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There’s no one ideal of perfect branding. That’s because each brand is trying to reach different people and convey something different, hence why the “perfect” branding for Coca-Cola would be wildly different from the “perfect” branding for Venmo. Both of these successful companies have nailed something that allows them to grow and retain a massive customer base, but it looks completely different for each one. That’s because they've nailed something totally specific to them: brand messaging that’s precisely tailored to both their brand and their audience.
Another abstract yet important branding concept, brand messaging refers to the way that your brand uses written, visual, and other content to communicate its unique identity, mission, and value proposition. Brand messaging is the aggregate of various different branding efforts, from social media to ad campaigns to website design and blog posts and beyond, all of which come together to paint a complete picture of who you are. Your tagline is brand messaging. The stock image you choose for your Facebook ad is brand messaging. The free downloadable e-Book you create is brand messaging.
Brand messaging conveys not only the “what” of your brand, but the all-essential “why,” giving people a deeper sense of who you are and what you stand for — which is important, given that people tend to feel emotional attachment toward brands they like in the same way that they feel emotional attachment toward people they like. Good brand messaging goes deep to show your target audience exactly who you are and cultivate strong, lasting relationships.
Okay, so brand messaging is important. But with an endless array of options for what to communicate and how to communicate it, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and veer off course. Every brand has a lot of things to say, and without some thoughtful strategy, you could end up with brand messaging that works internally but falls flat with your target audience, or that resonates with your target audience but doesn’t convey who you are. Thankfully, you don’t have to just take a shot in the dark. Follow these strategies to ensure that the brand messaging you create resonates with the people you want to engage:
If you want your message to resonate with people, you first need to clearly understand who those people are. Remember that figuring out your target audience is a two-way street: you need to think about your product or service and define the characteristics of the person you imagine using it, but you also need to look at existing information to figure out who is actually using it. Dive into your Google Analytics to find the age, gender, and location of your customers; look at your CRM to find things like job titles, likes, and dislikes; gather data from your email marketing service; talk to marketers, salespeople, and customer service for anecdotal information. Use whatever information you have to understand exactly who your customer is, how they use your products, and what their pain points are.
Your unique selling proposition (USP) is essential to figuring out brand messaging. It’s important to note that your USP is more than just a list of your product’s features — any of your competitors would likely have a similar list. You need to look at the market and figure out the exact hole you fill, ideally a hole that your target audience needs filled. Once you know your audience and what they value, you should have clear guidelines for establishing your own brand’s value proposition.
Brand messaging is much more than just the language you use, but language is a huge part of it. Think about it: not every group of friends speaks to one another in the same way. Each clique has their own special language, and if someone speaking differently came in, what they said wouldn’t hit home with the people in the group. So use your brand identity and target audience to figure out exactly how your brand speaks. Is it funny, friendly, accessible, aspirational, wry, goofy, serious, straightforward? Articulate all of these aspects, and document it in a brand voice guide that all employees have access to. Learn more about creating a unique brand tone of voice here.
In order for your brand messaging to resonate, it needs to be consistent. After all, if your target audience sees one message from you somewhere, and another message elsewhere, they’ll not only feel like they don’t know who you are, but it may also instill a bit of distrust. That means that you need to do a complete audit of all your existing messaging, whether it’s marketing emails that are still being sent out or a years-old web page that nobody’s bothered to update. In your audit, make note of what elements are not currently aligned with your brand messaging, and either delete or update them.
Part of creating a brand message for your target audience is understanding where your audience is and making sure you have a message there. Is there a social media platform that your target audience uses that your brand doesn’t leverage? How about in-person events? Go through a day-in-the-life of your target audience and make note of every place where your brand might be able to reach them.
If you want your brand messaging to resonate, it can’t sound exactly like every other brand in your space. Analyze the competitive landscape and write down specifically how and why you differ from your top competitors. Make sure that these distinctions make it into your brand messaging, whether it’s through your personality, your unique business model, your customer engagement, your innovation — whatever sets you apart, put it front and center.
We know, you could probably talk about the nuances of your brand endlessly (so could we!). But the truth is, your target audience doesn’t have time for that. Not only are they busy people, they’re also bombarded with countless different brands vying for their attention every moment, so this is not the place for subtlety and complexity. Don’t try to cram a thousand concepts into your brand message; distill it down to the most essential thing you want to convey, and be clear in conveying it.
Always use a customer-centric approach when it comes to brand messaging. Use your buyer personas to imagine how each one would react to the message you're putting out, viewing your brand from the outside-in. Ask yourself if the message feels authentic? Unique? Emotionally resonant? If it’s tough for you to simply imagine how certain buyer personas would feel engaging with your messaging, go ahead and ask them! Focus groups, surveys, and user interviews are an invaluable way to ascertain whether or not your brand messaging works for your target audience.
As a branding professional, you’re no doubt well-equipped to create great brand messaging — but that doesn’t necessarily mean the messaging will be successful. Remember that for your brand and company to succeed, the only thing that matters is whether your target audience thinks your message is great, not you or your peers.
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