Imagine watching a movie where the protagonist has no personality or emotion. Everything they say contrasts starkly with their actions and the personality they established in the beginning. Following the story will be incredibly hard, if there even is one. Without a cohesive story or a compelling protagonist, the audience will zone out or, worse, walk out.
When this happens in movies, you can blame bad screenwriting. But when an audience can’t follow a business’s story, it results from ineffective brand messaging. So, how do you keep this from happening to your brand?
In addition to building a great looking site for your brand and creating your own logo, spending time on your brand messaging and website branding will elevate your business. Below, we’ll explain the different types of brand messaging, the framework you’ll use to create yours as well as tips on how to use it.
What is brand messaging?
Brand messaging is the unique way in which a company communicates who it is, what it does, and how it differs from everyone else. As part of the larger branding picture, brand messaging essentially brings together non-visual branding elements to create both a verbal and non-verbal language for the brand. Elements like:
Unique value proposition
From this, the brand can create a communication style that reflects its personality, values, and story.
External vs. internal brand messaging
Look at brand messaging as more than just a marketing or sales tactic; instead, consider it a holistic language you can use for diverse purposes, both externally and internally.
External brand messaging
How a brand communicates with the public, its audience and its customers.
With the public: Brands typically communicate with the general public through ad campaigns—on TV, the radio, and social media. They don’t have very long to get their message across, which is why businesses opt to feature catchy slogans and jingles in their public-facing brand messages. This external brand messaging can improve brand awareness and visibility.
With the target audience: There are many avenues through which a brand can communicate with its target audience and leads, including a website, social media accounts, a company blog, podcast, etc. Regardless of where they communicate with them, the language—and the story and values they derive from will be the same. The goal is creating a public personality that feels more like a friend or trusted confidante than a faceless enterprise or machine. Delta’s Twitter feed illustrates this, highlighting a mix of messages from mindful travel tips to fun conversation starters. The warm, friendly posts make the brand feel more relatable and trustworthy.
With customers: Customers, of course, see the same brand messaging that the public and leads do; however, they also encounter it throughout their personal experiences with the company on the website or over email. Customer service interactions, such as messaging on packaging or direct communication, also includes brand messaging.
A well-constructed external brand message can cement a better relationship with your customers, bringing your business value.
Internal brand messaging
How a brand communicates with its stakeholders, from investors and partners to its employees. This language serves as the core of any communication and shapes the company culture. Furthermore, it teaches employees how to effectively communicate both internally and externally.
If you use the brand messaging framework, you’ll find that the process logically documents what you do, who you want to be in the market, and how you’ll differentiate your brand and your message.
Internal brand messaging is important for the following reasons:
Brand clarity: Have you ever talked to someone about their job, asked them what their company does, and they couldn’t describe it? That company’s brand messaging was either unclear or non-existent. If a brand’s employees can’t easily answer “What do we do?” you can bet that people outside the company can’t either.
Company culture: Effective brand messaging improves company culture. When a brand articulates its mission, vision and values, employees feel more invested because they understand the purpose behind what they do. In turn, they more productively and effectively carry out their individual responsibilities. Effective messaging also includes a defined brand language that gives employees a sense of ownership.
External interactions: When employees clearly understand the brand message and live it day in and day out, their own external interactions reflect that brand message and personality.
The brand messaging framework
Your brand messaging framework is a document that brings together the non-visual components of your business. If you’ve gone through the steps of how to build a brand, you’ll recognize some elements; however, make sure your complete brand messaging framework includes the additional elements mentioned below.
01. Target audience
To write brand messaging that connects with your audience, you need to know who they are.
What are the average demographics of your target user?
What motivates them?
What kinds of causes do they care about?
How do their needs align with what you offer?
What would make this particular audience care about your brand?
Do some research on your ideal user and then create a user persona for them. Not only will you get to know them better as people, but it’ll give you and your team a more empathetic and authentic perspective when writing copy and content for them.
2. Brand story
Every superhero has a unique origin story. Does your brand have one? Keep in mind that a good brand story doesn’t always start at the company’s founding. Take Apple, for example.
While the company made computers for decades, the rehiring of Steve Jobs and the launch of the iMac in 1998 changed the company’s direction and, arguably, the internet forever.
If your brand doesn’t have a glamorous beginning, think back to when you fully realized your brand’s vision to impactfully change people’s lives. That’s your brand story.
3. Vision statement
Have you ever heard of a vision or dream board before? Typically, you create them for your personal life, bringing together a collection of inspiring images and quotes.
A brand vision statement works similarly, inspiring and motivating your employees or customers to work towards your company’s goals and values.
While your vision statement will help you craft messaging about how your company sees the future, you can share with the world, too. For example, this is Coca-Cola’s Vision page:
Its vision statement reads:
“Our vision is to craft the brands and choice of drinks that people love, to refresh them in body & spirit. And done in ways that create a more sustainable business and better shared future that makes a difference in people’s lives, communities and our planet.”
4. Mission statement
Your mission statement tells how your brand’s actions today carry out its vision for tomorrow.
Start by asking three key questions:
What does your brand do?
How does it do it?
Why does it do what it does?
This exercise gets to the root of your brand purpose and explains why customers will gravitate towards it.
Here’s one from Dunkin', so you can get a sense for what it sounds like:
The mission statement reads:
“FROM COFFEE BEANS TO JELLY FILLING
Everything we do is about you. From chefs who create exciting new flavors, to crew members who know exactly how you want your drink—we prioritize what you need to get you on your way. We strive to keep you at your best, and we remain loyal to you, your tastes and your time. That’s what America runs on.”
Want to get your customers on board with your mission? Make sure you write them into your statement, similar to how Dunkin’ has here.
5. Core values
Consumers and employees both want to know that a brand stands for something more than just profitability. This is particularly true with younger generations, and an important consideration of Gen Z branding, to keep your core values at the forefront of every touchpoint. With a set of core values, you can demonstrate what your company believes in as well as what commitments it has made.
Think of this like an official pledge or promise. You can even create a dedicated page on your website, the way Whole Foods has, breaking down the brand’s six core values:
“We sell the highest quality natural and organic foods”
“We satisfy and delight our customers”
“We promote team member growth and happiness”
“We practice win-win partnerships with our suppliers”
“We create profits and prosperity”
“We care about our community and the environment”
If you check out Whole Foods’s Instagram page, for instance, you’ll see how their values impact their brand’s messaging:
This post brings attention to Whole Foods’s commitment to selling natural foods as well as making its employees happy.
6. Unique value proposition
The unique value proposition (UVP) states the benefits you—and only you—can bring to your customers’ lives.
Before you come up with this, you’ll need to understand your brand’s positioning within the market.
Do a SWOT analysis to figure out what differentiates your brand from the pack. Once you’ve highlighted your biggest differentiator and how it values your customers, you can create your UVP statement.
The formula for this is simple:
Who you help + How you do it + What the outcome is
Slack crafts its value proposition around its impressive resume in the digital collaboration space:
Its value proposition quickly explains the app’s function and touts the value for users:
“Slack is the collaboration hub that brings the right people, information, and tools together to get work done. From Fortune 100 companies to corner markets, millions of people around the world use Slack to connect their teams, unify their systems, and drive their business forward.”
When possible, include indisputable facts to back up your claim, similar to how Slack does here.
That said, keep your unique value proposition free from fancy language or jargon. Focus on making it perfectly clear why your company is the best available option on the market.
7. Messaging pillars
Your messaging pillars are your brand’s biggest selling points—the features or benefits that the competition doesn’t offer or can’t do as well as you. These pillars play an important role on your website and other marketing channels.
Choose three brand pillars to focus your messaging around. Then, create a list of three to five talking points for each.
Don’t mention your competition when writing these out; however, you can reference data that asserts your competitive advantage. This way, your team not only understands your competitive advantage, but can use it to reassure potential customers.
The Honest Company has a page called “The Honest Standard”:
The four points under “Our Honest Philosophy” function as the company’s brand pillars:
“Protecting human health is our top priority.”
“We won’t compromise performance.”
“We’re thinking in the present and future tense.”
“Knowledge is power.”
In addition to using them to externally tout the benefits of your solution, documenting them in your brand messaging framework is important, too. Your employees will use this as a reference to learn about the brand and to memorize the talking points needed to support it.
8. Brand voice
When it comes to writing copy and content for your brand, you’ll have to figure out how your brand should come across. In other words:
What is the personality of the brand?
What is the general tone and emotion of the brand messages?
Is there a certain style of writing or language you’ll use to convey this?
Consumers can tell a lot about a brand just by the way its messages sound.
Old Spice, for example, has an approachable and amiable brand voice. Take a look at the copy highlighted on their homepage: “Get more awesomeness, good smellingness, and Old Spice exclusiveness than ever before.” Their brand’s personality is unmistakable and consistent across their website copy, product descriptions and even their Instagram feed.
A tagline is a permanent catchphrase that appears next to a brand’s logo or on product packaging and gives consumers a better idea of what the company does. But it’s not just explainer text. For example, consumers have remembered Bounty’s clever tagline, “The Quicker Picker Upper,” for decades.
You don’t need a tagline for your company, but if you feel like it would be beneficial, then create one as part of your framework. It’ll need to be short—no more than seven or eight words—and written in your brand’s voice.
Something worth mentioning here is that slogans are not taglines. Something like “The Quicker Picker Upper” is descriptive of Bounty’s product. A slogan like McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It” is not.
Slogans are phrases or sentences used to increase the catchiness of a marketing or advertising campaign. While you can certainly start brainstorming examples of catchy slogans now, it’s best to save them for when you start writing your campaigns.
10. Elevator pitch
The elevator pitch is the last piece to come up with. Consider this the culmination of your brand messaging framework.
An elevator pitch is a succinct statement that argues why someone should buy your product and trust your brand. It’s that 30-60 second pitch that a salesperson would use to explain:
Who they are
What company they work for
What they do
Why the prospect should care
What they’re going to get if they say “yes”
If you want to see what a good elevator pitch looks like, go to a listings site and look up the highest rated lawyers, real estate agents, or service professionals there. You’ll see how the elevator pitch briefly sums up what the brand does before making it all about the customer.
To write your elevator pitch, pull out the most compelling points from your framework. Together, they should remove all doubt from your customers’ minds. Write them out one by one. Then merge them together into two or three paragraphs.
Next, make sure you've written your elevator pitch in your brand’s voice to elicit the right emotional response and action from whoever hears or reads it.
You won’t use the elevator pitch in your brand messaging online, at least not in this lengthy form. That said, it’ll give your team a valuable bird’s-eye view of the brand and how to position it for maximum engagement and conversion.
Tips for creating and using your brand messaging
By creating an effective messaging strategy for both your internal and external communications and activities, you’ll build stronger relationships with everyone around and within your brand.
But simply writing out your own framework isn’t enough. Here are some tips to help you get more out of it:
Keep it simple
You don’t have to have an outlandish personality or quirky voice to capture your audience’s attention. Brand messaging needs to be authentic to your unique brand for it to work.
Make it align with your visuals
Before you publish or share your brand messaging guidelines with anyone, make sure it aligns with your brand’s visual identity. Ideally, you’ll create the two simultaneously.
If not, work with your designer to make sure the message and personality the imagery conveys also lines up with your brand’s language.
Turn it into a centralized document
Your brand messaging framework shapes how your brand communicates with the world. That said, those guidelines may change down the line, for instance if you rebrand the company.
By creating a centralized brand messaging framework, you’ll turn it into a flexible document that reflects your company’s communication strategy at any given moment.
Include your brand message in all documentation
Keep in mind that all company assets should consistently use your brand messaging:
Design: Include sections at the front of your brand style guide that outline messaging elements like the mission statement, core values, and voice.
Content: Your writing guideline documents should include your brand messaging as well. While your internal writing team may know your brand messaging inside and out, external contract writers may need more than just your spelling or jargon preferences to nail your voice and message.
Promotions: Your marketing, sales and PR team will benefit from having your brand messaging in their documentation. The brand voice, tagline, and elevator pitch, in particular, can help create promotional campaigns.
HR: Even your human resources personnel should have access to the brand messaging framework. Using brand messaging within job listings and in exchanges with candidates will help them hire better employees.
Use it into your website and marketing channels
Make sure to incorporate your brand messaging into your website, products, and marketing channels.
While you want your communications to feel authentic and to tell a consistent story about your brand, be careful about overdoing it. There’s a difference between writing in a brand’s voice and style and using your brand messaging elements in every exchange. Focus on capturing your brand’s identity, personality, and voice rather than repeat word-for-word what you put in your framework.