Appeal to you target audience
Communicate the value offered
Differentiate yourself from the competition
Leverage yourself against the competition
Use unique words
Communicate benefits before features
Use consistent messaging
Nailing your brand messaging is frustrating. Let’s just get that out of the way first.
But building your brand is critical before you start flexing your muscles online. A well-honed brand message helps your business win trust, wield influence, and ultimately land more sales.
Branding is a pretty big deal.
A lot of our clients tell us that finding the right ‘voice’ was one of the most difficult problems they face in the brand-building process. But branding doesn’t have to be an ordeal.
We’ve put together a checklist—the same one we use—to help fine-tune and perfect YOUR brand messaging, and hopefully lead to more traffic, more leads and more sales in the not-so-distant future.
Here it is…Klicker’s Seven-Point Plan for Brand Messaging Domination.
Every time I read an article, there’s inevitably a piece of advice that seems so obvious, so common, that there’s no point including it at all.
Appealing to your target audience is Exhibit A.
Of course your message has to appeal to your target audience. Who else could you appeal to?
If it’s so damn easy and self-explanatory, then why oh why do I see advertising and branding efforts every day who couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, let alone their target demo?
I once saw a local TV ad for a used car dealership that was even more wacky than usual. The proud new owners of Crazy Al’s favorite 1999 Honda Civic went home to relax in their sprawling 5-bedroom house with—get this—a swimming pool with a freaking water slide in the back yard.
I guess Al was trying to say if you save money buying a used car, you’ll be able to afford a multi-million dollar home. Maybe?
But if the commercial had stumbled onto this realization by itself, it might have had a salvageable sales message. But no, Al had to make a remark about his buyers being an “average local family.”
My used Pinto will look great parked next to your yacht! Yes, we HAVE financing!
— Crazy Al
I don’t live in Beverly Hills. My first car was used, and I didn’t have a swimming pool when I bought it. I still don’t have a pool. I don’t know anyone with a used car and a swimming pool from my neck of the woods. They tend to be mutually exclusive.
Crazy Al’s target demographic is people who want to buy used cars—REAL average people, not Al’s fantasy family with a piano and a membership at the country club. So just who exactly was this commercial targeted at?
The answer is NOBODY.
Nobody with a ton of money (who can relate to the commercial) wants a used car, and nobody who wants a used car (who would be interested in the commercial) can relate to the sales message.
Your brand MUST reach your target audience, the people actually buying from you, not some fantasy ideal customer you have in your head.
What do your customers get by choosing you?
A warm smile every time they walk through the door? A mint after every dinner?
The cheapest, fastest oil change and tire rotation this side of the Appalachians?
When it comes to branding, what you see is what you get. As in, if your customers can’t see what you’re all about up front, your business doesn’t get jack. That analogy sounded better in my head, but let’s roll with it anyway.
Imagine you stumbled across our website looking for an inbound marketing agency. Now, what if our home page didn’t tell you the benefit of hiring us? What if it just talked on and on about our history, our company ethos, and ended with a sales pitch?
You wouldn’t contact us. No one would, ever. We would be out of business, living in a van down by the river.
People come to your site looking for answers or looking for help. Some even come guns blazing, ready to buy. But if you don’t tell people how you can solve their problems or why your solution works, they’re certainly not going to assume you can help.
Don’t ever make your customers fill in the blanks.
Let’s talk about beer.
I’m 105% sure you’ve seen a Budweiser commercial at some point. The ones I want to focus on are their famous Clydesdale commercials—it doesn’t matter which one, because they’re all great.
The Budweiser Clydesdales are marketing genius because they show how being a little bit different from your competitors pays dividends.
The Budweiser Clydesdales were used to haul the first batch of Budweiser produced after Prohibition down the streets of St. Louis in an elaborate middle finger to the teetotaler movement. I guarantee you most people who know the Clydesdales don’t actually know their origins.
And that actually doesn’t matter from a branding perspective.
The fact is, when you see a commercial of those majestic horses hauling that cart, your brain automatically starts thinking it’s a Budweiser commercial—regardless of whether the word ‘Budweiser’ is ever shown or uttered onscreen.
Horses. Dogs. A wagon. A southern accent. Buy Budweiser.
— Summary of latest Budweiser ad
I bet even if you see a Clydesdale in real life, subconsciously you’re thinking ‘Budweiser.’
I’d also wager that no other brand of beer has that power—there’s simply no other mental image as powerful as the Clydesdales and their fleet of commercials.
Sure, Guinness has cornered the market on misty Irish dawns on rock-strewn coastal roads. But it can’t touch Budweiser.
So while every other company is talking about how cold their beer is or how refreshing their beer tastes on a summer afternoon after mowing the lawn, Budweiser is busy making commercials about horses.
Most people have no idea why they use horses, but it doesn’t matter—Budweiser is the most popular non-lite beer in America.
We’re not done talking about beer.
Many companies find themselves in a pickle when it comes to marketing and branding—their company is just about identical to the competition, from the product to the service to…well, everything.
I mean, if you’ve had one lite beer, you’ve had them all.
But lite beers fight tooth and nail with each other to carve out their slice of the market, and the only way they can do that is by throwing the competition under the bus.
Beer companies are great at taking subtle jabs at other products without being obvious—and making buyers draw conclusions by themselves. Take Coors Light, for example.
Coors Light hammers the message that its beer is “as cold as the Rockies.”
Does the average person know what that means? We don’t stop to question how silly that claim actually is.
What about the fact that the Rockies routinely drop below 27 degrees, the point at which beer freezes?
Caught you, Coors. The point is, nearly all lite beer tastes identical. If you don’t believe me, I challenge you to take random sips of Bud Lite, Miller Lite and Coors Lite and try to guess which is which.
So when Coors Lite says it’s as cold as the Rockies, people don’t care exactly how cold. All they hear is that Coors Lite is the coldest lite beer, period.
Lite beer doesn’t taste good, so the colder it is, the more palatable. Colder beer makes for more drinkable beer, which means more enjoyable beer.
Therefore Coors Lite is a more pleasurable beer because Miller and Bud are warm. That’s the marketing message, anyway. Regardless of whether Bud and Miller are also brewed at 27.1 degrees, it doesn’t matter because Coors Lite has cornered the market of ‘coldest lite beer.’
What matters is your perception.
Words are strong.
Words are powerful.
The right words destroy your competitors.
Which sentence is better?
The words your company uses to define itself and your products are paramount to your success. Use dull words or common words, and your company becomes dull and mundane. Use kickass words, and your company kicks ass.
If you were in the market for a divorce lawyer, would you rather hire the guys who have a reputation for “thrashing their opponents” or for “taking a fair and measured approach to bring your case to an amicable conclusion?”
You’re mad. Your wife is trying to fleece you for everything you own, or your deadbeat husband is trying to take your kids and raise them at a hippie commune. Either way, your patience has worn thin and you want a rabid bulldog ready and willing to drop an atomic bomb of legalese on the opposition.
Your brand has to use unique words to appeal to your target customers, and those words have to knock it out of the park.
Dealing with farmers? Faith, family and honesty. New parents? Stressed, exhausted. Dog lovers? Make puns using the words furry, paws, or bark.
Above all else, avoid bland branding like the plague. Blanding. You can have that one for free.
This is Marketing 101. However, it’s also really easy to mess up. You have to make a conscious effort to put your benefits on full display, because it’s BENEFITS that do the persuading.
Sure, some items or services are more features-heavy. But even with a new iPhone, Apple puts its benefits front and center for all to see.
Think about it for a second. Why do you go to the dentist?
These are easy answers, but these aren’t the benefits of going to a dentist.
These are features of going to a dentist, and they’re a horrible marketing tool. If a dentist branded his site by saying:
Come to Dr. Kaine’s dentistry to keep your teeth healthy…dentists recommend you do it every 6 months!
Then Dr. Kaine (his first name is probably Nova) would have very little business. Your features are what you provide through your service or product, but the benefits are what good the customer derives from those features.
And benefits are what really drives customers to buy.
So what are the real benefits of going to the dentist?
Wow, we sure distilled a lot of value from a basic dental checkup. You’ll notice that our new list focuses on feelings. We want our customers to AVOID negative emotions and GAIN positive ones.
Dr. Kaine’s patients avoid pain, embarrassment and rejection. They gain confidence and self-esteem. And they save money through preventative maintenance.
Dr. Kaine could easily weave all of these emotions into a killer brand, if only he were real. Oh wait he sorta is, as we’ve had great success as a dental digital marketing agency.
Humans have an innate ability to sense inconsistencies. We’re creatures of habit, and we like order and familiarity as opposed to chaos and strangeness.
Americans have been on a zombie kick for the last decade or so. Zombies are the go-to horror trope for movies and TV, and we just can’t seem to get enough of them. But why are zombies so scary?
Zombies are scary because they’re inconsistent. Let me introduce you to a concept called the Uncanny Valley.
The Uncanny Valley attempts to describe the fear, disgust and mistrust people feel towards other human-like entities based on how much alike or unlike those creatures are to people.
On one end of the spectrum, you have humans. Humans look, act and sound like people because they’re, well, people. On the opposite end you have industrial machinery—looks and acts nothing like people, but triggers no positive or negative emotional response.
Gradually, as an object becomes more and more human-like, it triggers an increasingly positive emotional reaction. Teddy bears trigger more good feelings than an assembly line for pocket knives.
But as the object or creature approaches the human side of the spectrum—but doesn’t quite reach it—things get weird. Our brains see zombies and start to short-circuit. They look sort of like us, move sort of like us…but they are definitely NOT us.
This inconsistency is terrifying, and it’s why we detest zombies and lifelike-but-not-quite robots.
When your brand messaging is inconsistent, it frightens away prospective buyers. They become filled with negative emotions—the bane of sales everywhere—like fear, mistrust, irritation, anger, frustration, or boredom.
To strive for consistent branding, you have to produce content and conduct yourself online using a unified voice, a voice that speaks for your company and TO your customers. Really nail down your brand’s voice, because you might not get a second chance to fix it.
Inconsistent branding turns your business into the walking dead in more ways than one.
Brand messaging is part of the foundation of your online marketing efforts. Without a coherent brand, it becomes impossible to design a congruent website, deliver perfect content, or find the right voice on social media.
In fact, building your brand the right way should be one of the very FIRST things you do. Forget landing pages and drip campaigns—you can’t convince people to trust you if you don’t even know who you are yet.
Finally, here’s a handy brand messaging checklist you can use while building your brand message. Rick click, save image as, and use it!