What constitutes effective brand messaging? Why do some brands stand out more than others in their market?
Advertising legend David Ogilvy long ago offered this piece of advice regarding messaging: “Clearly define your positioning: What and for Who?” Even Mad Men’s fictional Don Draper offered recommendations, including these two:
- "Make it simple, but significant."
- "Success comes from standing out. Not fitting in."
Branding, corporate reputation, and messaging experts offer several handfuls of words they believe define effective brand messaging. The three M’s - Measurable, Meaningful, and Memorable, usually appear on every list.
On any given day, and depending upon who is offering the advice, you’ll also hear that brand messaging needs to be differentiated, distinct, consistent, or convey leadership. You’ll hear a consensus about using simple language. Or you may even hear that an effective message is one that is repeated by your stakeholders. Let’s take a look at six companies that do a great job of having effective brand messaging.
Brands that Endure, Evolve, and Strengthen Over Time
In the interest of keeping things fresh, we’re focusing on examples that maintained a sustainable competitive advantage through their messaging, even while going through change or encountering interesting or distinctive challenges through the years.
Distinctive positioning, daring strategy, and demonstration of leadership are all used to remake a brand.
Simply stated, Dove uses an emotive approach to differentiate itself in the beauty space by focusing on real people – and how they can love the way they look. In contrast, many competitors of Dove will tell you that if you use their products, you, too, eventually can look like celebrity A or B or like generic “perfect” person.
For half a century, Dove achieved success with a positioning tied to the fact that its products were mild on your skin. Fifteen years ago, however, the brand was reinvented with a “real beauty” campaign targeted to females; not actresses or models, but instead real women of various sizes, shapes, and ages - the real beauty of the real world.
The company also extended its brand positioning into issues of women’s empowerment. One particularly effective program was #ShowUs, designed to increase the representation of real women in media and other marketing channels. Dove was able to take a unique position and build messaging that resonated with their target audience, making them one of the top beauty brands on the market.
Customer service. Low prices. A flight attendant throwing you a bag of peanuts. Visceral, emotional, love it or hate it, that’s Southwest. And those feelings are the embodiment of successful branding.
If you’ve ever flown Southwest, you probably have a pretty accurate perception of the company’s brand messaging. Some of that, of course, is due to years of heavy-duty television advertising. But, even if you’ve never seen a Southwest commercial, simply boarding and taking off on a Southwest flight gives you a clear understanding of this company’s brand.
Since 2015, when Southwest introduced its Transfarency program, there has been a focus on telling customer-centric stories. Those stories, Southwest’s unique differentiators, and a positive user experience on their website, underscore why the company is viewed in a differentiated way by stakeholders.
Salesforce has been around for decades and, in fact, was one of the first to make a name for themselves in the CRM market. Their claim: The company’s CRM solution makes it easier for companies to become customer-focused through better information and connections, more efficient operations, and more personalized services.
Salesforce also scored big, right out of the gate, with its “no software” message and, especially its red-and-white circular graphic with the diagonal cross-out line running through the word “software.”
Their “no software” message is still important today because it vividly illustrates three competitive advantages regularly cited by experts.
- The first is that it distinguished (and distinguishes) the company from its competition.
- The second: Salesforce communicated what was important to customers and, despite the fact that it isn’t alone in its SaaS and cloud offering, it effectively owns the message and the positioning.
- The third is that the “no-software” graphic depiction of the brand is memorable – and has been for years and years.
[image via Forbes]
Newer Brands that are Making Waves with Messaging
There are more new brands from the last few years than we can count, let alone cover in this article, but let's dive into a few recent examples that are doing well with unique messaging.
The online bedding company, Brooklinen, has experienced significant growth and recognition by utilizing a distinctive voice and inviting tone. An immersive subway campaign in Brooklyn featured memorable and clever wall messaging (Sheet, Yeah and Best. Sheets. Ever.), while internet advertising embraced an inviting, “here’s-a-big-hug” tone, including use of thematic winners such as:
- Thick, lush, and crazy-soft – messaging that enables you to feel and experience
- No middlemen, no luxury mark-ups, just good sheets – simple, easy to understand, you know what it means
- Let’s be friends– clever, catchy, nothing to do with the product, special relationship
- The ingredients of a great night’s sleep – clever, easy to understand, personal
- Softest Sheets You’ve Slept In – assertion of leadership, personal, emotive
Brooklinen’s achievements are noteworthy as the company has carved out a strong and unique positioning in a very crowded online industry. In fact, they’re known as “the internet’s favorite sheets.”
In the past decade, marketers and communicators largely have embraced “storytelling” as a concept that brings together branding, messaging, and product/corporate narratives. Crowd-funded Kickstarter, an online funding platform for creative projects, is the epitome of this notion as actual storytelling (the stories that users bring to its platform) -- and user empowerment -- is the story.
Kickstarter’s message, to bring creative projects to life, is illustrated effectively in many ways, including co-founder Perry Chen’s own narrative about the trials and tribulations involved in getting the company off the ground in the first place. The decision to reincorporate in 2015 as a Benefit Corporation also clearly reverberates with stakeholders as the company has a legal obligation to consider the impact of its decisions on society – and not just shareholders.
Finally, if the users’ stories are the brand message then, so too, are the sheer numbers: $4.7 billion pledged to Kickstarter projects and 168,072 successfully funded projects.
Talk about a really simple product story. Spindrift soft drinks contain just two ingredients: water and fresh-squeezed fruit or vegetable juice.
And that’s why the “Yup, That’s It!” message on its cans, bottles, and campaigns are so good.
It’s simple. It’s real. It’s honest. And it’s a clever and creative use of both humor and information to differentiate the brand from water competitors.
Spindrift speaks simply but clearly. Real Fruit. Real Good. You always are aware that there are just two ingredients.
Even the colors on the cans and bottle evoke real fruit.
Companies, both old and new, are conquering their markets with messaging that stands out. Their messaging speaks to their target customers and differentiates them from their competition. If you’re looking to refresh your messaging, follow in the footsteps of these great brands to craft messaging that will make you stand out in your market.