brand messaging | confused person on computer

Don’t Leave Your Brand Messaging Open to Interpretation

When it comes to brand messaging, a fatal error is leaving your topline messages (like your value proposition, full list of benefits, how you’re different, how it works) open to interpretation. I was recently reminded of this when doing a consult with a tech startup.


The startup’s founder, who we will call David, knew his messaging needed help. Advisors told him it was confusing, and one mentor said that his product was super niche – when in fact it’s built for general use. Meanwhile, his pitch deck to investors was falling flat.


Once I talked to him, I understood why.


How messaging becomes open to interpretation


He explained the product – brilliant, by the way – and then he went through his pitch deck. I immediately saw the problem. His messaging was so vague you could interpret it as you wanted. And there was a major disconnect between how he talked about it and how he wrote about it.


His pitch deck had two major problems:


One, it was filled with business jargon that has totally lost its meaning.


Two, it included a brand-new term that has never been used before. Imagine trying to explain the Internet to someone for the first time. That’s what I was dealing with.


I asked David how he explained the product to his friends. It was still kind of complicated, so I said, “This is what I’m hearing. You help people do X.”


“Yes!” he said “Yes, that’s exactly it.”


I had stripped away the fancy words and got to the heart of what the product does for users. We’ll continue working on the messaging, but our first conversation was a major turning point for him and the future of his startup.


Once he clearly explains the value proposition and how it works, he’ll have investors and users lining up.


This is how to write solid brand messaging  


Use conversational English


I just wrote an article about the jargon, business-speak and buzzwords to avoid using in your copy. I’m sure there are plenty of others to add to the list (let me know what else belongs on it).


Just use conversational English. If you wouldn’t use over-worked language when talking to a fifth grader or your grandma, don’t use it in your brand messaging.


And yes, it is harder to use stripped down, simple language. But using simple language does not dumb down what you’re trying to say. Promise.


Define new terms


I did convince David to stop using his brand-new term – the one that allowed people to interpret as they wish. The problem with a new term is that you must define it, over and over and over again, which can turn into a brand messaging headache.


I’m not saying don’t introduce the world to a new term or word, but do think about how much effort you want to expend on educating and correcting others. Then decide.


Focus on benefits over features


Product developers, like David, often get caught up in explaining all the cool features. I think this happens because sometimes features are easier to clearly define than benefits.


Unfortunately, people often don’t buy a product for its features. They buy it for its benefits.


In David’s case, people will use his product to significantly streamline and increase the fun in their lives. (I know that’s opaque. I’m doing it deliberately.) The features are just the ends to that mean.


Ask for feedback


You don’t have to do a massive survey to get valuable feedback on your brand messaging. Just ask a few friends for help.


That’s what David’s doing now. He is updating his pitch deck with the new messaging we discussed and sharing it with friends. If it resonates with them like it did with him, we are on the right track.


Call in the pros


You can always take brand messaging off your plate, so you can focus on what you do best. This is hugely beneficial for three reasons.


One, you’ll enjoy the benefits of an outsider’s perspective. As a potential customer of his, I asked David a bunch of questions to fully understand the product and how it will make my life easier. That’s how I was able to break down his messaging to its simplest terms.


Two, your messaging will be backed by strategy. There are so many nuances to creating strong brand messaging. An experienced copywriter and/or marketing strategist will ensure your messaging is clear. In other words, it won’t be open to interpretation.


Three, you know you’ll receive messaging that is streamlined. It will be to-the-point, avoid redundancies and empty phrases and simplify needlessly complex sentences.


Does your messaging need some love?


If you are attracting not-quite-right-clients or are often asked multiple questions about your company, products or services when you meet someone new, your brand messaging might need some love. We help small business owners and marketing executives inside larger companies create brand messaging that resonates with ideal clients. Contact us today to learn more!


Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

  • Aracy Sacks
    Posted at 22:59h, 10 August Reply

    Great article & right on. Yesterday I was researching a potential new client. I went to their website & it required several clicks before I understood what the company did. Fancy or vague words are great but the world is on speed. So get to the point.

    • Monika Jansen
      Posted at 11:56h, 11 August Reply

      There you go! The problem in action. I need to do some research as to why it’s so hard for people to get to the point. Might make an interesting follow up article.

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