Brand messaging clarity drives effectiveness
What’s the one thing we know about humans that must be factored into the creation of effective brand messaging? People refuse to tax their brains. You lose the audience with complicated messaging which involves too many elements to digest or is too indirect.
One of the most iconic fast food ad campaigns of all time was Wendy’s, ”Where’s the Beef?” The series mocked rival chains on the size of their burgers while setting up Wendy’s as the more generous option. The message was simple, memorable and unmistakable. It was a classic move that helped advance the Wendy’s brand in a highly competitive quick service restaurant race for share of mind and stomach.
Importantly, the Wendy’s messaging was simple and direct. It didn’t strain the viewer’s brain to understand the point. Clarity was delivered in such a simple, entertaining and memorable way that the ‘Where’s the Beef?’ query went the 1980’s-version of viral and became synonymous in our lexicon for anything disappointing or lacking substance.
More often than not, brand communication suffers from complexity. Errantly, marketers believe the persuasive argument is made more convincing with point after point. So, in an effort to prove superiority, a veritable stream of benefits gets ladled into the messaging platform.
In truth, the added verbiage becomes noise for that very reason. The audience is now required to drill down and sift through multiple pieces of information. Instead of engaging, consumers shut down and run for the exit.
Simple, clear, focused
We encounter this condition all too frequently. In the era of emerging food brands with elevated ingredients and better for you recipes the laundry list of copy points is an assault on the consumer’s attention span. In many cases we find the packaging from these nascent players is a firestorm of claims, founder stories and certifications. In effect, the consumer is challenged to study all of this to determine the point that’s relevant to them. Truth is, consumers are making decisions at the shelf in a second or two and may miss the “third bullet” that might resonate with them.
Meanwhile, on the business side, retailers are closely watching velocity performance for new brands to see if repeat purchase is on the upswing. Ironically the path to managing velocity begins with insight into what heavy users (frequent re-purchasers) believe they’re getting from the product – the ’why‘ of their continued buying behavior.
- This is a key message that should be the focus on packaging and any form of outbound communications or social strategy.
When we understand the ‘why,’ messaging can be simplified and focused, and thus an opening is provided to clean up the packaging and hone the marketing message.
Why does this matter so much to outcomes? Assuming the product already delivers on its eating experience promise, when the message is clear we achieve consumer engagement and memorability, the two decisive components of managing velocity performance.
This approach is respectful of what we know about the human predisposition to avoid taxing the brain. For example, if we determine that the best customers for a meat-based protein snack like a reformulated higher quality jerky are looking for a clean energy boost, then we know where to take the message.
What about clever?
Creative writers like to bring some artistry to the communication with the goal of being entertaining or as it’s often claimed, not boring. Again, if clever makes the message too indirect or vague, the audience will not engage. If clever and clarity can co-exist then it will work, but the acid test is always simple trumps complicated.
I’ve been writing copy for a long time so I can tell you this is harder than it looks. A website can be pretty and visually stunning, but if the words used aren’t direct about the product promise and the ‘why,’ it won’t matter.
We agonize over word choices here at Emergent for this very reason. This is why insight research is such an important component in building the messaging platform. The more we know about the consumer’s ‘why’ – the better the messaging will be.
Alignment is a potential pothole
Today’s skeptical consumer is less trusting and less likely to accept a brand’s assertions and promises at face value. This means that actions and behaviors by the company must align with the messaging promises being made. You have to walk like you talk. Deploying trusted voices of outside experts and real people to confirm what you convey is key to making this stick.
When the messaging is relevant and the point we wish to make is simple and clear, the consumer listens because they have found themselves in the story.
Where to go from here
Messaging should be examined through the consumer’s eyes rather than reflexively pulling from a self-promotion playbook.
We can help you optimize your messaging strategy for effectiveness and impact.
Here’s our three-step approach to messaging:
- Evaluate current messaging in the context of category competition
- Investigate the heavy user audience ’why‘ for purchase, and the critical problem you solve
- Apply this understanding to our messaging model that makes the consumer the hero of the story and the brand the guide
Rather than continue to experiment or wonder if the investments you’re making will secure customer engagement, let’s discuss your business priorities and messaging needs.
Said simply,Let’s talk!
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Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, the healthy living agency. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies. Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.