It’s not easy to tell a brand’s story well. Any time you’ve ever looked at a company’s website, brochure, or advertisement and wondered what they were actually selling or why you should buy it, you’ve experienced firsthand how difficult it can be to do a good job of brand messaging. In an era when we’re bombarded with all kinds of information across many different platforms, it’s important for companies in every industry to develop a solid brand messaging framework and implement it effectively throughout their marketing and sales. Doing so ensures that consistent messages, featuring similar keywords, taglines and value statements, will be delivered to key audiences.
In this article, we explain how to use brand pillars as part of a strong framework — and a better brand architecture.
Key Elements of Brand Messaging
A brand messaging framework clearly and concisely explains a brand’s products and services and how they stand out or are differentiated from others in the marketplace. Brand messaging should answer the fundamental questions, “Why do we exist?” and “Why should someone purchase our product or use our service?”
Brand messaging typically includes the following elements:
- Mission and Vision — A simple statement summarizing your company’s purpose and future goals primarily for internal use to motivate and focus employees. The remaining brand messaging elements should be in harmony with and support your company’s mission and vision.
- Target Audience — Specific group(s) of consumers who most likely to want your product or service. For each audience, you need to define what they should know, feel and do after interacting with your brand.
- Value Proposition — Quick, high-level summary of why your customer should buy from you.
- Brand Pillars — Three fundamental values or “pillars” that support your value proposition and help your company stand out among competitors.
- Features — What your product or service does, including unique selling points.
- Positioning Statement — One concise sentence explaining what your brand does for whom and why. (See our article on Brand Positioning: How to Look Different in a Sea of Sameness.)
- Tagline — A very short (10 words or less) but sweet phrase that concisely conveys your brand’s promise and inspires your customers. (See our articles on The Anatomy of a Great Tagline and The Psychology of Slogans.)
Elevator Pitch — A brief introduction of yourself, your company, and what you offer. It should express one or two key points and take no more than the amount of time you would typically spend on an elevator with someone (~20 to 30 seconds).
In the process of developing your brand messaging framework, it may be helpful to conduct a competitive analysis. In our experience, it’s best to develop your tagline and elevator pitch after you’ve formulated the rest of your brand messaging. That way, you can draw inspiration from the other elements and ensure tight alignment.
Create Your Brand Messaging Framework
The first step in creating a brand messaging framework is to invite key stakeholders to collaborate. Include visionary top-level executives and leaders of your marketing, sales, tech, and customer support teams. Each will bring a different yet valuable perspective.
But be careful not to involve too many people, or you’ll never get through important first steps like defining your company’s mission, value proposition and brand pillars. Don’t worry, you can still involve everyone later as you eventually share your brand messaging throughout your company and inevitably refine it.
We suggest having your stakeholders work together to complete our Brand Messaging Framework template. To help you understand how to use the worksheet, let’s complete the template for a fictitious life science brand — in this case, a product brand known as the X-Derm Microneedle Administration System.
Vision + Mission
Notice that the Vision/Mission block runs down the entire length of the messaging framework. That’s because these elements should relate to and harmonize with all of the other messages. When writing these statements, remember that Vision refers to a destination you can see on the horizon; it’s where you want to go. Mission refers to the path you must take to make it to that point on the horizon; it’s how you get there.
Here are the statements for our X-Derm brand:
|To be recognized as the world leader in pain-free vaccinations.|
|We will innovate microneedle technology and pursue direct-to-patient channels to ensure confidence in our products.|
A tagline is a creative expression of your brand messaging. It should reflect your vision, mission and/or positioning, but in a clever, memorable way. It can be written first or after other messaging elements. As we mentioned earlier, developing your tagline last allows you to draw inspiration from the messages it must reflect.
Here is the tagline for our X-Derm brand:
|Pain-free. Potent response. Patient-centric.|
A value proposition (or value prop for short) is a simple statement of “what’s in it for them,” where the “them” refers to your customers. The value prop should convey the benefits delivered to your customers in a high-level narrative.
Here is the value prop for our X-Derm brand:
|Fear of needles is a significant barrier to vaccination rates around the world. By some estimates, 10 percent of adults and 25 percent of children fear needles and, as a result, skip or delay receiving much-needed vaccinations. The X-Derm Microneedle Administration System (MAS) addresses this issue by delivering life-saving medicines, vaccines and therapeutics to patients — without the need for painful injections.|
Positioning is how you differentiate yourself in the market, so customers can draw a distinction between your brand and the brands of your competitors. This differentiation is summarized in a positioning statement and should reflect your value proposition. A positioning statement is a single sentence, but it has a specific format with six parts:
- Identification of the target consumer
- Problem or need of the consumer
- Definition of the offering
- Category of offering
- Brand promise (emotional or rational benefit)
- Compelling evidence why customers should believe that promise
Here is the positioning statement for our X-Derm brand:
|For patients who avoid vaccinations because they fear needles, the X-Derm Microneedle Administration System is the only injectable system that uses nature-inspired microneedles to penetrate the skin effectively, but with absolutely no pain, making it possible to receive critical protection against viral- and bacterial-borne diseases.|
Brand pillars should reflect the three to six most important themes, benefits or selling points that make your brand unique. They are the proof points that support the claims inherent in the value prop and positioning statement. Each pillar should have a single overarching theme followed by supporting arguments.
Here are the pillars for our X-Derm brand:
|Nature-Inspired Innovation||Revolutionary Delivery System||Pain-Free Administration, Powerful Response|
|SUPPORTING POINT||SUPPORTING POINT||SUPPORTING POINT|
|The X-Derm needles were inspired by the design of a mosquito’s proboscis, a six-needle system that efficiently and painlessly pierces skin.
Our solid microneedles are strong enough to penetrate the dense stratum corneum, yet they dissolve rapidly in the patient’s dermis. The tips of the needles carry a freeze-dried form of medicine, requiring no refrigeration.
|The X-Derm Vaccination Wand™ is truly magical. Featuring a design that reflects extensive human factors testing, our wand can safely apply patches with rapid patient turnaround times.
Our patch is engineered with an innovative non-interacting plastic that features the industry’s lowest extractables and leachables profile. It will not degrade or alter the chemistry of API.
|A large number of people refuse to get vaccinated for fear of needles and the associated pain. The microneedles used in the X-Derm MAS are so small they cause no pain.
The skin is designed to mount a rapid immune response, so transdermal vaccinations are more effective than intramuscular injections, leading to better and longer-lasting protection.
The elevator pitch is a longer narrative that builds on all of the messaging and allows you to tell a cohesive brand story that connects all of the dots. It should be a short paragraph, perhaps four to seven sentences (i.e., just enough info to speak out loud on an elevator trip between floors).
Here is the elevator pitch for our X-Derm brand:
|The X-Derm Microneedle Administration System (MAS) is the breakthrough platform that makes it possible to deliver life-saving medicines, vaccines and therapeutics to patients — without the need for painful injections. At the heart of X-Derm is our patented solid microneedle design. The needles are carried on a patch, and the patch is adhered to the skin using the X-Derm Vaccination Wand™.
With the X-Derm MAS, pharmaceutical companies and biomanufacturers have a viable delivery platform that protects the integrity of API while allowing the medicine to be delivered painlessly across the skin, triggering a rapid, robust immune response.
From Brand Messaging Framework to Useful Copy
Ok, so you and your stakeholders worked hard to come up with your brand messaging framework. Now what?
It’s time to start using your messages in real-world content. The messages may end up in your marketing campaigns, social media, landing pages, blog posts, newsletters, podcasts, press releases, video scripts, advertisements, sales training, and even general employee training. They’ll give your copywriters go-to wording upon which they can build and expound to suit the specific audiences and mediums for which they are writing.
We don’t mean you should use these key messages verbatim everywhere. Of course, you’ll have to modify wording for each platform because you’re not going to say, for example, the exact same thing the exact same way in a lengthy blog post or whitepaper as you would say in a Google digital ad or a Twitter post.
The good news is that if you formulated your brand messaging well, it will provide strategic guidance AND inspire your content creators. Everyone on your team will be able to clearly articulate the who, what, and how of your brand in a simple, yet memorable way. In the end, it’ll also help you help your customers differentiate who your brand is and why you’re better.
Refine and Reexamine Your Brand Messaging
Developing your brand architecture is an iterative process. Take several initial passes through your brand messaging framework, then refine it until you get buy-in from key stakeholders. How fast you move through this process depends on the duration and frequency of stakeholder meetings. Beware of trying to hurry through the process too quickly and allow sufficient time between meetings for reflection and changes in perspective, especially when it comes to key elements like selecting and defining your brand value proposition and brand pillars.
After initially formulating your brand messaging, step back, take a deep breath, and promise yourself not to get too attached to it. Change is inevitable within your marketplace, in your company, and among your customers.
We suggest revisiting your brand messaging framework annually, perhaps during whatever period of the year your business is the quietest. Take time to reflect, revise, and optimize your brand messaging to set your company up to make the most of its next peak period. Don’t worry, you’re not starting from scratch every year; you’re usually just making small but important tweaks to reflect how your business is doing and the feedback you’ve been getting from your customers.
Brand Better, Earn More
When you tell your brand story well — that’s concisely, powerfully, and consistently — across all channels, your customers understand who you are, what you do, and how and why you’re different and better. And that translates into more and better sales and profitability.
To learn more about how you can establish a thriving brand messaging framework for your company, check out Cobalt’s services, then contact us today to get started.