The Actionable Brand: Key Messages — What the Marketplace Must Know About Your Brand

Frank Cowell

Where would a company be without key messages to support its brand?

So far, we’ve looked inward to learn who we serve and why we serve them. We’ve identified the mental model or commercial concept of our brand; we’ve outlined our vision and objectives for the brand—we’ve even showed our employees how to live the brand by clearly articulating our company behaviors and beliefs.

Now that everyone is aligned and inspired, it’s time to focus externally and make sure we’re all singing from the same hymnal. It’s time to craft a handful of key messages the marketplace must know about our brand. These key messages tell the story of your brand, bringing your brand to life through words that can be delivered consistently by everyone on your team, anytime, anyplace.

The great part about this stage of the process is that it doesn’t have to be a lot of work. By engaging in The Actionable Brand process, you’ve already done most of the heavy lifting. You simply need to revisit previous aspects of The Actionable Brand to find the initial building blocks you’ll need.

For example, every company should have a key message around “What do you guys do?” To give your employees the tools they need to answer this inevitable question clearly and reliably, no matter what their role is or what setting they are in, you don’t have to look any further than your “mental model” and “behaviors and beliefs” for guidance. Armed with that information, you can create a 1-2 punch that gives a short, quick initial reply, and then provides ammunition for a more detailed response to one of the inevitable follow-ups: “What do you mean by that?” or “How do you do that?”

For example, Digitopia team member might use this 1-2 punch:

Q: “What do you guys do?”

A: “We’re a creative agency that helps companies create better brand experiences.”

Q: “What do you mean by that?” or “How do you do that?”

A: “We begin by looking at how to better align the brand’s entire platform with target audiences from brand language to brand identity to the website to collateral to offline experiences, and more. Once the platform is in place, we develop online engagement programs, then optimize them for maximum conversion and brand experience.”

Some other key message rules of thumb:

  • You don’t want to have too many key messages—4 to 6 are sufficient. Any more than that just complicates things. If you’re having trouble pairing them down, perhaps you need to revisit previous elements of The Actionable Brand.
  • Key messages should be concise and conversational. Avoid long explanations and especially avoid corporate speak by using words everyone knows and understands.
  • It’s okay for staff to memorize key messages verbatim—especially newcomers—as long as reciting them sounds natural.
  • Whenever possible, include messages that help establish memorable marketplace positions. Examples include “We were the first to…”, “We’re the largest…”, “We invented the…”, “We’re the only ones to…”, “We’re the safest…”, etc.
  • If your “why” is particularly interesting or inspirational, include it as a key message.
  • For companies with a large number of products, the point is to articulate your brand, not to create product specific messages. Take Amazon for example. It would be impossible for them to create key messages around each product  . . . and totally unnecessary. The Amazon brand isn’t about a particular product; it’s about connecting customers “with the best selection of products at the best prices and the best possible delivery methods.”

You might be surprised how many companies stumble at this critical step in the branding process. Too often, key messages get created at the top, only to stay there—the purview of senior management and marketing, never to leave the boardroom—which is ironic, really, considering key messages are what everyone needs to know most about your brand. You know a company has done a poor job communicating its key messages to staff when you ask 10 employees what the company does and you get 10 different answers. Now imagine how that must feel if you’re a customer (or a potential customer). It doesn’t necessarily make you overflow with confidence now, does it?

Don’t let this happen to you. Contact Digitopia today to explore how “The Actionable Brand” process can help pull all the elements of your branding efforts together.

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