What Do You Say?

“We want to talk right down to earth in a language that everybody here can easily understand.” Malcolm X

Owning the perfect position, with a great offer, and the right audience won’t matter if your brand message doesn’t connect. It’s that simple. Like every brand aspect, the message must evolve, slightly in some cases, more drastic in others, or the brand will lose its relevance. That requires continuous care and even-handed stewardship.

What Makes a Great Brand Message?

The key to a successful message is authenticity. This is what the audience sees, connects and interacts with. It is where the work you’ve done at the previous gates comes to life. It must accurately reflect the brand position and clearly communicate the offer and use language that audience recognizes as consistent with the brand. Sound simple? It’s not. If you miss any of those points you will fail.

Because Message is a gate where you have control, it is also where the most outside input and opinions are thrust into the process. That can make arriving at the desired clarity, the “language that everybody can easily understand” difficult, but necessary as committees and executives offer their opinions.

Additionally, because the organization does control the outgoing message, there is the impression that it is the easiest to fix—just change the words. There is a tendency to bypass the other gates and begin tweaking the message without really getting to agreement on the position, offer, and audience.  In the best-case scenario when this does happen (jumping to the message), the brand could get lucky and possibly enjoy a short-term boost. In the worst case, the message could become completely and permanently blurred and confused in the audiences’ mind, setting the stage for an inevitable decline.


Brand Message—Four Signs of Success

How do you know if you’ve created the right message for your brand? It takes a couple of steps, including internal tests combined with listening and monitoring your audience for their reaction. Ask yourself the four following questions to gauge where your brand message stands.

1. Is it Differentiated and Authentic?

When your message states clearly how the brand is different and in a way that represents reality in a way that the audience agrees to be true, you’re on the right path. These are also the table stakes and the first step. Your audience could agree and all of your statements might be true, but it might not resonate with the audience and create engagement. You can compare it to the “perfect partner” that’s not. All of the signs might be there that it should work, but there’s not a spark. And if there’s no spark, you need to keep looking.

2. Is it Creating a Response?

There’s a reason we’re all here: to create a response that will help in some way to improve our business. That’s it. As much as we might enjoy writing and rewriting taglines or some other marketing task for hours on end, if they don’t create some kind of response, it’s wasted time. That response could be any number of things, many of which are more trackable than ever before. It could be a website visit, social share, or ideally, a sale or purchase.

3. Is it Delivering Referrals?

When your message is solid it will get the attention of your intended audience and move them in some way. And when it’s really solid, they’ll share it with their friends and associates. This is an important step. Studies show that unaffiliated referrals, from actual customers and users, are one of the most trusted channels for potential buyers to receive information.

4. Is it Part of the Lexicon?

If you are fortunate enough and in perfect tune with your audience, your message could enter the general lexicon of the audience. When your audience not only knows your message by heart but repeats and shares it as part of their everyday conversations, you know that you’ve nailed it. It might not last forever, but for a period of time, it can be extremely strong. “Where’s the beef?” “A diamond is forever” and “It doesn’t get any better than this” are all examples of messages that have permanently entered the public sphere.

Takeaways and Next Steps

Realize that your messaging must connect with your existing champions and evolve to lead a new wave of customers and advocates. Craft a specific message, and then get everyone in the organization behind it, most importantly those at the top. When departments see buy-in from the executives they’ll recognize the importance and follow the example.


Other Posts in The Five Gates of Branding Series

Position—Who Are You?
Offer—What Do You Give?
Audience—Who Are You Talking To?


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