Getting your branding spot-on is the key to a winning marketing strategy. Brand is the foundation of your company. Get it right, and you’ll be able to build out in a myriad of exciting directions. But get it wrong, and even the simplest of projects are prone to topple.
You’re not just selling a product, but a story. Would North Face sell nearly as much if all it were selling was fleeces? Of course not. What people are buying when they invest in a North Face jacket is a sense of adventure and high-quality lifestyle. This is why their products are seen on the streets of London, as well as the glaciers of the Arctic.
For a strong brand, people will pay more: they’ll buy the idea as well as the product. It’s an attractive prospect, and one that you can take full advantage of if you take the time to ask yourself the right questions. A little self-reflection goes a long way, and when you’re ready, you’ll need to test out what you find on real life consumers.
We’ve put together a handy guide to some of the best techniques you can use to hone in on the perfect brand messaging for your company.
Take the quiz below to find out which one’s for you:
The Internal Evaluation [30 minutes]
For brands in search of team harmony
As companies grow, keeping everyone on the same page can be hard. Employees develop their own ways of explaining what the company does. They adapt their pitch to different meetings; they explore it with colleagues as they chat about new product launches; they simplify it to friends over dinner. At some point, though, this personal understanding of the brand can be confusing. If every employee’s definition of the company is slightly different, that confusion will affect the external perception of the brand.
Ask your employees (be it one member from each team, or every member in one specific team) these questions from Openview.
What do we do? (1 sentence company pitch)
What problem are we solving? (1 sentence problem pitch)
How are we different from our competitors? (1 sentence competitive pitch)
Why should customers buy from us? (1-3 bullet points of values we provide for customers)
They’ll give you an immediate sense of how the company thinks of itself. If the outcome isn’t cohesive, you’ve got some work to do. Have a look at the methods below to refine your messaging. After all, if your brand isn’t clear within your office walls, how can you expect it to be clear in the fragmented world of the market.
The External Evaluation [1 hour]
For brands who want to check their messaging is working
If everyone in the company is clear on your messaging, that’s a great start. But it won’t get you very far in sales terms. To maximise revenue, you need to be convincing consumers of your brand messaging. Which is why going directly to them is crucial. Here’s a framework for the sorts of questions you can start asking them to find out what message is being communicated by your branding:
Why did you buy our product?
What problems were you looking to solve?
How do you use our product?
What do you like most about our product?
What do you like least?
It’s easy, within a company, to become so familiar with your messaging that you can no longer imagine it from a customer viewpoint. Asking your consumers will tell you where the gaps in your messaging are, what’s clear and what needs clarifying, and why your brand motivates sales.
It has traditionally been seen as too expensive to ask consumers before you start a branding change, during the process, and after the decision. But Attest changes that. We can help you check in quickly and affordably to make sure you’re on the right lines as you go.
You might want to start by surveying your consumer base, for example by launching a survey through your newsletter (we can help with this). Or, to maximise your profits, ask people who aren’t yet using your company, and work out what you need to do to attract their business.
The Emotional Evaluation [2 hours]
For brands trying to connect with new customers
This set of questions will help you think about your brand’s story: your “why?” By putting the reason why you do what you do at the centre of your messaging, the image you will create will be full-bodied and high-impact.
Many consumer purchases aren’t about logic or reason, but emotion. Of course, the product must fill a need, but for your specific brand to be chosen (when in any given space, there are many companies offering the exact same thing), it has to connect emotionally. This is especially true if your product is a nice addition to a consumers life, rather than a necessity (if you’re selling bath bombs rather than toothpaste, for example).
Steve Jobs’s secret with Apple was not to sell technology, but to sell an answer to human need and wants. Apple’s not saying: “buy an iPhone so you can make and receive calls and messages in the best way possible.” It’s saying, “you need an iPhone so you can communicate with the world.”
The questions in the template linked above will help you come up with an emotionally-resonant narrative. By creating a brand that consumers are emotionally invested in, you’ll have less trouble convincing them that what you’re offering is worth the cost. A brand that has a strategic message at its core can take it forward into its advertising, copy, and team values.
The Pictorial Evaluation [3 hours]
For brands at a crossroad
This method is great for visualising where you are, and where you want to be. When big decisions have to be made, it’s key to think about your core brand.
The technique is called a Brand Sprint, and it’s been refined to a three-hour method by Google Visuals.
An intensive, 3-hour brand sprint can be exactly what you need if you’re at a fork in the road. This kind of brand self-reflection needs to be triggered by something: don’t do it unless something’s forcing you. Examples of good triggers are naming your company, or thinking of a logo (or, for brands further down the pipeline, naming a new product, or hiring an advertising agency).
It will help you think about six things.
- Your 20 Year Roadmap
- Your “What? How? and Why?”
- Your Top 3 Values
- Your Top 3 Audiences
- Your Attitude and Style
- Your Competitive Landscape
Once you’ve worked through all the stages, you’ll end up with 6 diagrams: a branding manual, if you will, that will shed light on which fork in the road is right for your company.
Ready to get going?
- Schedule a 3 hour meeting with key stakeholders, particularly your CEO and at least one other key decider
- Book a room with lots of whiteboard space
- Fill in this PDF as pre-sprint homework
- Read this post for a full guide to the Brand Sprint technique
The Back-to-Basics Evaluation [4 hours]
For brands starting out
Getting branding right from the get-go can save you a world of trouble down the line. Messaging is more crucial than ever if you’re just starting out, because no consumers will have heard of you.
This thorough Trello post will take you through all aspects of developing your brand messaging.
The post will ask you to think about your ideal customer personas; the brands you aspire to; the trends in your niche; the terms used in your niche; and your USP. Once you’ve answered these questions and are sure about where you sit in your market, you’ll move on to developing your core messaging.
Once you’ve worked through this template, it’s time to think about visuals.
For this, you’ll need to create a brand style guide to make sure everything, from your website aesthetic, to your logo and typeface, are integrated into your core company message.
Evaluating your brand with one of these methods is a great start to crafting your brand’s unique message.
Once you’ve put in the graft with one of the methods above, double check you’re on the right track, before you commit any marketing budget to the outcome you’ve decided on.
How do you do this? You test it on real consumers.
You may want to consider using a platform like Attest to help you access these people who you’re trying to target.
This will ensure your brand messaging is having the desired effect, or it will give you the opportunity to make some final tweaks, so that you can proceed to your marketing strategy with confidence that it’s going to work.