How to create brand messaging

So you’ve got an awesome product or killer service and you want to let the world know about it. Most business owners crack on and write about it and after a while they get to the point where they realise that their content is completely all over the place. At this point that they’re not really sure how they should be selling their product or service. But before you’ve even got to this point you should be thinking about how everything will be tied together with your brand messaging.

That’s not to say that every piece of content you create has to have the same message, this is more about context – it’s about understanding the core value proposition of the brand and how you put that across in written content (and in other forms of content).

When you’re customers interact with your brand, the value proposition is what inspires them, it’s what persuades them and it’s what motivates them to want to buy from you.

There’s loads of taglines out there that attempt to sum up the value proposition. If you think about them they might include:

  • Nike: Just do it
  • Subway: Eat Fresh
  • Tesco: Every little helps
  • John Lewis: Never knowingly undersold
  • L’Oréal: Because you’re worth it
  • Marmite: Love it or hate it

Probably my favourites from the businesses that I’ve worked with include:

  • Skiddle: Weekends Matter
  • Richmond: Instrumental to Science
  • BrightHR: Think Brilliant

Taglines are those annoyingly catchy phrases that somehow seem to tie everything that you want to say together in a few words. But don’t be fooled into thinking a tagline is what it’s all about. There’s a lot more to work on than a few words that are memorable.

Marketers and business owners time and again (and marketers should know better!) get confused about what they’re trying to achieve during the messaging process.

Before starting to create consistency across your content, it’s essential that you understand your positioning, key benefits, brand pillars, value proposition, target audience(s) and the tone of voice you are going to go out with. Then when you create any piece of content, whether it’s something for an internal or an external audience, you should be able to refer back to your brand messaging work and say “this is where it fits”.

So most business owners and marketers just jump straight in and start creating content, but where should you start your brand messaging? It’s certainly not with the tagline / strapline – this is one of the last things that you should get to and it should flow out of everything else.

The first thing you need to do is your homework! There are three areas to think about:

The customer is king

If you’re going to sell your product or service and make your brand appealing to a marketplace, you better make sure you have a deep understanding of your customers.

A good place to start with understanding your customers is to survey them. Get them to give you more information about their pain points, ask them what they like and dislike about your product and/or service. Then dig deeper. Find out what really matters to them. Who inspires them? What content do they read? What keeps them up at night? What do their friends think about them? How would their partner describe them?

You’ll get some interesting and revealing insights from this. If your brand messaging is really going to resonate with your customers you’re going to need to be sure you can get in their mind-set. Starting with the customer is so important.

What’s the internal line?

Sometimes there can be a real disconnect between a brand and the internal culture and internal messaging. It’s essential that you take some time to speak with your salespeople and find out how they communicate the product or service as this needs to be reflected in the brand messaging you embark on. Then review the culture of the business and determine which elements of the culture are important. Remember in an era of social media a lot of that culture is likely to seep out, so the brand values must not be at odds with it.

In addition when thinking about the internal line, make sure you understand what the vision for the business is – where it’s come from and where it’s going.

Challenging the challengers

It’s important that you make a message that differentiates you from the competition out there, otherwise how are you going to be remembered? Worse still how will you stop yourself from being forgot? The value proposition of the brand needs to be clearly defined and clearly stand out.

A messaging frameworking table I’ve been working on

The brand framework is where you’re going to store your messaging, but it also helps to shape the messaging. Here’s what I include.

Brand Messaging Framework Example

So here are the elements I’ve included within the framework and how I’ve been thinking about them – remember that all these element are interconnected and when you work on one you’ll probably find that you’ll end up having to rework otherones – eventually you’ll get to the point where you’re happy with it.

Target Audience

This shouldn’t be new – you should have a clear understanding of who your audience is by now (if you don’t, don’t even start this process).

Brand Pillars

Start by looking at the most important selling points of your business and try to break them out into three key areas. What are the top line benefits of those three areas to your customers? Think about it from the perspective of what your customers think are most important, what differentiates you from your competition and what the internal line is.

I find it useful to drill into the different benefits of the product or service in the brand pillars – if you want you can include the features and benefits and pain points and marry them up to the brand pillars.

Underneath this you can include supporting examples – dig through every piece of content you’ve created and all the survey data you’ve brought in and then tip this in the respective brand pillars.

Elevator Pitch

This is how you could pitch your business in the most straightforward way for around 60 seconds to a customer who had never heard of you before. This will form the basis of all the content you create about the business.

Positioning

This takes a steer from the competitor analysis you’ve done and informs you where you sit within the market.

Mission

I’d recommend not directly relating the mission back to the product or service you’re looking to promote, rather think abnout what your product and/or service does, who it’s for and what’s important to them.

Some interesting mission statements include:

  • Coca Cola: To refresh the world in mind, body and spirit. To inspire moments of optimism and happiness through our brands and actions.
  • Google: To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
  • AirBNB: To connect people in real life all over the world.
  • Facebook: To give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected

Brand Principles

Once you’ve written everything down that you’ve been working on, take the text and paste it into one of those word cloud generators. With the brand work you should start to see a handful of terms that stand out. How do all these words relate to each other? How can you categorise them? Those categories are your guiding principles and everything you do should be reviewed in terms of how it fits within those categories.

Tone of Voice

When thinking about your tone of voice it’s important to understand who you are talking to. If you’re talking to business owners you’ve got to remember their time is short and they probably more likely to want you to get to the point in as unfluffy a way as possible. If you’re speaking to consumers then you might want to really give them a flavour of your internal culture. Think about the types of communication your customers receive – even the way your sales people and your customer service people genuinely speak and the language they use. This should all play in to how your tone of voice is positioned.

Brand Promise

The brand promise is what makes your proposition desirable. It should grow and develop from your messaging and connect with to the customers.

I’d suggest starting off with something that’s to the point. Once you’ve got this right you might want to work on your brand promise further by breaking out a tagline from it. I can’t stress though, don’t force a tagline. If you force it and come up with something because you feel you need to have one you’ll just end up with something that has no relevance to what you do and which no one in the company will be able to get behind or use.

Bear in mind whilst you’re doing this that a branding framework is a structure that’s supposed to help you find the uniqueness within a brand. You can change it as much as you want – if you’ve not feeling it, change it until it feels like it works more for your brand.

If you feel like it’s not quite right, it’s probably “right enough”. A brand should be an ongoing, ever developing and evolving process. You can always take a stab at it again in the future.

It’s really important that you go on a journey with your branding. This is especially true in the age of content marketing, when content creation and promotion is becoming something that most businesses are looking to do with increasing velocity of creation and delivery, because if you’ve not got it right, you can very quickly find that you’ve created a lot of content and have lots of inconsistencies running through it.

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