Three Ways to Think About Your Key Marketing Messages (And What They Don’t Say)

Key marketing messages define brand, products and positioning in broad ways. We usually think about using them to improve the impression we leave on different groups of customers and the “brand recall” they can generate in the future. Obviously, this makes short, sweet, simple messages critical, but there are a few aspects of the focus and style key marketing messages take on that can help maximize their benefit to a brand. 

Depending on your appetite for advertising, you may have a near-infinite number of chances to message towards your customers. You may even need every consumer over the age of 12 to see you 365 days a year. That’s plenty of opportunities to repeat yourself, but also gives you more chances to be misinterpreted. No matter who you are, taking a journalistic approach can be the first step to making messages clearer. 

That’s why getting the category right is critical: establishing a “who, what, why, where and how” for your offering is the first basic step every marketing and activation leader needs to take. From there, being sure that you actually speak the customer’s language and use “showing” with surprising or unexpected elements make it easier to become truly memorable. Ultimately, however, “the medium is the message”, and as technology evolves, you’ll have opportunities to apply insight to key marketing messages in more extraordinary ways than ever before.  

Get The Category Right

Research, innovation and product marketing experts are usually doing a lot of this legwork for marketing and activation leaders. It’s still important to understand the design a product has been given to fit in a particular market – something many more “artful” key marketing messages can tend to forget. 

In this case, key value props or unique selling points are already included in the process of bringing products to market. They may be ingredients or formulations that appeal to younger consumers, rather than older ones. Whether it’s cosmetics or other CPG, younger consumers are more health conscious than ever – it’s only obvious to say that, and accompany it with the endless “millenials are killing X” industry clickbait posts. 

The difference-maker as a marketer is how you message the top-line of your products. Instead of just repeatedly announcing products and features, you should usually drive associations between what a customer already wants and what you’re offering. For example, if you’re offering an energy bar, you may want to pick a hot ingredient (toasted quinoa, anybody?), or emphasize all-natural, organic ingredients, but you should prime the consumer with a desire to be healthy, vibrant, active, or some other want that they can immediately identify with. The Kind-Clif Bar War may be a good indicator that there’s no one way to do it, you have to test things for yourself (all indicators are that there’s no casualties yet). 

The consumer’s interest is, most often, the category. Even in the case of direct-to-consumer approaches, there may be one simple product at one low price, but it’s only consumers who have the highest affinity with the brand’s image and presentation that will become truly loyal customers. 

Speak Your Customer’s Language

You’re not going to tell a 65 year old that something is “lit”. More grown-ups use new slang than before, that may be a “bridge too far”. The language and voice you use isn’t always dependent on the product – it’s usually that the consumer wants to be spoken to in the way they speak, or the way they might speak with their friends. Take it from Rohit Bhasin, Pond’s Global Brand Vice President, on the latest chatbot they launched:

“Our first design of the bot had a standardised ‘customer service’ tonality. We wanted to maintain the credibility of the brand’s expertise in skincare. Upon several consumer quals, we realised that the younger generation of consumers – Millennials and Gen Z skincare users – like to have fun when interacting with the brand. Personality plays a big part in making the chat conversations fun and entertaining. We took to using emojis and slangs to making (the chatbot) relatable – creating an experience that’s closer to how our consumers would chat with their friends online.”

So, if you’re marketing an under-eye cream, you might use classy, elegant, refined, self-confident language to reflect the powerful, self-possessed consumers you’re marketing to. If you’re marketing anything from leisure footwear to burritos on Tik Tok, you might use “sweet drip” and “lit” without thinking twice (or get your influencers to). In all cases, if you’re speaking the customer’s language, you’re actually more likely to successfully influence their purchase choices. Layering this into the “who, what, why” and so on is a fine touch that every aspect of your key marketing messages can’t go without. 

Gary Vaynerchuk wants people to stop ignoring Tik Tok. 

Show, Stand Out, Surprise

This could be called “differentiating, but in a recognizable way”. Marketing is not art alone – you have to remind the customer to actually buy a product. But sometimes the bizarre, the odd, the fascinating can support this kind of approach. Relying on showing, rather than telling, is often a better way to influence people, and always seems to work even better when a celebrity gets involved. 

It’s not often that campaigns come along which can be described as bizarre in a way that a brand might appreciate. However, sometimes a brand needs to reimagine itself as different, above the fray and in control. We’re talking about none other, of course, than the recent campaigns involving Matthew McConaughey and Lincoln – with one strange ad in particular standing out. 

Lincoln’s 2019 Nautilus (rebranded MKZ) – “Ultimate Control” ad with Matthew McConaughey

The sound editing – broad, ambient, strange. A core figure stands alone, fascinated by a pool table. A curious piano chord plays in the background, he strikes a ball – “I’ve never seen that before.” In synchrony, he’s outside, a mysterious vehicle is driving, the ball swirls round and round on the pool table, the figure is in an SUV – self-satisfied, muttering “I have” through voiceover.  The screen flashes: “Technology that puts you in control.” fin. 

One could argue that this whole commercial is simply an exercise in psychological priming – there are markers and signs of influence all over this ad. But, it also has an ephemeral nature, an unexpected event, and clever editing to create the effect of control. It shows that in conveying your key marketing messages, alignment and strategy is critical, but without creativity it can’t strike the chord needed to provide lift. 

With rebrand and redesign in tow, this ad actually helped sell more cars. In the US, Lincoln sold 25% more Nautilus units in Q1 2019 than they did MKZ units in 2018. Not much else more changed than the name, but the way in which key marketing messages were communicated made a big difference. In words, it might have said “Nothing is certain, but you can be in control, and technology can help you do that – let Nautilus be the way.” Works a lot better to show it, right?

Of course, having a movie star pitch your product (without pitching too hard, of course) is a costly but effective way to increase the response your campaign gets. The thing is, previous Lincoln campaigns relied more on the “movie star talking” approach with little else in the way of the unexpected. If you’re looking to watch cost, it’s also easy to see that fascinating, bizarre and unexpected campaigns don’t always need an iconic personality to go with it. 

The Medium and Key Marketing Messages

We’ve explored how categories, consumer intents, manner of speech and the bizarre or unexpected can help key marketing messages perform their best. The thing is, in certain cases, the “medium is the message”, and the way you speak to consumers can actually allow them to speak back, personalize their choices and provide information that you would never otherwise get about who they are and what they want. 

Conversational AI is the core technology leading this transition for marketers and activation leaders. You don’t have to rely only on visual formats – conversational formats and conversational advertising can play a key role in communicating messages to your consumers on a more one-to-one basis. 

For each brand, the way they deploy conversational AI is unique, but the benefits are usually the same – greater engagement, more insights, more sales and higher satisfaction – all because they’re using a medium that shows their customer just how much they care. 

Still have questions?  We’re fired up to help as many brands as possible to raise the bar of user and customer experience in eCommerce.  If you need help implementing website engagement tools for your brand or want to talk further about any of the tactics in this article, we should talk ASAP!

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