Message Quest

I had the good fortune to spend over an hour on the phone with Nic Askew of earlier this week. We talked a bit about a number of things. In particular, we discussed the notions of authenticity and delivering marketing messages about intangible things.

As marketers, we tend to bludgeon our audiences with what we think they want to hear so they will buy our product. And we say it using variations of the truth. And we try to do it primarily using a slogan or catchphrase that still doesn’t get to the heart of it.

The reason is because we don’t know how to express in words who we are and what we do. Take a minute and answer these two questions: Who am I? and Why do I do what I do? Go ahead. Give yourself 60 seconds. Oh, and come up with something relevant that is not a buzzword, slogan, catchphrase, biographical data or some awful mission statement.

It’s OK. I’ll wait.

So, how did it go? How quickly were you tongue-tied? Did you know what to say or how to say it? Neither did I. You see the key to creating an effective message is in realizing that it is not just about the words you use. Nor is it about developing one all-encompassing, never-changing statement. Crafting an effective message is a quest, not a task.

I’ll say it again. Crafting an effective message is a quest, not a task.

We are humans. We are constantly changing, growing and, dare I say, evolving. We are not the same people we were 10 years ago or 5 years ago or 1 year ago or last week or yesterday. Neither is our audience. And neither is our brand. Your message will have to evolve right along with the rest of us and the brand.

Take, for example, Wal-Mart. Until this past fall, they used the slogan “Always low prices.” It has now changed to “Save more. Live better.” (A cynic would add “As long as you don’t work here.”) They want shoppers to read and hear what Wal-Mart believes they, as a store, represent. I’m sure a lot of time, money and thought went into these slogans. Unfortunately, it really is nothing more than “blah blah blah, whatever.” They focused on the wrong thing.

Smiley FaceAt the same time they made this switch, they got rid of their smiley face icon. What a mistake! That icon represented what people feel (or are supposed to feel) when shopping at Wal-Mart, making purchases at such low prices. That was their message. If anything, keep it or develop another icon that could evoke a similar feeling.

Your message is not absolute. It also is not bound by words alone. Break free. Use a variety of means to express who you are, what you do and why you do it. That is what customers want.

Here’s a hint: If your message sounds generic, it’s wrong. If you can’t put it into a few words, then don’t. Tell a story. Use images. Bring out emotions – happiness, joy, sadness, relief. Don’t be afraid to change it, as long as the change makes sense and is an improvement.

Say something without have to “say” something. And maintain your quest for better ways to do it.

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One Response

  1. […] those expectations are likely to change over time (see my earlier post “Message Quest”). And as the organization providing the product or service evolves, so too will the sense of […]

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