Does your brand communications strategy work? Discover a technique to ensure your messaging reflects your unique purpose, and resonates with your audiences.
“We’re on a mission to change the world. But we know it’s not easy — that’s why we’re pushing boundaries and challenging norms. Innovation and creativity are not just buzzwords at [insert company name here] — they’re part of our DNA. What unites us is a relentless drive to transform how you [insert consumer activity here], while nurturing our communities and rebuilding the world we live in.”
If this paragraph sounds familiar, it’s because in today’s age of companies trying hard to connect with their audiences, brands are starting to sound the same.
Don’t get me wrong, dear reader. Aspirational narratives are extremely important. They enable leaders to inspire and motivate employees to work towards something far bigger than themselves. It’s why companies are able to make a real impact.
But when countless companies also claim they are ‘transforming’, ‘reinventing’ or ‘revolutionising’ a product or service, all while creating a more inclusive and sustainable world, what makes you unique? And how do you truly connect with your audiences so they remember your story?
Over the years, I’ve written communications on behalf of several brands. And to make sure I’m always writing authentic messaging, I use a simple technique that I like to call the ‘BS-buster’. It entails answering several questions about your brand messaging openly. The technique requires that you scrutinise your messaging and decide whether or not it really speaks to your audiences.
In this step-by-step process, you’ll learn how to create authentic brand messaging by connecting the dots between your purpose and what really matters to your audiences.
Cue the ‘BS-buster’ technique
Step 1: Define your purpose
First, write down why your organisation matters to the world. This means stripping away buzzwords, catchy phrases and fluffy terms, and really articulating your cause.
Simon Sinek explains the importance of purpose eloquently in his TED Talk. He says that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Sinek also describes how ‘if you talk about what you believe, you will attract those who believe what you believe’. He refers to Apple’s impactful purpose as a great example of how it has won over customers. The brand’s purpose statement is: “To empower creative exploration and self-expression”.
So, what is your purpose?
Here are a few good examples to inspire you:
- Clothing company Patagonia is “In business to save our home planet.”
- Dutch chocolate maker Tony Chocolonely’s purpose is “Making all chocolate in the world 100% slave free.”
- Sports company adidas’ purpose statement is “Through sport, we have the power to change lives.”
- The Ocean Cleanup is “On a mission to clean up 90% of the world’s ocean plastic.”
After you’ve defined your purpose, the next step is to check that your messaging both reflects your purpose and is relevant to your customers. But first, do you know who your customers are?
Step 2: Know your customers
There’s no doubt that as humans, we speak and communicate in different ways. But what we have in common is that we evaluate brands based on our emotions, personal feelings and experiences, rather than based on product attributes, benefits and information. And it’s very important to understand how your customers describe these emotions.
Listen to your customers and walk in their shoes. Conduct research and get to know the people you exist to serve. You’ll gain a much clearer picture of the language that will help you relate to your customers and connect with them.
Here are some techniques to help you:
- Conduct qualitative research. Frequently used techniques include: contextual interviews, focus groups and one-to-one interviews with your target audience. Use this opportunity to answer some key questions:
- Who are your customers and what do they want/need?
- Which words/phrases do your customers use to describe their desires, fears, wants, and personal experiences?
- Gather data through web analytics
- Use the findings from your research to create user personas
Step 3: List all the questions your customers might ask
This step requires a great deal of empathy. Closely look at your personas and think of what they would want of your brand. Can you think of the questions they might ask if you were having a conversation with them? Here are examples to guide you:
- What does this product/service do for me? (does it reduce frustrations or delight me?)
- How is this related/relevant to my life/my journey?
- How does this help me achieve my goals or complete important tasks?
- What’s the catch?
- Why should I choose your product/service over others?
Step 4: Assess your messaging against your customers’ questions and bridge any gaps
Now that you know what your customers are after, start assessing your messaging. You’ll notice where your communications fall short of your customers’ expectations and how relevant (or not) your messaging is to them.
A value proposition canvas is a great tool to help bridge any gaps. It is a technique where you list your customers’ goals, pains (blockers) and gains (benefits). You then list your product or service features and start connecting how these features reduce your customers’ pains and enable their gains. The outcome is a set of value proposition statements that articulate exactly how you help your customers:
Our [product/service] help(s) [customer segment] who want to [goal] by [verb (reducing/avoiding)] [pain] and [verb (ex. increasing/enabling)] [gain].
Here’s an example of a value proposition statement:
Our yoga programme helps customers who want a healthier life by reducing their stress and improving their physical and mental wellbeing.
Use these statements to shape your brand communications and craft a narrative that reflects your purpose while speaking to your customers’ needs and desires.
Don’t forget to test your messaging with customers. Their feedback will be invaluable when you further improve your messaging.
Communicating authentically is imperative to connecting with your audiences and cutting through the clutter. Ultimately, you need to place yourself in your audiences’ shoes and determine if you sound real or if what you say sounds like…well, BS.
If you’re responsible for your organisation’s brand communications, you’ll likely face some resistance from key stakeholders. Be prepared to challenge the status quo.
Powerful brand communications strategies are grounded in being open, vulnerable and humble. Admittedly, this is not easy for most companies. But if successful brands such as Apple have taught us anything, it’s that authentic communication pays off in the long-run. So, go ahead and become a BS-buster.