Brand messaging: How to develop it + examples to inspire you

Brand messaging: How to develop it + examples to inspire you

Brand messaging: How to develop it + examples to inspire you

Brand messaging: How to develop it + examples to inspire you

Gigi Griffis

Content Strategist
Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” But when it comes to talking about our businesses, that’s not always entirely true.

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Telling the simple story of our products, services, and businesses isn’t just a matter of understanding how and why those products, services, and businesses work.

It’s a matter of understanding what our audience needs to know about the product, service, and/or business and at what stage of the sales funnel they need to know it. This is why developing strong brand messaging is so tricky—and so important.

What is brand messaging?

First, to be clear,

It includes:

  • Your core messages, such as your mission and vision
  • The language you use to get those main messages across
  • Your brand story
  • Your signature brand voice and personality
  • Your unique value proposition and brand pillars

Unlike marketing messages—which are more directly promotional and can change depending on your target audience’s demographic, for example—brand messaging is consistent.

No wonder it has a lot to do with making your company (and the content it produces) recognizable and memorable.

How to create a brand messaging framework

Just in case you’re amid your own brand messaging conundrums, here’s a simple look at how to start defining and developing your messaging.

1. Start with discovery

As with any other content strategy project, the starting point for brand messaging development is discovery. During discovery, you’ll want to, at a minimum:

  • Review internal and external business assets (from brochures and websites to company-wide memos and sales decks).
  • Interview key stakeholders to understand how they think and talk about the business, its customers, its values, and what they love and hate about the current messaging.
  • Review available data and customer feedback to understand what customers find compelling and how they understand the brand story.
  • Check out the assets of top competitors.

And, if you really want to rock your messaging project, here are a couple of ways to dig deeper:

  • Sit in on a sales pitch or call, noting key selling points, customer questions, hesitations, and storyline.
  • Review outside assets that are written by or for your target audience. (For example, targeting travel bloggers? Search their blogs for content about your industry. Want to reach foodies? Review the language they use to describe restaurants on Yelp.)

When it comes to telling your story to clients, it’s important to keep it simple. But when it comes to messaging development discovery, there’s no such thing as too much information. Review, interview, audit, and read as much as possible within budget, timeline, and reason. And while you’re sifting through the assets and interviews, don’t forget to take tons of notes and highlight important points, recurring themes, and critical language along the way.

2. Use a brand messaging development template

After discovery, create a basic outline of your product, service, or business story. Try to keep it to three to five key points with supporting information. These will be your brand pillars.

If you’re unsure which messages are key to your brand, focus on the what, why, and how: What do you do? Why does it matter? And how do you get it done?

Still stuck? Try answering these questions in a succinct way, and your key messages might start to take shape:

  • Why does your product or service matter? Or what problem are you trying to solve?
  • What is it that you do to solve that problem?
  • How do you do it?
  • Who cares?
  • What should users or customers do next?

Additionally, brainstorm differentiators. What sets your product, service, or brand apart from competitors or alternatives?

Answering these questions should yield the makings of a:

  • Mission statement: The purpose of your business and what you hope to accomplish.
  • Vision statement: The larger impact you hope to make through your work.
  • Brand promise: A customer-facing statement that describes the value your business offers to users or customers.
  • Brand positioning statement: An overview of the category your business competes in, what you do, and how you solve your target audience’s problems in a different or better way than competitors.

3. Define how you’ll communicate your message  

Once you know your key messages or points, your next task is to figure out how to communicate them. This stage of the process is really about:

  • Honing the messages
  • Ensuring your voice fits with your brand personality
  • Matching your language choices to the way your customers think and talk about you
Template For Key Messages
How key messages can be organized and explained simply

During this stage, I often write out my three to five key messages, write a sample sentence or paragraph explaining each message, and list key phrases relevant to that message. This helps stakeholders understand the context and what a message might look like on the page—and it helps authors understand how to communicate your messaging.

Brand messaging examples from top brands

If you need some inspiration for your own messaging to help you through this process, it can be helpful to analyze what other companies are doing. Let’s look at how some top brands are approaching brand messaging.

Nike

First up, there’s Nike, which does a great job of highlighting its brand values with the famous “just do it” tagline.

Example of Nike Brand Messaging
Nike maintains a consistent message, voice, and style across its communications

However, those core values, which center around inspiring people to take action, aren’t just used in its tagline. They’re carried throughout Nike’s messaging, creating a distinct, recognizable, and consistent voice for the company.

Apple

Another global favorite, Apple is among the most innovative brands of our time. Remember the “think different” slogan?

Example of Apple Brand Messaging
Apple’s messaging centers on innovation, abundance, and how both empower its users

As with Nike, Apple applies the “think different” angle and concept to all of its messaging, positioning its products as the future of technology and/or ways to gain power and status.  

Chipotle

As its motto “food with integrity” highlights, Chipotle’s core message centers on the quality and ethical production of its food.

Example of Chipotle Brand Messaging
Chipotle uses repetition and a distinct brand voice to reinforce its core message

Across its website, ads, and other communications, the brand strategically uses repetition of certain words such as “real,” along with a consistently down-to-earth (or real) brand voice to reinforce the message.  

Where to use your messaging

Once you have your messaging in place, your language perfected, and your storyline honed, the next step is to put that messaging to practical use by including it in:

  • Elevator pitches
  • Your tagline
  • Sales pitches or presentations
  • Ad concepts
  • Your homepage and other website content
  • Social media content
  • Everywhere that you communicate about your business

For an initial messaging project, it’s usually a good idea to create one or two of these assets from the messaging and include at least one round of revisions after stakeholders have seen how the messaging works within your assets. Reading a list of key points can be a very different experience from hearing an elevator pitch or reading a marketing concept, even though the key points are included.

Start your brand messaging strategy project!

Now all that’s left to do is start your project. When it comes to messaging, remember to:

  • Keep it simple
  • Answer the what, why, and hows
  • And flesh out your messaging document with examples, key phrases, and real asset language to give your authors and stakeholders a deeper understanding of what the final product should look like

Once you do this, you can use GatherContent to share your messaging guidelines with everyone involved in content production or reviews.

Sharing Messaging Guidelines in GatherContent
Provide reminders for contributors in GatherContent, along with links to full messaging guidelines

For example, you can link to the guidelines in your custom content templates or even add the most important reminders as checklists for assignees to work from for the sake of compliance.

This will ensure that your brand messaging strategy work doesn’t go to waste and that everyone is on the same page about what your core message is and how to present it to your target audience.

Good to Know: If you haven’t already, get signed up for a free trial of GatherContent today!

Telling the simple story of our products, services, and businesses isn’t just a matter of understanding how and why those products, services, and businesses work.

It’s a matter of understanding what our audience needs to know about the product, service, and/or business and at what stage of the sales funnel they need to know it. This is why developing strong brand messaging is so tricky—and so important.

What is brand messaging?

First, to be clear,

It includes:

  • Your core messages, such as your mission and vision
  • The language you use to get those main messages across
  • Your brand story
  • Your signature brand voice and personality
  • Your unique value proposition and brand pillars

Unlike marketing messages—which are more directly promotional and can change depending on your target audience’s demographic, for example—brand messaging is consistent.

No wonder it has a lot to do with making your company (and the content it produces) recognizable and memorable.

How to create a brand messaging framework

Just in case you’re amid your own brand messaging conundrums, here’s a simple look at how to start defining and developing your messaging.

1. Start with discovery

As with any other content strategy project, the starting point for brand messaging development is discovery. During discovery, you’ll want to, at a minimum:

  • Review internal and external business assets (from brochures and websites to company-wide memos and sales decks).
  • Interview key stakeholders to understand how they think and talk about the business, its customers, its values, and what they love and hate about the current messaging.
  • Review available data and customer feedback to understand what customers find compelling and how they understand the brand story.
  • Check out the assets of top competitors.

And, if you really want to rock your messaging project, here are a couple of ways to dig deeper:

  • Sit in on a sales pitch or call, noting key selling points, customer questions, hesitations, and storyline.
  • Review outside assets that are written by or for your target audience. (For example, targeting travel bloggers? Search their blogs for content about your industry. Want to reach foodies? Review the language they use to describe restaurants on Yelp.)

When it comes to telling your story to clients, it’s important to keep it simple. But when it comes to messaging development discovery, there’s no such thing as too much information. Review, interview, audit, and read as much as possible within budget, timeline, and reason. And while you’re sifting through the assets and interviews, don’t forget to take tons of notes and highlight important points, recurring themes, and critical language along the way.

2. Use a brand messaging development template

After discovery, create a basic outline of your product, service, or business story. Try to keep it to three to five key points with supporting information. These will be your brand pillars.

If you’re unsure which messages are key to your brand, focus on the what, why, and how: What do you do? Why does it matter? And how do you get it done?

Still stuck? Try answering these questions in a succinct way, and your key messages might start to take shape:

  • Why does your product or service matter? Or what problem are you trying to solve?
  • What is it that you do to solve that problem?
  • How do you do it?
  • Who cares?
  • What should users or customers do next?

Additionally, brainstorm differentiators. What sets your product, service, or brand apart from competitors or alternatives?

Answering these questions should yield the makings of a:

  • Mission statement: The purpose of your business and what you hope to accomplish.
  • Vision statement: The larger impact you hope to make through your work.
  • Brand promise: A customer-facing statement that describes the value your business offers to users or customers.
  • Brand positioning statement: An overview of the category your business competes in, what you do, and how you solve your target audience’s problems in a different or better way than competitors.

3. Define how you’ll communicate your message  

Once you know your key messages or points, your next task is to figure out how to communicate them. This stage of the process is really about:

  • Honing the messages
  • Ensuring your voice fits with your brand personality
  • Matching your language choices to the way your customers think and talk about you
Template For Key Messages
How key messages can be organized and explained simply

During this stage, I often write out my three to five key messages, write a sample sentence or paragraph explaining each message, and list key phrases relevant to that message. This helps stakeholders understand the context and what a message might look like on the page—and it helps authors understand how to communicate your messaging.

Brand messaging examples from top brands

If you need some inspiration for your own messaging to help you through this process, it can be helpful to analyze what other companies are doing. Let’s look at how some top brands are approaching brand messaging.

Nike

First up, there’s Nike, which does a great job of highlighting its brand values with the famous “just do it” tagline.

Example of Nike Brand Messaging
Nike maintains a consistent message, voice, and style across its communications

However, those core values, which center around inspiring people to take action, aren’t just used in its tagline. They’re carried throughout Nike’s messaging, creating a distinct, recognizable, and consistent voice for the company.

Apple

Another global favorite, Apple is among the most innovative brands of our time. Remember the “think different” slogan?

Example of Apple Brand Messaging
Apple’s messaging centers on innovation, abundance, and how both empower its users

As with Nike, Apple applies the “think different” angle and concept to all of its messaging, positioning its products as the future of technology and/or ways to gain power and status.  

Chipotle

As its motto “food with integrity” highlights, Chipotle’s core message centers on the quality and ethical production of its food.

Example of Chipotle Brand Messaging
Chipotle uses repetition and a distinct brand voice to reinforce its core message

Across its website, ads, and other communications, the brand strategically uses repetition of certain words such as “real,” along with a consistently down-to-earth (or real) brand voice to reinforce the message.  

Where to use your messaging

Once you have your messaging in place, your language perfected, and your storyline honed, the next step is to put that messaging to practical use by including it in:

  • Elevator pitches
  • Your tagline
  • Sales pitches or presentations
  • Ad concepts
  • Your homepage and other website content
  • Social media content
  • Everywhere that you communicate about your business

For an initial messaging project, it’s usually a good idea to create one or two of these assets from the messaging and include at least one round of revisions after stakeholders have seen how the messaging works within your assets. Reading a list of key points can be a very different experience from hearing an elevator pitch or reading a marketing concept, even though the key points are included.

Start your brand messaging strategy project!

Now all that’s left to do is start your project. When it comes to messaging, remember to:

  • Keep it simple
  • Answer the what, why, and hows
  • And flesh out your messaging document with examples, key phrases, and real asset language to give your authors and stakeholders a deeper understanding of what the final product should look like

Once you do this, you can use GatherContent to share your messaging guidelines with everyone involved in content production or reviews.

Sharing Messaging Guidelines in GatherContent
Provide reminders for contributors in GatherContent, along with links to full messaging guidelines

For example, you can link to the guidelines in your custom content templates or even add the most important reminders as checklists for assignees to work from for the sake of compliance.

This will ensure that your brand messaging strategy work doesn’t go to waste and that everyone is on the same page about what your core message is and how to present it to your target audience.

Good to Know: If you haven’t already, get signed up for a free trial of GatherContent today!

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About the author

Gigi Griffis

Gigi is a content strategist and web writer specializing in travel, technology, education, non-profit, and wellness content. In 2010, she quit her agency job and started Content for Do-Gooders, where she helps clients solve messy content problems around the world. You should follow her on Twitter.

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