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Storytelling – How To Make Your Brand Promise

Town crier.jpgOnce you’ve developed your brand strategy and understand your brand positioning … Once you’ve articulated your unique, differentiating brand promise in a formal positioning statement … you have, essentially, created the foundation for your brand, otherwise known as the brand platform. But that’s just the beginning. You don’t have an actual brand yet. A brand is a promise kept. Just because you know what your brand promise is, doesn’t mean anybody else does. Now, you have to make that brand promise. You have to make it to your entire market, all your constituencies. That means you have to tell your story in a clear, concise and consistent manner. And that requires a little bit of planning.

As part of your brand exploration, you will have identified your brand’s constituencies, i.e. customers, employees, suppliers, the press, etc. Now it’s time to prioritize them. Your customers and employees will far outrank all the others. But which one of those two gets the number one spot will depend on the nature of your business. Just don’t forget the old adage: Happy employees make for happy customers.

Porsche.jpgYour key messaging should have been worked out during your brand exploration. But as you start telling your story to the whole world, you may want to combine it with a more topical message like “Grand opening” + “Key message” or “Holiday sale” + “Key message”. Whatever tactical message you have to convey this week to drive sales this month, don’t forget to harmonize it with your long-term strategic message. Make any short-term offer you want but always reinforce the brand promise contained in the key message. The keeping of that brand promise is what builds the brand over the long haul. Porsche can talk about this year’s models’ wonderful new features. They can talk about their end-of-year deals. But they never forget to remind you that they are “The Ultimate Driving Machine”.

Now, what media will do the best job conveying your messaging? What channels should you employ to reach your most important constituencies? You have many choices in both old and new media. Old media encompasses print and broadcast advertising, of course. But it also includes every type of communication there is that doesn’t happen electronically. So your logo on a tote bag, on a billboard, on a t-shirt – it’s all old media. Even skywriting is an old media choice.

New media includes SEO tactics, social media, content marketing, online advertising options (and there are many). Some of these media options are free and some cost money. So you have to figure out what your annual budget will bear and plan accordingly. And, speaking of spending money, you’ll also have to figure out who – graphic designers, publicists, copywriters, photographers, media planners, etc. – you’ll need to help you with your storytelling efforts and add them into the budget too.

With your target market identified, your messaging finalized and your media mix determined and budgeted, it only remains for you to get your story out there – to make your brand promise. Whatever marketing mix you employ, the trick from here on out is to be consistent about it. Do not put one message in your local newspaper and another one on Instagram. Clear communication requires consistency – and inconsistency leads to confusion and undelivered messaging. That said, there is usually some opportunity for A/B testing, just to see if your messaging can’t be improved.

How long should you give your messaging before you determine if it’s working or not? There is no rule of thumb that would apply to all brands. The short-term, tactical messages are likely to change fairly often, whenever there is some new communication to share with the customers. But the key messaging, the long-term strategic brand positioning – that should be designed to last 15-20 years and should not be altered unless a strong business case is made to do so.

Finally, the most important part of storytelling. When you do attract customers based on the brand promise you made to your market, do not fail keep the brand promise! If a brand is a promise kept, then you have no brand at all until you keep the brand promise. Failure to do so renders all of the work you’ve done so far for naught.

Best Branding Reads – Week of November 21, 2016

The Brand Storyteller: Q&A With Yahoo VP Kathy Kayse
Yahoo wants to help you tell your story. Yahoo.

Brand Naming Power: The Three Motivations of Brand Building
In China, Pizza Hut is “akin to fine dining” … I learn something new everyday.

Bad Puns Aside, Global Brands Step Up to Save Lives on World Toilet Day
They had me at bed pans, I mean bad puns. Seriously, if you have a toilet, you have something to be thankful about.

5 Ways Brands Can Avoid Equity Hijacking
Brands need to be clear on what they value … or others will try to write that story for them.

New Name, Logo, and Identity for Adient
An identity system that takes a back seat to no one.

Lyft cuts its mustache logo
Who would wear a dumb mustache like that, anyway? (At least mine’s not pink.)

How to Manage a Country Brand: The Ireland Example
Branding a country, state, region, city or specific destination … pretty much like branding anything else.

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