10 tips for creating effective brand messaging
WE DISCUSS WHAT MAKES A GOOD BRAND AND THE IMPORTANCE OF BUILDING A BRAND IDENTITY.
March 4, 2021
What is brand messaging? It’s the words and voice you use every time you talk to your customers in writing, including via your website, social media, blogs and emails.
A consistent, relevant brand message helps your customers feel like you know them. It’s what makes a good brand, leading people to think, ‘Ah, right! This business gets me. They understand what I need. Where can I find out more?’
With the right brand message, you can:
- give your business an instantly recognisable brand identity
- show your customers who you are and how you can help them
- give people a compelling reason to click, call or buy
To help you get your messaging right, we’ve put together these ten brand-building tips:
1. Start with a killer value proposition
Your brand messaging begins with your value proposition. What’s the most important thing that you do for your customers? What’s the best reason for them to buy from you?
Your value proposition can provide the backbone and focus of your brand message. There’s no set formula for a value proposition, but it should be evident in the headline and hero copy on your website.
A value proposition should convey:
- who should buy from you
- what outcome they can expect
- how you’re different
Let’s take a look at a couple of value proposition and brand messaging examples.
Slack’s tagline ‘Where work happens’ makes it instantly clear that they’ll help you make work happen. You know that if you have work to do, they’ll help you.
They then clarify this: ‘With channels in Slack, you and your team know where to go to ask questions, share updates and stay in the loop.’ You can see from this that Slack is about sharing information and making work more productive.
Uber’s app tells you that you can ‘request a trip, anywhere, anytime’ and ‘your destination is at your fingertips’. It’s clear that the value Uber provides is rides to wherever you want to go without calling up a taxi firm.
Clarity is everything when it comes to a value proposition. If you’re struggling to define yours, a good starting point is to fill in the blanks in this sentence:
2. Brand messaging needs research
For your brand to resonate with your customers, you need to know what’s important to them. But you’ll only find this out by talking to them.
Messages that don’t resonate will put people off your brand. In fact, 46% of people say they’ve stopped using a brand due to irrelevant content.
Find out what people want from you and how they describe their needs and desires.
Do this by using:
Try sending out a short survey to your mailing list or create a thank you page survey that pops up after a purchase.
Forums and social media
Where do your customers hang out online? Take a look at what they’re saying (not necessarily about your products, but about the problems they have that you solve).
Testimonials and feedback
What do people who’ve bought from you say about the experience?
A great tip for new businesses that don’t yet have customers is to check out reviews online of products similar to yours, written by people who fit your customer profile.
3. Know your why
As Simon Sinek states, ‘People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.’ If you haven’t read Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why, give his TED Talk a listen.
Brands that start with why have a clear sense of purpose. They’re able to create powerful brand messages that genuinely mean something to their customers.
At Hoxby, we have a very clear why. We’re here to ‘create a happier, more fulfilled society through a world of work without bias’. And because we’re clear about this in our messaging, people who believe in our mission want to join us as clients and Hoxbies.
Your why isn’t something you can manufacture. It’s about a lot more than creating a list of business values that you stick on your wall. But if you know your why, it’ll shine through in all your brand messaging.
4. Be aware of awareness
Your brand messaging will need to change depending on what people already know when they see your brand.
Someone who’s browsing social media and happens to see one of your posts might know nothing about you at all. Someone who’s been on your mailing list for two years will know quite a lot about you. Each of these people will respond to a different message, tailored to what they’ve learnt about you, your product and the problem you can solve for them.
Stages of awareness
A useful tool is to use Eugene Schwartz’s Stages of Awareness. Schwartz was a legendary 20th-century copywriter who could generate millions of dollars with his words – even in the 1950s. Copies of his definitive book Breakthrough Advertising sell for hundreds, even thousands, of pounds. He knew his stuff.
The stages of awareness that Schwartz defined are:
- Unaware. These people don’t know anything about you, your product or the problem you solve (you probably don’t need to worry much about these people as they’re unlikely to be your targets).
- Pain aware. These people know they have a problem but have no idea yet what the solutions might be, or even if there are any. Maybe they’ll come to you through a blog or social post.
- Solution aware. These people know there is a solution, but they don’t know you can provide it. They might find you through a Google search or review site.
- Product aware. These people know about your product, but they need a little persuading that it’s right for them. Maybe they’ve just signed up for your mailing list.
- Most aware. These people already know you can help them, and they might already be customers. They just need to see the price and how to buy.
Whenever you write something, think about what stage of awareness the people reading it are likely to be. When you understand that, you’ll know what words you need to use to get their attention.
5. Make your brand message consistent
If you say one thing on your blog, another on your website and another on your social pages, people will get confused.
They might find it hard to trust you, as to them it looks like you’re constantly changing your mind about what you’re doing and who you’re talking to.
Keep your message consistent to create a strong, recognisable brand identity. When people read your stuff, you want them to know it’s you before finding your logo.
6. Prioritise clarity in your brand messaging
Resist the urge to try and sound clever. People want to understand what you’re offering and whether it matters to them. Don’t make them have to spend time thinking about what you mean. Chances are, they’re too busy for that.
7. Communicate with stories
Everyone tells you about how essential brand stories are, but not many tell you how to write them.
There’s a huge amount we could say about storytelling. But if you just need to get started, remember that these are the two things required in any story you write:
- A hero. That’s not you, but your customer. You might be telling your own story, but you need to do it in such a way that your customers will relate to it and identify themselves in it.
- A conflict. All stories have a conflict of some kind. Something to overcome, a journey to be taken, a dragon to be slain. Think about the things you’ve overcome and the things your customers want to overcome. How can you tell a story that demonstrates how you’re the one who can help them do that?
8. Know your audience
Brand messages that try to speak to everyone fail. You want some people to be turned off by your messaging; they’re not your people, so filter them out.
Harley Davidson’s messaging and brand identity are so strong that they’ve spawned an entire subculture. But they certainly don’t appeal to everyone. And that very fact is part of what Harley owners love about them.
9. Adapt your message to fit the times
The world changes. Things happen that might have nothing to do with your business, but will be big news in the lives of your customers.
And when these things happen, you might need to adjust your brand messaging. As the Covid-19 crisis spread across the world, brands scrambled to tailor their message to fit, with varied results.
Read more about brands during the pandemic: why brand purpose is immune to Covid-19.
Crises the scale of Covid don’t hit all that often. But regardless of what’s going on in the world, it’s vital to pay attention and show a genuine understanding of how your customers’ lives are affected by events.
10. Set brand messaging guidelines
It’s impossible to be consistent with your messaging if you don’t have some written brand guidelines.
This is the case even if you’re a single person business. And if you have multiple people or departments writing your copy, posting your blogs and managing your social media, it’s essential. Everyone needs to know, understand and buy into your messaging.
Beware, though, making your guidelines a document that your new starters read in their first week and then never touch again.
If you’ve got your messaging right, it’ll be part of your culture and brand building. If you’re hiring the right people, they’ll instinctively understand your messaging. The guidelines should simply be there to provide structure and clarity.
Your guidelines could include:
- your value proposition
- your key messages and who they’re for
- a definition of your audience and personas
- a brand voice guide
- your brand story
Keep them useful, practical and relevant (just like your messaging).
How Hoxby can help
We understand that tackling your brand messaging can feel daunting. But remember this: when potential clients interact with you online, your messaging is the only thing that really matters to them. It’s your message that will lead them to buy.
Get in touch now to find out how our team of copywriters and content strategists can help you develop your brand message.
Alice Cuninghame is a B2B conversion copywriter; she’s part of the Hoxby community.