How to master the art of brand messaging with clear and consistent communication

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Grab any guide to brand messaging, digital or analog, focused on small businesses or aimed at multinational conglomerates, and you can be sure you’ll find consistent reminders. Consistency and clarity are the keys to an effective brand message,

But is brand marketing an art, a craft or a science? And how can brand teams create messages that stand out from the competition and stand the test of time? Answering these questions and developing outstanding brand messaging helps shape audience perception, expand a brand’s target audience, and drive business success.

Related: Why consistency is vital to your branding efforts

Understand the brand message

Brand messaging refers to how your brand speaks to its audience. By including both verbal and non-verbal elements, an effective brand message conveys a unique value proposition and your brand personality. Connect language, visual characteristics and design elements to the company’s products and services. Together, they form the foundation of consistent communications that your audience can relate to.

To develop an effective brand message, the brand team must have a clear understanding of the brand identity and target audience.

1. Identify your target audience and brand personality. Except for a very few brands – Coca-Cola comes to mind – rarely is a commercial market aimed at everyone. Most leading brands, including those with global audiences, target specific segments of the population.

Before considering brand messaging, define your target audience. Start by listing demographics like gender, age, geographic location, and disposable income of your audience. Demographics alone can give you enough insight to divide your audience into different audience segments.

Next, think about your audience’s needs, pain points, and preferences, and ask yourself how your brand can address them. Dove’s long-running “Campaign for True Beauty” is an excellent example of this. The campaign made clear it wanted to break down unrealistic beauty standards and reach women who felt they were not represented by brands touting unattainable ideals. The campaign has a large audience, which is not unusual for this consumer brand.

Narrowing your target audience to some extent is the first step towards your brand message. Defining a brand persona will help further refine potential brand messages. A brand persona is no different than your brand identity. Humanize your business and make your brand recognizable by allowing potential customers to think of your brand as if it were a person. Integrating your brand story into your brand personality is another powerful tactic for making your business more recognizable.

2. Define brand positioning, tone and voice. As you transition from audiences and personas to your brand, think about what sets your brand apart from the competition. For example, does your business occupy a certain niche in your market? If yes, your messaging needs to align with that market position to differentiate yourself from other brands in the same space or with similar offerings. Spending time analyzing your brand’s position helps clarify the unique value propositions your brand team wants to communicate in your brand messaging.

Your brand tone and voice drive how you want to communicate your brand messages. Older audiences will respond better to a more mature tone, while younger audiences will likely find it easier to engage with more casual messages. If you want to speak to a specific niche audience, you might also consider using jargon that your audience can identify with. Most importantly, your tone and voice align with your brand’s personality and values.

Related: Why Your Brand Plan Matters More Than Your Business Plan

Develop key messages

At this point, your brand team should have written documents detailing your audience, brand personas, and the tone and voice you want to use to reach potential customers. Now is the time to distill this information into key messages.

Writing the key messages tends to take time and several iterations. Ask yourself how these messages relate to the brand’s unique value propositions. Don’t be afraid to shorten and refine these messages.

Some of the best branded messages are very short. Nike’s “Just Do It” is one of the best-known examples of this approach. Despite its simplicity, the message communicates an athlete’s commitment to train harder, get better, and ultimately make it great.

Related: 5 simple exercises to find your brand’s voice

Applying key messages internally and externally

Effective enforcement of key messages starts internally. Think of your team as brand ambassadors. These are the first people who help you spread your brand message broadly and authentically. Avoid assuming that your entire team inherently understands your brand messages and instead schedule training or familiarity sessions to ensure that every department and team member understands the importance of consistent communications.

Speaking of consistency, your brand messages need to be aligned across all communication channels. Even if someone has never engaged with your brand on a particular channel, they should be able to recognize the activity.

Dove is a good example of this. On its website, social media and other channels, the brand uses real women rather than models to highlight its products, making them instantly recognizable.

Related: How social media can build trust and engagement within your community

Test and measure the impact of key messages

Before deciding on your final key messages, consider A/B testing variations of your messages with your audience to gather data on which option is likely to have the most impact.

Once your brand messages are distributed across your digital marketing and communication channels, start measuring their impact. Different digital channels allow brands to evaluate a variety of key metrics. Starting with your likes and comments, you may also want to analyze the underlying sentiment of engagement you receive and whether your posts have the desired impact on audience perception.

An effective brand message combines elements of being an art, a craft and a science. Measuring effectiveness involves science. Messages and identities are created, but there is an art to it. The most powerful brand messages build strong bonds with your audience and help your brand grow for years to come.

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