So you’ve decided your brand needs a refresh. Along with the common elements you might expect to update – logo, colors and taglines – we will also recommend taking a look at your brand messaging. While the idea of new or updated messaging sounds exciting, we find that oftentimes, our clients do not know exactly what they will receive from us when they sign on for a messaging project.

We can’t say we blame them. While we know at a high level that brand messaging helps you tell your organization’s story in a clear, concise way that speaks to your target audiences, it’s not always clear what brand messaging includes.

Today, we’re shedding light on exactly what we mean when we talk about brand messaging. In branding exercises, we refer to four different elements that make up a brand. Combined, these help guide messaging and ensure that all communications are easily understood and consistent:

1) Brand Promise

Sometimes called a tagline, this is the element of brand messaging that people are most familiar. It is Nike’s “just do it”, L’Oreal’s “because you’re worth it”, Apple’s “think different”. We prefer to call it a “brand promise” because it’s not just a catchy slogan; its purpose is to promise your audience something.

A good brand promise should be short, memorable and transferrable, and it should make a statement about the value the brand offers its audience. 

2) Brand Essence

Your brand essence is a set of key elements or phrases that capture the heart of the brand and what it offers. The brand essence is meant to capture some of the emotional elements of your brand or some of your organization’s values. It helps you understand what makes you different and what experience you want your customers or supporters to have.

Think about some of the brands you know and love. Don’t they bring up certain connotations?  Luxury. Adventure. Quality. Warmth. Hospitality. Tradition. Chances are you can feel these qualities, even if the company never states them outright. This is brand essence.

Your brand essence will not necessarily be published publicly, but identifying it through brand messaging exercises is essential to understanding who you are and what experience you deliver to your customers. This essence should inform key messages, marketing copy and even visuals, to make sure you’re portraying the emotions and values of your brand.

3) Positioning Statement

Your positioning statement is a one- to two-sentence statement that describes your target audiences, the unique way you serve the market and your unique value promise. From just this statement, your audience should be able to understand at a high level what you do and who you serve. Ask yourself:

  • What audiences do we serve?
  • What do we provide those audiences?
  • What makes us different?

Within the answers to those questions lies your positioning statement. Every single person in your organization should be able to recite this statement if asked.

4) Overview Statement

Your go-to “elevator pitch”, the overview statement is a longer version of the positioning statement. It often begins with the positioning statement and elaborates to provide more information. While the positioning statement might simply point to the end result of what your brand offers, the overview statement can provide more insight into how your brand operates, your approach, specific services you offer or even logistical information such as locations. Overview statements are typically no more than a paragraph long and can be found on the About page of websites, at the beginning of marketing brochures, at the end of press releases and pretty much anywhere you need a quick descriptor of your organization.

Brand messaging certainly doesn’t end there. As it’s applied, it takes new life, being able to speak to various target audiences through key messaging and pieces designed specifically for them. However, laying the foundation is critical to making sure you portray your brand accurately, consistently and in a way audiences can connect with.

One of the biggest challenges organizations we work with face is not having clear messaging. They might be doing amazing work, but if they’re telling their story in a disjointed way or not telling their story at all, the impact is lost. We encourage you to spend time thinking about, discussing and formalizing the four brand elements above. It can make all the difference in how you connect with and reach others.

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