In the last 5-8 years a new, modern brand metric has emerged. It’s that of “good for the world” and it covers such things as social justice impact, climate sustainability, and the general goodness a brand can bring to culture or society at large. We generally summarize this as "brand purpose."
This purpose is an expression of the goodness you deliver to the world that resolves two ideals or tensions that your customer or society could not resolve on their own or with another brand. It’s an expression of your highest possible solution, and one that solves a real, true dilemma in the world or for your customers. It’s crucial, high-level thinking that ensures your brand stands out in the market.
But how can we bring this high-level thinking directly to our audience? How can we ensure it makes an impact?
We must craft messaging that matters. And for messaging to matter, it must be based on specific objectives that connect your brand purpose to your audiences’ realities. Now, how do we do THAT?
First off, messaging is not copywriting. The simplest way to put it is that messaging is what you say, and copy is how you say it. Great copy helps ensure we are noticed and heard but remember great copy is built on top of a solid foundation of effective messaging strategy.
The key to successful messaging is to identify and then influence the perceptions and behaviors you need to shift to realize your brand strategy. It must be driven by specific objectives tied to your purpose. Here are the steps to take:
Step 1: Identify the perceptions and behaviors that must shift.
The key to messaging strategy is determining what specifically you need to accomplish to make your purpose possible. These will become the objectives your messaging aims for.
Consider the brand Nest. It’s more than a traditional thermostat, and by developing a unique brand strategy, it knew it could create a whole new category and become a comprehensive tool that creates a holistic home experience. But it needed to accomplish a few things before it could fulfill its strategic role for consumers.
First, through audience research it knew people didn’t expect much from their thermostats. People only associated the device with its ability to sense temperature and communicate with HVAC systems, so that became the brand’s first messaging objective: shift perceptions of a thermostat’s capabilities.
Secondly, Nest also learned that people only thought of a thermostat as the thing that makes their house hotter or colder. It had a very limited role in the house. However, Nest’s thermostats communicate with many more systems and integrate with existing tools like smartphones. With them, you can do so much more than just turn a knob; you can control temperature from anywhere in the world, you can keep your house safe with security systems, you can monitor air quality and even communicate with family members. It truly is a central hub for everything a home represents: safety, comfort, and connection. This became Nest’s second messaging objective: shift beliefs on what a thermostat’s role in the home could be.
Something similar happened when Northbound positioned and named the aging wellness brand Dawn House. One of Dawn House’s key products is an adjustable bed with unique features to prevent injury and track health and wellness. However, we learned that people viewed adjustable beds as simply something that helps you sleep, or worse, as a “hospital bed” that one only uses after a significant injury. Dawn House is about more than just sleeping well, so we needed to shift perceptions to live the brand promise of waking up feeling vibrant while preventing the type of injuries our audience fears in the first place.
How can brands make shifts in perception like these? With deliberate, strategic messaging
Step 2: Use specific proof points to influence those perceptions and behaviors
Nest had to message “more than a thermostat” to show its capabilities went beyond expectations. It spent much of its communication energy ensuring the audience knew about key features like connectivity and integrations with other systems around the house so that it could then weave a larger, more expansive story about what it means to connect with your home. You can’t tell a “better together” story with all your products if your audience doesn’t know your thermostat can connect in the first place.
Through brand strategy Nest knew it could become a comprehensive tool to create a holistic home experience. Then it brought consumers along for the ride with messaging that proved its expanded capabilities and shifted perception of a thermostat’s role in your home.
Dawn House also required specific messaging to bridge the gap between its strategy and audience expectations. To make sure the product wasn’t seen as “just another bed,” we knew we needed to do three things: communicate the value of what they provide, showcase the specifics of what they deliver, and introduce the new category of aging wellness (see our previous article to learn how to define a new category). With these objectives identified in the first step, the messaging then could focus on the proof points needed to achieve them:
- To shift perceptions on the value of a bed, the messaging focused on living a vibrant life.
- To prove how the bed helps you wake up recharged, the messaging showcased specific features like how the bed adapts and even wakes you without an alarm.
- To introduce the aging wellness category, the messaging focused on how the bed enabled the connectivity and independence their audience needs.
Successful messaging matters. It connects your purpose directly to the audience by first defining specific objectives and then accomplishing them with proof. It’s this strategic exercise that in turn creates truly impactful copy.
If you’re looking to dial up the impact your words can make, get in touch and let’s explore how objective-based messaging can take you to the next level.