Delivering a tight brand message is paramount to running a business, right?
But what is your brand message?
This question was flung my way on a podcast interview I was just on, and here’s how I answer it:
Your brand message is the WHAT you’re trying to communicate.
Your mission/vision/”why” statement is the —wait for it—WHY you’re trying to communicate.
Your tone and syntax is the HOW you communicate.
I hold my students’ hands through my Copywriting for Creatives course to teach them a process called brand messaging excavation, because I. totally. get. that figuring out how to do this can be a doozy.
‘Cause you want the perfect logo.
You want a gorgeous color palette.
You want a really pretty website.
But that’s a-hem, not your “branding.”
At least, that’s not ALL of it.
Your messaging and copy is the scaffolding upon which all those brand visuals sit—and if you haven’t hacked away at your messaging (i.e. can you tell me your mission, core values, elevator pitch, tagline if you’re into that sorta thing, unique selling proposition, positioning statement, etc.) … then you’ll be dead in the water when it comes to a saturated market.
Which I’m *guessing* you feel a little bit, right? I know I do sometimes!
The good news is that we can learn a LOT by looking at some creative entrepreneurs that have NAILED their brand message (and side-note: this gorgeous photo is from my friend Kaitlin at The School of Styling—another brand with a spot-on message!).
Truthfully, I’m pretty sure I could get an email from each of these ladies—and yes, they’re all clients because teach what you know, right?—and know exactly who sent what, even without reading the signature.
Their brand messaging is THAT distinct.
Let’s take a page from their books, deal? You’ll learn:
- Why you need to defind your brand voice on paper before writing it out on your website (or launching a course or product)
- A hat-trick about using your target audience’s most formative years
- The case for posting your core values
- How to find a gap and fill it
- Why you should turn your mess into a message
Oh—and if this strikes your fancy, find your brand voice with my free guide below! ????
Jenna Kutcher: Defines her brand voice on paper
Jenna’s been a business guardian angel to me … I *think* she’s aware, wink.
It’s hard to tell you I’ve watched Jenna’s business explode this past year, because as most of us would say, it’s been exploding for a few years (and if you’re a photographer, look out for her signature The Photo Lab course, which is the best marketing course for photographers I’ve seen [and I tend to stalk courses].).
But seeing this entrepreneur grow a team—enough to take a month sabbatical for the first time in 5 years, and then another 3 week one a few months later—reckons the truth: she’s been a mastermind of disseminating her brand message no matter the outlet, and being sharp enough to communicate that voice to a team so they can do it in her absence.
Jenna’s done this so well that when I came on to write for her the first time and asked for any brand style guide, she shot over a “Jenna-isms” page she already had. WIN!
Your takeaway: Master your brand’s voice … and put it on paper.
Yes, this means you’ll need to write down phrases you say often. Yes, this means you’ll use the same words across channels. This means you’ll think “I feel like I tell them this all the time … “
Good! That’s what it takes to get a message statement to sink in. How else did you learn “Just Do It” or AllState’s commercial darling “Mayhem” in his dead-pan, cautionary tale voice? You heard them 100 times.
After you’ve realized your brand voice, put it on paper. Take it from me: I teach my Copywriting for Creatives students how to write a Brand Messaging Guide, and if you teach it, you have to do it, right? ???? Well, I’m so glad I did: I turned to my own Brand Messaging Guide when I’m stuck in some template, and now that I’m growing a team, I’ve been able to hand it off to my studio manager and associate copywriters as a north star document for what our brand sounds like. Be sure to grab it as you read this post!
Abby Grace: Speaking to your ICA’s most impressionable years SELLS.
One of my favorite parts of Abby’s website is on her about page, designed by the lovely Jen Olmstead of Tonic Site Shop.
Abby mentions pop culture references so naturally, and this one hit perfectly with me and my formative years growing up (and I like to think I’m similar to the kind of bride she’s going after).
Also, Abby does this subconsciously: it’s just how she communicates with her audience. We sprinkled in 90s hip-hop references (she really does say things like “you da you da best!”) and the like into her email sequence for A Practical Wedding Workshop’s course launch.
Why does it work?
Well, because fine-tuning your copy to focus on a demographic can uptick the profitability. When you get your nostalgic references JUST right … email click-through rates and conversion copy can skyrocket. You learn these things from surveys, of course, but it’s nice to know.
There’s a case study out there about a business that switched their campaign to include a Ford Mustang and Rolling Stones music—their target was 64-year-old men—and they hit the nail on the head with sales.
Takeaway: Figure out what was going on in the world when your dreamboat client came of age, and use cultural references in your copy.
They really do build trust!
Heather: Core values need to be posted.
One of our first challenges when I was in Heather Crabtree’s group coaching Savvy Business Circle program was to publish our core values on our website.
Heather’s values couldn’t be a more definitive construct of the business she’s built—what’s more, they’re a key player in attracting the right women to the team she’s grown.
One of my Copywriting for Creatives students Kelsey did this (there’s a unit on excavating your core values), and they look fab:
Takeaway: Define your core values, and add them somewhere in your external facing message.
Your website’s great, or even an Instagram post will do when it comes to getting these out in your messaging. Nothing attracts your dream clients and repels the ones you don’t care for so much like core values, huh?
Christina Scalera: Find the gap, fill it.
Christina makes the nerdy analytical synapses of my brain fire like laser tag guns: Christina becomes a student of what her tribe wants, and then she goes out and builds it.
Never the other way around.
So much so that—and I really admire this in our industry—Christina was the first person to tell me that, at least to her, Instagram follower count was a vanity number.
It’s true: that number doesn’t reflect your bank account number, but what DOES is to go out and build something that people want.
Because then, it’s much easier to communicate.
Pay attention to Christina’s messaging. Watch how any piece of content she creates is always crafted in a way to study. She’s always calculating, wondering what people need, and how to serve them … because she knows THAT is where the money is in the messaging. It’s not just in a killer Instagram feed. Instagram can be vanity numbers … but when you find the gap and fill it, you’re reducing your messaging to a clear science.
And data-driven marketing always works!
Takeaway: Survey your audience, give what they’re asking for.
Find the gap, fill it. Oh, and read Ryan Lavesque’s book Ask. It’s great!
Jessica Rasdall: Turn your mess into a message.
Be still my heart. I met Jessica and her purple hair under a twinkle-lit patio when she was in Atlanta for her book writing retreat, and her messy, battered coming-of-age story gripped me. I’ll let you read it in her brand new book Shattered, but my heart was in my throat.
This woman could be labeled to the nth degree … but in an unreal act of courage, she went on to position her story in a way that challenged others to consider their actions, and ended up being featured in outlets like ABC 20/20, MTV, The Today Show, and countless universities and high schools.
And only by grace.
Even working on copy for Jess as a client shows me her innate talent of drawing this out in others, helping them figure out what story is there that can be translated and communicated into a succinct (and typically profitable) message that serves others.
Takeaway: Hash out your messy story (and read Shattered to see how she does it), and how it makes you different from anyone else.
In my signature course, I teach this to my students as your Onlyness Factor, so see if you can excavate your own onlyness factor: what about your story equips you to serve the world how you do? Click here for a post I wrote about that.
In sum, I look up to each of these women so much and how they create a culture around their messaging. We definitely have more than 5 things to learn from them, but hey, it’s a start!
Want to learn more about excavating your own brand message? Click to grab your free guide to finding your brand’s voice!