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Brand Growth Requires a Solid Foundation
By: Jen Keefe
Build it With a Brand Messaging Architecture
Brand growth relies on successful business pitches with the right messaging for the listener. But if you were asked to pitch your business right now, what would you say? What if you had to make a pitch to someone else two days later? Would your pitch be the same? And, importantly, would someone else in your company give the same pitch or their own version?
What we’re driving at with these questions is the importance of consistent brand messaging as a foundation for successful brand growth. To build brand familiarity, trust, and loyalty, you need a defined approach to what your brand says (and how your brand says it), and we do this by creating a brand messaging architecture.
The Foundation: Brand Growth Starts with Messaging From the Ground Up
A brand messaging architecture is best thought of as a foundation for your brand growth.
As with a house, anything constructed without a solid foundation won’t stand the test of time. Your brand is the same way. The moment there are inconsistencies in your messaging, it can cause your audience to doubt your credibility and can make your competition suddenly look a lot more appealing.
One of the first steps we take as part of any brand development process is to create a brand messaging architecture to build that critical foundation. It’s a multi-step process that should always be highly focused on the key stakeholders within your organization and take into consideration your brand’s current external presence.
The goal is to create a living document that defines the most important aspects of your brand’s messaging, thus creating a foundation on which your brand can grow and scale. Having a single source of truth for your brand’s messaging also puts your entire organization on the same page, ensuring consistency across all target audience interactions.
Achieving Consensus About Your Brand Within Your Organization
It may surprise you (or maybe not), but company stakeholders aren’t always on the same page in terms of how they talk about the brand and what they believe the brand should communicate to its target audience.
For example, the CEO of an outdoor apparel manufacturing company may believe the primary brand message should be focused on the many different varieties of outdoor gear they can provide to their retail customers.
The CMO, on the other hand, feels strongly that the primary message should focus on their rapid production timeline, which allows them to get apparel into stores – and into consumers’ hands – faster than the industry standard.
Which company stakeholder is correct?
If you said “both”, you’d be right, which is why it’s so important to define your brand messaging, and determine which messages are “primary”, and which are “secondary.” Elevating one message over another isn’t just a matter of preference, either. Marketing agencies like Fishnet apply strategy and research to help you understand the best messaging direction for your brand. That way, this example apparel manufacturing company would know what matters more to their retail customers – the variety of the inventory, or the speed, and could focus on that differentiator as their primary brand message.
Continuing with this apparel manufacturer example, let’s look at the brand messaging architecture development process if this company were to work with Fishnet.
Developing Your Brand Messaging Architecture
- Get all key stakeholders together and all opinions on the table. When in doubt, talk it out, right? We facilitate open discussions that get everyone talking about the brand, with the goal of getting everyone on the same page about which messages should bubble up to the top. These discussions include brand messaging exercises to help stakeholders identify words and images that correlate with – or are antithetical to– brand growth.
- Conduct individual interviews with stakeholders, partners, and customers. Nothing is more telling than a candid conversation with people who are involved in different ways with your brand. It’s critically helpful to hear what the COO thinks the perception of the brand is versus what an actual customer’s perception is. Hearing about direct brand experiences is extremely valuable and not something stakeholders often have access to without conducting a dedicated survey effort. If customers leave reviews or provide feedback, those can be helpful, but one-on-one interviews provide a deeper understanding of brand perception and identify gaps that can be addressed in your brand messaging architecture.
- Assess the competition to ensure your brand’s messaging stands apart. Your brand’s approach to messaging should be well-informed by competitive research. This step is where you validate that your differentiating value is truly different, and how you ensure your brand doesn’t sound like everyone else in your industry.
Keep in mind that for the purposes of this blog post, we’re talking only about brand messaging. Each step mentioned above also plays a role in creating a brand’s identity, which is another aspect of the brand development process that carries equally important weight.
Applying the Research to Create a Brand Messaging Architecture
The three aforementioned steps all inform the creation of your brand messaging architecture. The architecture is essentially a hierarchical framework that clearly defines different aspects of your brand. While the messaging architecture is intended only for internal use, it is crucial for informing the external messaging you create for your brand.
The components of a brand messaging architecture include:
- Mission Statement: Why does your business exist? What do you do and why should people care?
- Vision Statement: In an idealized view of the world, what is your brand’s long-term purpose?
- Target Audience: Define your primary, secondary, and (if applicable) tertiary audiences, their pain points, and specific messaging for each group.
- Brand Positioning Statement: What is the differentiating value your brand offers to your target audience?
- Competitive Positioning Statement: What is the differentiating value your brand offers that sets you apart from the competition?
- Brand Personality: What are the human characteristics of your brand that are exuded during audience interactions?
- Brand Essence: What feelings or emotions does your brand exude during audience interactions?
- Brand Voice: How does your brand speak? Are you humorous? Professional? Scientific?
- Elevator Pitch: How would you describe your brand’s value in a minute or less?
Consistent presentation of a brand has been shown to increase revenues by 33%.
It should be clear to see how the components of your messaging architecture truly create a solid framework for your brand. When you train salespeople, onboard new hires, or have to answer the question of what your company is all about, this architecture ensures you deliver a consistent brand message.
The External Face of Your Brand: Message AND Identity
As mentioned, the brand messaging architecture is intended to be internally facing to get everyone thinking and talking about your brand in a consistent fashion. But, like with the elevator pitch, the brand messaging architecture serves as a solid guide for externally-facing messaging, whether that’s website copy, sales materials, thought leadership content, or other brand assets.
If you’re concerned about the time, effort, or cost of developing any aspect of your brand, there are two things to keep in mind: working with an agency takes a significant amount of time and effort off your company’s plate and ensures a quality output that will move your brand forward; and, simply, it’s smart.
A recent study from McKinsey & Company found that companies that invest in branding not only out-perform those that don’t but enjoy on average a 245% higher return to shareholders.
And your brand identity plays an enormous role in delivering a consistent experience – and in generating a brand guide that will serve as the go-to resource for your brand’s look and feel. You’re halfway to learning the most important elements of every brand development process.
Want some help getting your key stakeholders on the same page about your brand? We can help. Contact us today to start a conversation.
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