I’ve talked a lot about messaging over the past few weeks because I believe simple, consistent and differentiated messaging is vital to any successful marketing effort. So far, all of that content has focused on ideas, capturing your key messages as clearly as possible in words. In fairness, that’s only part of the equation. How you express those messages is equally important. So today I want to look at some other elements that work together to bring messaging to life and express the overall identity of the business or brand.
Voice and tone
Have you ever met someone who is extremely smart or talented but lacks personality? While you may be able to learn from them or benefit from their expertise, you are less likely to pay attention if they are dull and boring.
Think of the great messaging you’ve developed as that smart and talented person. Without an engaging voice or tone, it will also lack personality and be less compelling to your audience.
The voice you choose, from formal to casual or compassionate to witty, will shape the way your audience hears your message. It helps to humanize your brand and further differentiates you from the competition. Think of it as adding some emotion to your messaging.
The voice you choose… helps to humanize your brand and further differentiates you from the competition.
Choosing a voice and tone isn’t arbitrary. It has to fit with the character of your business and offerings, and has to be something your target audience will find appealing. The wrong voice or tone can be confusing and may do more harm than good.
It’s important to take some time and reflect on what type of tone and style you think will best represent you before turning your message house into content.
Many companies start their journey by deciding on a name and creating a logo and then call it a day. But your visual identity is much broader: it also includes colors, fonts, imagery and everything else people see when you present yourself across all media. And since that visual identity is supposed to reflect your brand — your value proposition, differentiation and positioning — it should be based on your message house. In other words, the messaging should come first.
since that visual identity is supposed to reflect your brand… it should be based on your message house.
I’m not suggesting that every messaging exercise necessitates a full rebrand. But when you are creating or refreshing your brand, put the horse before the cart. Start with the messaging. And if you want to redo messaging that’s not working, keep an open mind in case you need to tweak some of the visual identity elements once you’re done.
In the end, the visual identity and messaging need to work hand in hand. They cannot be in conflict as that will confuse the audience.
Mission, vision and values
Many companies spend a lot of time and effort defining their mission, vision and values. Others may not even have them spelled out clearly. While this is mainly an internal exercise, it is a crucial element you don’t want to forget.
Your company’s vision and mission statements along with your values are vitally important to your brand promise. They are the guiding principles and beliefs your company stands for. So it should be obvious that your messaging needs to align with them. In fact, it should be built on them.
So it should be obvious that your messaging needs to align with [your mission, vision and values]. In fact, it should be built on them.
Ideally this will have been done before you embark on your messaging exercise, but if you’re one of those companies that hasn’t clearly spelled out your mission, vision and values, add those to your messaging exercise. The questions you asked to build your messaging will also help you discover these elements and flesh out this part of the process.
But what about the tagline
A tagline is a short, punchy expression of your messaging. As I’ve written previously, a tagline may not always make sense for a B2B tech company.
It’s not easy to create a brilliant tagline that lasts, and a tagline isn’t required to build a brand or long-term success. While you may want a catchy little phrase to capture hearts and minds, don’t expect to replicate what B2C brands do in this area.
That’s why I recommend focusing your efforts on the messaging framework first. Once you have that, you can spin your messaging framework into all kinds of creative applications that will be highly effective when combined with a unique voice and strong imagery. Think ‘advertising slogan’ for your next marketing campaign rather than a tagline that should last for years. And if you insist on going the tagline route, at least with the messaging done, the foundational pieces are in place.
Messaging is meant to be built on
Creating clear and compelling messages is hard — and it’s only the beginning. You need to align the words you choose with the right voice and visuals to have an impact. Once you have all the pieces, you can then move to building content and launching campaigns with great slogans that will truly propel your company forward.
If you need help creating your messaging, our B2B Messaging Bootcamp is open for enrollment. In this course, we’ll teach you a framework to create clear and compelling messages.