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Crafting a Winning Brand Message

In my prior blog post, titled Brand Building Challenges, I wrote of both challenges and recommendations to succeed is this arduous task. However, from the number of comments received it seems readers are looking for more detailed guidance. I’ll use this post to add science and structure to the task of building winning brand messages.

While I use the term brand messaging, many brand managers use the phrase brand positioning as an alternative or a compliment. Irrespective of the term used, the mission is to articulate the brand in a way that infers a specific meaning by consumers. The messaging should communicate the goal or results achieved by the consumer and explain why the brand is superior to competitor solutions.

Winning brands share several common criteria in their messaging.

  • Strong brand messages describe the target market in terms of some identifying criteria such as demographics (i.e. physically quantifiable characteristics) or psychographics (i.e. interests or opinions).
  • Brand messages should include a frame of reference – which is a promise of the goal or result achieved by customers when consuming the brand.
  • Messages should also include at least one point of difference – which convincingly demonstrates why the brand is better than alternatives.
  • Finally, the brand message should provide reasons to believe – which validate the point of difference to the frame of reference.

Developing a frame of reference is most commonly done with either a product or service oriented benefits statement or symbolized in more abstract customer goals. Within the technology industry, and particularly in the software technology industry, a third method of illustrating a frame of reference is to associate your brand to recognized competitor which already exemplifies the brand benefits. While this strategy must be thoughtfully and cautiously pursued, it works particularly well when the referenced competitor is recognized as the gold standard for the solution type and benefits achieved. If successful in making the association, the two solutions will bond in a concept referred to a category membership and those features which are shared by the category members are identified as the points of parity.

Developing the point(s) of difference will either pursue a message which promises more tangible advantages such as specific features, measurable benefits or demonstratable value, or will pursue a more abstract message which pledges a more emotional reward generally along the lines of how beneficial, successful or better off the customer will feel as a result of consuming the brand.

Brand messaging only gains credibility when it is supported by reasons to believe. Within the software technology industry, reasons to believe are most frequently cited in terms of feature, benefit and value (FBA). As the feature sets of software applications and similar technology products become ubiquitous over time, experienced brand managers focus their reasons to believe on benefits and value statements in order to achieve greater staying power.

Even among experienced brand managers, the frame of reference depiction is either the most overlooked or the most poorly communicated. On occasion, first to market technology companies will pursue a green field strategy without limiting themselves to any defined target market. While this strategy can be successful in acquiring market share for a short period of time, as soon as viable competitors enter the market this all things to all people claim will lose credibility and not be taken seriously.

Long term successful brand messages must answer the questions a) who is the target market, b) what goals or results are achieved and c) why is the brand superior to competitive solutions.

Brand Messaging Evolution
Unlike CPG products which can last over 100 years without significant change, technology solutions advance through a fast paced customer adoption life cycle where each stage in the cycle is driven by different buyer types with different procurement objectives and concerns. To be effective, brand messages or brand extensions must be adaptable to this dynamic technology evolution.

Chasm Curve

Hardware and software evolution follow a near predictable chasm curve. Brand messages, or sometimes closely associated tag lines or value propositions, must be closely aligned to the buyer demands of each of the adoption life cycle stage. Each buyer type has different motivations and concerns and will be either intrigued or repulsed by a constant brand message that migrates across the continuum without some form of adaptability. Brands along with their supporting compliments of sub-brand messaging statements, value propositions or tag lines, must be dynamically adapted for each buyer type across the adoption life cycle in a method that preserves the overarching brand position while accommodating each successive phase’s individual objectives and buy criteria. By recognizing where you are and where your technology solution is going along the chasm continuum you can more accurately identify your buyer and adjust the message for maximum impact.

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READER COMMENTS

By Anonymous
I've recently joined a software technology company that created a brand, however, now seem to be moving backwards in defining the company. In your experience does this make sense?

Response: No. It is important for the company for first determine what it stands for, then craft the brand messaging (applying as much differentiation as possible) and then promoting the brand messaging everywhere.

 

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