In the daily mad dash to pump information into public view, it’s too easy for content authors to fall into the familiar who-what-where-when-why routine just to tick off the assignment and move onto the next, and the next, and the next without the discipline to think longer term. Of the brands you know and love, consider those whose iconography, messaging and communications have endured and imprinted on you or found a way into your heart and your home.
Unfortunately, for many content marketers and marketers in general, “ticking off the assignment” does little more than contribute additional forgettable content to an already too-dull rumble, to which fewer and fewer people are willing to pay attention.
Take a page from the most iconic brands in the world who found their audience, defined their purpose, created a set of brand beliefs rooted in purpose and echoed those beliefs consistently. And over time, they have created strong followers, affinity and success. Here are some thought starters for ways to leverage the approach of enduring brands:
Relevance: Who is your target audience (the more narrowly defined, the better), and does that target audience have a good reason to care about the message you’re trying to convey? If not, define your audience more narrowly, or spin the message in such a way that it’s undeniably relevant. Create a persona. There are many tutorials on this but knowing who this person is will help you talk with them.
Resonance: Think of this as emotional engagement. Do elements of your message connect emotionally with your target audience? Will they buy in to what you’re trying to convey? Is it motivating to them? Do they share the same beliefs? If not, find a different appeal that opens up the communication and touches their softer side. Humans are emotional beings. We remember messages and authentic stories that touch our hearts.
Audacity: It’s not surprising that many marketers are among the world’s worst offenders of copycat messaging. We see this daily. Think about universities. Ask any prospective student, and she’ll tell you she’s flummoxed by the vast majority of colleges and universities whose promotional efforts look, read, feel, smell and taste like all the others. “Three under a tree” isn’t funny; it represents a tragic waste. Think about pain relievers. It’s hard for people to remember the difference between each brand, and the active ingredients. Even some mass retailers try to out-discount each other by using the same “great value” messaging. Regardless of your company, brand, service or organization, have the courage to create messages that stand up — and stand out of the blur. It takes courage, bravery and downright guts, but it brings great rewards.
Distinctiveness: We often remind clients, “People don’t buy different; they buy special.” In a crowded market space, demonstrating how your brand is special is essential. And if articulating that special-ness effectively separates you from your primary competitors, it’s highly effective messaging. What belief do you and I share that would make me align to your brand versus another that’s similar?
Frequency: At its most basic core, marketing is about repetition, like conditioning. Think Pavlov and his bell. Think about preparation for a marathon or the Olympics. Through repetitive exposure (a.k.a. training), we’re attempting to get reach your target audiences with believable messaging that inspires them and spikes their curiosity in ways that align with your brand values and beliefs. The frequency of how often those messages are heard, seen and read plays a huge role in the success of your conditioning efforts. If your message is only going to be offered to the world once, then make it really, really big, like Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl spot. But, if it’s only done once and done small, it’ll be significantly less likely to leave an impression than if it’s offered to the target audience multiple times and through multiple channels.
Longevity: Many of us have grown up in a microwave-minute world. Instantly done and we move on. But you’ve heard the adage, “Just about the time you start getting tired of it, your audience is just beginning to get it.” Too many brand managers, marketing leaders and organizations short-change the ultimate impact of perfectly good messages (or creative concepts, or campaigns) by shutting them down prematurely, because, frankly, they’re bored or they fall prey to the “not invented here” syndrome. If you want your brand to realize its full positive potential, then be willing to let messaging endure beyond your tenure in your marketing job. Re-post it, re-market, re-merchandise it, refresh it, stay current, but stay the course until you have hard evidence from your audiences that it’s not relevant, resonant or otherwise working. Then, readjust, likely due to cultural relevance, and revisit your approach. Don’t change who you are, your beliefs and brand purpose just because you’re bored, but do keep current, as generations pass, to ensure language, tonality and visual approach stay in sync with the world.
We owe it to brands, companies, institutions — and to our customers and consumers — to bring an extra measure of discipline to the art and science of our work. Maximizing your marketing return-on-investment demands that messaging strategies are thoughtful, bold, special and enduring. Now, make it so.