Mar 30, 2021 12:50:21 PM
Have you noticed how most "brand messaging" sounds the same today?
It's a challenge in every industry, but I didn't realize how tough until we took on a new client that needed help with this.
We went through the motions you would expect. We had a few discovery calls to learn about them and what makes them unique. But when we tried to put those key differentiators into words -- I hated it.
Because the "unique selling proposition" didn't make me care.
We struggled with this, until we had an epiphany of sorts. I'll tell you how we got there, but first, let's clear up a few misconceptions about what this exercise really is.
Some people think of a slogan as a brand message, as opposed to a real statement that connects with buyers.
When you see an ad where Capital One demands to know “What’s In Your Wallet?” it doesn’t really tell you anything about them, does it?
Just for fun, I ran a couple quick searches to see what Google thinks a good definition of a brand messaging is.
Here is what came up from Pardot:
“Brand messaging refers to the underlying value proposition conveyed and the language used in your content.”
Here’s another one from 99 Designs:
“Brand messaging is the art of using the right words to communicate the essence of your brand to potential customers.”
I feel like this second one is closer to the truth, and we decided to take a swing at a definition ourselves:
“Brand messaging is the transfer of belief from a brand to a buyer, making an emotional connection that strengthens a shared sense of purpose and a desire to work together.”
That's our definition.
The key phrases I want to emphasize are the "transfer of belief" from a brand to a buyer and a "shared sense of purpose."
These ideas are important because most brand messaging is really just white noise.
It all sounds the same, if we're being honest. Look at ten websites of competing companies and compare them. More often than not they are loaded with marketing-speak, industry jargon, and action verbs on steroids.
Cutting edge solutions…strategic…innovative…
All the buzzwords people use, but secretly hate.
The end result doesn't work because...it's just not your brand identity. If you're describing something that could easily apply to any other company out there, you don't really have a brand message. You're just creating white noise.
Now, before I talk about how we got around this issue, I want to tell you about a few wrong turns we took before learning how to do it right.
Our new client -- a company that specializes in product design, prototyping, engineering, and manufacturing -- wanted help with their brand message.
They're based in Taiwan, and these guys are real disruptors in the healthcare industry. They create medical devices for a variety of applications, and most projects they take on are very intricate and complex. As we went through the discovery process, we learned many sellable attributes about them.
In the manufacturing industry, many companies in North America and Europe depend on product developers who can manage projects overseas. There is a lot of opportunity for error throughout the process.
Issues come up that cause expensive problems down the road, but our client has a very tightly defined process that involves strenuous testing their customers often don’t even see or even ask for.
Our client does this to spot minor issues before they become major problems. This is part of what makes them exceptional.
Another selling point is their intimacy with the teams managing the product development process.
When a problem comes up on the factory floor, our client can walk down the street, work the problem directly with the team, and find the solution. Just having that direct interpersonal communication during critical moments makes a huge difference.
We interviewed our client about all this and came back with great material about what makes them special. But then, one of our writers tried putting it into words…it fell flat.
Like an egg cooking on Texas asphalt.
Here is a short excerpt of what he came up with. I think you'll see the problem:
We specialize in identifying highly advanced experiential works and products, internationally and help bring them to life. Quality is integrated into every step of the product life cycle with [brand name]. Our experience has given us the ability to manage each development stage of a product from start to finish and beyond, [Brand Name] thrives on giving clients what they need most by preemptively capturing and correcting issues right when they surface, by continuously improving each process throughout every project.
None of what he wrote was wrong or unimportant, but it doesn't really make you feel anything, does it? It doesn't make you care or see the shared sense of purpose (there is that phrase again) between you and the brand.
Now, let’s talk about where we found the solution to this problem..
A while back, a close friend of mine turned me on to a book written by Simon Sinek, called Start With Why.
It was written years ago, but, I have to say that I have not read a more impactful book about business in a very long time.
In it, Sinek explains how great companies have flourished, while others have risen to great heights and then plummeted to extinction. The ones that succeed have a clear sense of why they exist, and communicate that purpose to employees, customers, and stakeholders in a way that inspires them.
Apple is an example that’s often cited in the book. People often credit Apple’s success to the genius of Steve Jobs, and the relentless culture of tech innovation he created. But that culture didn’t happen by chance.
As Sinek points out, Apple doesn’t exist to make great computers with user-friendly features. Those things are just the consequence of the company following its WHY.
"Apple believes in challenging the status quo and thinking differently."
This understanding permeates everything they do, and for that reason, Apple rose from the ashes in the 1980s to become one of the most valuable brands in the world.
There are many other great examples in the book, but even more striking is how Sinek helps us better understand the meaning of “gut feeling.”
He explains that our neocortex is the rational part of the brain that evaluates the pros and cons of different choices, and the limbic part of the brain makes emotional decisions. The latter speaks louder than the former. When our limbic brain says something “feels right,” we tend to listen.
When people feel a real sense of belonging with a brand, they will go to great lengths to remain loyal to it, even when competing products offer better features and prices.
So, how do we apply these concepts to brand messaging? Let’s get back to our client and our challenge of finding their brand message.
"Most brand messaging is really just white noise. It all sounds the same, if we're being honest..More often than not they are loaded with marketing-speak, industry jargon, and action verbs on steroids."
We probably spent four hours on the phone with our client over the course of several weeks, the last one culminating in a 90 minute interview focused on their value proposition. We had some great information, I didn't feel like were really getting what we needed.
Then, at the very end, in the last 15 minutes of the conversation, they started talking about their WHY. And my ears perked up.
They said, “Patrick, one of the things that's really nuts about us is that we'll take on the stuff nobody else will. We take on the projects that are so precise and so crazy that other product designers and manufacturers won't touch them. Sometimes, we take on smaller, less profitable projects if we really believe in the product’s potential to make an impact on the world. We look for projects that inspire us.”
After riffing on this a little longer, we wrapped up the call and started work on a whole new draft of their brand message. This is what we came up with:
Dare to inspire us
With ideas other product designers rejected.
With plans for devices other engineers won’t touch.
With a vision that requires an experienced partner that knows the path to success, and will guide you every step of the way.
Our passion is turning challenging ideas into products that move the world.
From concept and ideation, to industrial design and prototyping, to engineering and programming, to manufacturing and testing – our process enables us to anticipate and remove barriers to success, and deliver product excellence.
And we are willing to take the hard road to create a smooth and successful outcome for your company.
Quality begins at the very beginning, from our first conversation about your vision to the end of life for your product.
Your company’s innovative passions have finally found the partner with the capabilities and imagination to bring them to life.
Let’s build something amazing together.
This is their WHY.
They take on the hard stuff – projects no one else will touch. They do the hard work others step away from because they believe in the product's potential to change the world.
Cliché? Probably. But that passage is a hell of a lot stronger than what we had before.
We followed the WHY statement with copy that describes HOW our client is different – highlighting their unique selling points or “secret sauce” – and finally WHAT it is they do.
Most marketers make the mistake of focusing only on WHAT a brand does and HOW they do it, totally forgetting about WHY.
But if you can convince your senior leadership to go through a WHY Discovery (yes, this is a real thing), it will bring clarity and focus to the culture, and:
And last but not least, you will find it easy to create an authentic brand message that your company will own one-hundred percent.
No other brand can claim to be like yours, because the fire burning inside you belongs to you alone.
Now, you just need to tell the world about it.
If you want to share your brand message with us, we’d love to hear what you came up with! Message me on LinkedIn, or by email at: contact [at] creativesidemarketing.com.