What’s brand messaging – and how do you create it?
If 2020 taught brands anything, it’s that we need to be ready to respond to anything. Show empathy, support social change, rebuild confidence. And behind every tweet, email or ad campaign, there needs to be a beacon to guide the way: the brand message.
In a nutshell, your brand messaging sums up who you are and what you’re about
What do you actually do? Why do you do it? How do you do it? And why should people come to you for it – rather than any of your competitors?
Those are the big questions your brand messaging should answer, and it could take the form of anything from a purpose statement to a story to a fully-fledged messaging house.
Whatever you call it, there are a few things a brand message needs to be: authentic, backed up with evidence, relevant to everyone in your business, and able to stand the test of time.
So, when clients ask us to revise old messaging frameworks, brand wheels, brand onions, and all manner of manifestos, we ask: what do your people think? Can we ask them? Because the chances are the answer is there, right before your eyes.
Their purpose is your purpose
Ask your people what they value in life, and in their work, and you’ll be halfway to finding out what makes your business tick. Why (aside from getting paid) do they come to work? Why did they choose your company? What are their proudest moments? What would they change? The answers to these questions will help you uncover the ideals that drive your business.
Your people are the living proof
All messaging needs to be backed up by proof – tangible things you’ve done and are doing. But often brands focus on the macro-level, strategic initiatives like digital transformation. Speak to your people and you’ll hear individual stories about caring for customers, daily innovations or challenging toxic norms – the behaviours that prove your purpose.
You’ll arrive at a purpose everyone can get behind
HSBC had the right idea. When they refreshed their brand purpose, they listened to tens of thousands of colleagues round the world first. Their new purpose, ‘opening up a world of opportunity’, is one their people can relate to – whether they’re responding to social posts, creating TV ads, analysing risk or writing up policies.
You don’t need to speak to tens of thousands of people. But taking the conversation outside of brand and marketing will make sure your messaging stands up to scrutiny – and give you a strong foundation for whatever changes the world has in store.
Can you tell your messaging houses from your brand onions? Here’s a quick guide…
The big why. A one-line statement, the shorter the better, that answers the question: why do we exist? What are we trying to improve about the world? Your purpose is your north star – once you’ve got that nailed, the rest of your story can follow.
If a purpose is why you exist, your vision (or vision statement) is more like where you want to get to, or what you want the world to look like in the future.
From ‘why’ to ‘why you’. Your value proposition sums up what you offer the world – who are you here to help, and what are you giving them that only you can?
Brand narrative or story
This one’s a bit more fluid, but it’s a typically a longer piece of writing that sets out who you are, what you do and why. Think of this as copy you can lift and use on your website, in pitch books and in all sorts of comms.
A shorter, snappier version of your narrative – how do you sum up what you do in just a paragraph?
A messaging house might cover off fairly similar content to your brand narrative or story, but in a way that’s more like building blocks, rather than copy that flows as one story.
Typically it might have your purpose or value proposition at the top, and then three key messages underneath. But you can structure it differently depending on what you need.
If your messaging house is your core ideas, a messaging bank is a place to put specific messages around particular topics. How do we talk about what we’re doing to reduce carbon emissions? What’s our line on GDPR again? This is the place for those, to get your people singing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to fiddly stuff.
As for everything else…
From brand onions to love keys, there are all sorts of weird and wonderful diagrams out there. Our take? The more confusing you make the structure of your messaging, the less likely people are to actually use it. So keep it simple.
Got the message?
Want some help crafting your story? Speak to us.
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