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Ad Messaging In The Context Of Brand Messaging

March 11, 2019

MessagingEvery marketable asset has a brand. Every business, product or service is perceived and experienced by its market in some way, be it good, bad or indifferent. There exists, between any marketable asset and its market, some sort of brand relationship. However, regular readers of this blog know that’s not enough. It’s just bad business to simply accept a brand for what it is, then neglect it for the next couple of decades. Brands drive awareness, demand and ultimately revenue. But for that to happen, management can’t just let it lie there, dormant. They have to develop a strategy for the brand. They have to figure out what it is and where they want it to go. Then they have to propel it there. And to do that, management needs to communicate regularly with its market. Of course messaging takes many forms. A business will message its market through public relations, through social media, marketing communications and advertising. It hardly needs mentioning that the messaging should be consistent across all these channels. But, in every communiqué, in every radio ad, every brochure and every tweet, there really needs to be two messages.

Any individual marketing communication activity should really have an advertising message and a brand message. Sure, you can have one without the other but why? Advertising messages without brand messaging may accomplish short-term sales goals but they don’t do anything to improve the odds for the next ad campaign. They do nothing to strengthen the brand’s relationship with the market. On the flip side, brand messaging alone may serve to improve the bond with the market, but it usually wastes the opportunity to improve the current sales picture. Why waste an opportunity to achieve both goals when it’s so easy to put one message in context of the other?

But we should be clear in our definitions here.

ADVERTISING MESSAGING contains the information you believe the target market will find valuable. It could be: “Half-off sale this weekend”, or “Advanced programming training”, or “Ladies drink free on Tuesdays”. It’s your hard-sell copy designed to spur the target market to action. It is a flat-out pitch, your value proposition unvarnished. This is the kind of messaging you want to put out there to drive sales. To expedite that, you have to add some additional information, like: “Ladies drink free on Tuesdays at Safari Joe’s Bar.” That should do it right? That should attract the desired mix of men and women, right? Well, maybe. But, even if it turns out to be a successful ad, it will probably only be successful this Tuesday.

BRANDING MESSAGING tells the market who is making the offer. It communicates what kind of experience the target market can expect to find. If Safari Joe’s had a brand strategy in place, they would have developed key messaging that they could use in this instance. Key messaging is basically your brand messaging in its most basic form. So the establishment could have said “Ladies drink free on Tuesdays at Safari Joe’s Bar, where the nightlife meets the wildlife.” Now the target market is getting a feel for what kind of evening they might experience. That experience will certainly appeal to some and not to others. But Safari Joe’s will get the crowd it wants this Tuesday. And it will promote the image of itself that it wants people to carry in their minds. That, in turn, will make it easier to be successful with the next campaign.

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There are classic examples of this. One of the most famous is the campaign of ads for Miller Lite Beer, deemed by Advertising Age to be one of the most successful campaigns ever. In it, two or more people would make apparently competing claims about the product. One side would insist the beer “Tastes great!”. The other side would counter with “Less Filling!”. Of course, Miller Lite wants us to believe that both claims are true. That’s their advertising message. Give us your money and we’ll give you a great tasting-beer that won’t make you feel bloated.

But then look at the contexts that contained these ad messages. Mostly, it all revolved around sports. The settings were almost always at a sporting venue or a sports bar or a sports-themed man cave of some sort. Very often, one or more of the claimants were accomplished, popular, retired sports personalities. Even though the debates could get heated, there was always a tongue-in-cheek, comedic aspect to them. Everybody was having fun. And, of course, the ads were always populated by plenty of attractive women.

So the ad message is buy from us and we’ll give you a great tasting-beer that won’t make you feel bloated. But it’s set in the context of the branding message which is: buy from us and you’ll be one of us; you'll fit in with our crowd of accomplished, popular, fun, sports-loving chick magnets. Not a bad deal, eh?

Of course there’s no formula for any of this. There can be times when advertising messaging and branding messaging can and should be separated from one another. But, in most instances, the most effective communication tactic is to combine them both, as Miller Lite did to extraordinary effect.

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