Keeping Your Message Straight

One of the challenges in branding is making certain your core promise is consistently communicated across your various target audiences. The downside of having your message go off strategy is that it gets diluted and contributes to the background noise rather than helping build your brand equity.

But, if your target audiences have unique needs, what sense does it make to have a single promise?

Branding is a Strategic Choice

Associating your brand with a single, compelling value proposition takes time and money. The challenge is deciding which point of differentiation makes the most business sense to focus on as your brand promise. The promise should be relevant (to your target audience), competitive and authentic. Typically, you have a number of attributes you could select from to define your brand promise. The discipline is in selecting the one point of difference that best positions your brand for success and by definition purposefully choosing to not focus on communicating the balance. Without such discipline, your promotional budget will likely not be sufficient to deliver reach and frequency levels required to establish your brand promise in the minds and hearts of your target audience.

Focusing on communicating a single brand promise is a strategic choice. Given its importance, it is a choice that is best made based on a true understanding of your target audiences needs, wants and desires as well as an objective assessment of the competitive options available.

Once the strategic choice is made, the messaging objective becomes to align your promotional efforts to consistently communicate the promise.

But, how do you ensure consistency when you have multiple target audiences? The key is to support the promise with meaningful reasons to believe the benefit as seen through the eyes of your target. A tool that that will help you do this is the communication matrix.

Communication Matrix – Case Study

Let’s take a look at a simplified, hypothetical case study to illustrate how the communication matrix works.

You are an economic development professional in a community that differentiates itself on the promise of “cost effective access to customers”.

PROMISE: Cost Effective Access to Customers

Target Audiences

Manufacturers Call Centers Entrepreneurs
Our community has a multimodal transportation center and support service makes it easy for your company to reach customers around the world. Our community provides access to a fiber optic line with bandwidth up to 38 Gbps. The University in our community has a special internship program that provides entrepreneurs with access to students with a focus on logistics to help create customized plans for your company.

Note, the promise remains consistent across all target audiences. But, the reason to believe the promise is customized so it is compelling to the specific target audience. The net take-away from promotion to any of the three target audiences is “cost effective access to customers”.

Discussion

While I appreciate the communication matrix is a relatively simple concept, I am amazed at how often it is ignored as a tool. Too frequently promotional campaigns are viewed in isolation and Agencies develop feature-based creative without consideration for the brand promise. They do market research to determine what feature turns-on the target group and use the numbers to justify their creative direction. Unfortunately, this approach ignores the over-arching brand promise strategic decision and leads to delivering different feature based messages to different audiences. In an attempt to stand for everything, your brand ends up standing for nothing.

One quick way to assess if you have fallen victim to this approach is to do a tabletop review of your promotion. It is as simple as the name suggests.  Take examples of the promotion you are investing the most money in and spread them out on a tabletop to evaluate (print copies of your electronic promotion for this exercise). Look across the promotion to determine if is communicating a single promise or a range of features. If the former, congratulations you have a cohesive branding effort. If the latter, consider having a discussion on whether branding is or isn’t important to your success.

Your Thoughts?

What is your experience? Were you surprised by the outcome of your tabletop exercise? Can you easily identify your brand promise and the reasons to believe that promise for your primary target audiences? What other approach have you found successful in helping keep your messaging consistant?

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4 Comments so far

  1. Brian Swinden

    May 14, 2012

    Focus first on internal branding. Communicate the brand message in various forms to your internal publics (including your agency, if you have one) – hammer it into their psyche. Then give them clear direction. By the time that is all done, you can probably put together a very consistent message and have it properly reinforced. Strong internal marketing communication will improve your brand communication consistency.

  2. […] brand is a promise. It must be relevant, competitive and authentic. It needs to be consistently communicated and delivered across all touch points. The Internal organization (company) is responsible for both […]

  3. […]   […]

  4. […] model. But, similarly I believe a single promise is required for a place brand. I also believe the benefit of that promise will look different depending on the strategic target you are looking to communicate with. Defining the promise and […]

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