When we work with a startup or even an existing brand to transform their digital marketing efforts, we always start with research. Part of that research is evaluating existing brand messaging and/or developing new brand messaging that fits the company, their target audience and will ultimately be effective and drive results. The time and effort involved in this process is extensive and consumes a lot of resources at the beginning. Why? Because brand messaging is extremely important.
But what is brand messaging?
Brand messaging refers to the words, visuals and information conveyed around your brand. Brand messaging answers key questions about what your company is, what your company does and what is the value that you deliver to your customers.
There are two phases of brand messaging that work together to make a connection with your intended audience. The first is the initial brand messaging and the second is the ongoing brand messaging. Let’s define these two phases so you can better understand their individual purposes.
At the point a customer first comes in contact with your brand, your brand messaging answers the who, what and why that your customers need and offers persuasive information that inspires them to get more information about what you do. It persuades and motivates them with value and the what’s in it for them related to your products and services.
Ongoing brand messaging refers to the continual impression that you make with your customers every time they have an interaction with your company, logo, website or social media content. The intent is to reinforce the initial brand messaging, then add to it feeling, emotion and recognition that furthers their comfort and positive perception of your company and the value that it provides.
I want to be really clear about a few things about brand messaging and cover a few mistakes that small businesses and inexperienced entrepreneurs make. You MUST understand that not all brands are created equal, and therefore something short and cute like Just Do It for Nike, will NOT work for your startup. Nike built an international brand FIRST and earned the recognition of their brand logo that doesn’t require their name attached for people to recognize it. Being cute with a brand logo or brand messaging is not advised for your medium-sized brand or new startup.
Brand messaging is crucial for making first impressions, establishing value and recognition with your customers. One critical component of brand messaging is a tagline. The defining 5-8 word sentence that sums up what you do, the value it delivers the customer and what problem it solves for them.
Think of messaging as your retail storefront. You are making first impressions on people who are walking by with your name, logo, windows, and merchandising. The customers walking by your business are making a determination of whether they are going to come into your business and look around OR keep right on walking. This is what initial brand messaging is, whether it be on your website, in ads, on your business card or storefront signage.
You’ve heard the saying that reads “you only have one chance to make a first impression?” That’s brand messaging. You have to make a good first impression and that impression has to deliver value and create interest that inspires and motivates your customer to look deeper, click to find out more or take action in some other way that is appropriate to your business type.
Yesterday, my wife and I were driving home in the Tampa area. We came across a large semi-truck of a brand I am familiar with since my childhood. Firestone tires. The large truck which obviously delivers tires to their dealers in the area was a newer trailer and the graphics on the side were clean and attracted my attention. Though at first I only had recognition of the brand name and logo, I continued to look and caught the brand messaging. See below for that messaging.
Do you see anything incredibly confusing with this messaging? If you don’t know the Firestone brand already and/or you hadn’t read my previous paragraph, would this message leave you confused? Here are some questions that I asked myself as I was very confused with this messaging by Firestone.
What’s the value to me?
What problem does Firestone solve for me?
The most important thing that your brand messaging should never do is confuse your intended customer. This brand messaging from Firestone will definitely do that on initial brand messaging and therefore will never get the chance to conduct ongoing brand messaging as the customer will be lost.
I will leave you with one of the best brand messages I have come across in a while. They do not currently use the messaging, but it was extremely clear and concise when they used it. I will not name the brand, however, you will notice that all of the components we have discussed here are included in this very short brand message that was on their website and across all of their marketing. You know what they do (generally) and what problem they solve for their customers. Here’s the brand messaging tagline:
Clear, short and to the point. In a word Powerful. If your company creates content and as part of your marketing efforts you need that content to be found and consumed so that you are able to attract your target customers, this brand message speaks to you clearly and motivates you to want to know more.
If your brand is struggling to get your message across online and you aren’t sure why your digital marketing is failing, we should talk. Brand messaging is the foundation of your digital marketing and if you don’t have it nailed, everything else you do will struggle to breakthrough.