a strong foundation of words and phrases that accurately convey your brand’s purpose, values, and the all-important value proposition, will help you communicate your brand’s message consistently, with impact, across platforms — to connect with what your customer needs.

When used consistently, your messaging will help clearly identify you, differentiate you from the competition — and create a sense of trust and loyalty among your target audience.

I appreciate it can be difficult to navigate and define a strategy and craft your messaging*

If you’re trying to establish the groundwork, there are many benefits to not going it alone, and hiring an independent external brand consultant. So, if you need a little help in developing your brand messaging, or any of these essential elements of a successful brand, let me know.

*It is a full time job after all. (Mine).
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