The brand communications strategy is the silent assassin for any brand that has taken the time to develop it effectively.
There are plenty of branding terms that get plenty of pixel space such as brand design, visual identity, brand personality and of course brand strategy.
There has been considerably less time by considerably fewer branding experts afforded to the seemingly less sexy “brand communication strategy”.
In this article, you’ll see why this strategic branding element can penetrate hearts and mind and shape perceptions.
Create An Effective Brand Communication Plan (+ Marketing Channels)
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The Critical Role Of Brand Messaging
Believe it or not, in many corners, there are those that believe that branding is a collection of visual elements designed to create a distinction when compared to other brands.
While aesthetics certainly play a role in distinguishing one brand from the next, when it comes to making buying decisions and deciding which brands to adopt,
the role of visuals is insignificant when compared to messaging.
As consumers, we quickly move past how something looks to get to what we want to know.
How can this brand, this product or this service make my life better and why should I care?
That is where a brand’s communication strategy steps in.
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Brands Live In The Mind
In his widely popular book “The Brand Gap” Marty Nuemeier said:
A Brand is not what you say it is, it’s what they say it is.
In other words, although brands spend billions of dollars a year to control their image in the market via multi-channel content marketing strategies, ultimately, the consumer decides in their mind what that image means to them.
Brands therefore don’t live on street corners, on digital platforms or on billboards.
They live (and die) in the minds’ of their audience.
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Effective Communication Shapes Perceptions
Brands have been described in many ways and I often make a point of describing what the term means in as few words as possible.
If I had to pick a single word as a descriptor, I’d choose the word
If a brand lives in the mind of the audience, then it is shaped by the perceptions of that audience in their individual minds. With every new touchpoint, your target audience builds a better understanding of how relevant, credible, or interesting your brand is (or is not).
The reality is, no matter what level of brand awareness a business has, it doesn’t actually have control over how the consumer perceives the brand.
“Really? No control….So what’s the point in branding then if a brand doesn’t actually have control over perceptions?”… one might say
Well, although as brand builders, we cannot control our target audiences’ minds, we can most certainly influence them across multiple touchpoints with a communications strategy that informs the stories we tell across traditional and digital marketing materials.
And do we do that?
The Brand Communication Strategy of course.
How Neuroscience Is Evolving Communication
Neuroscience is a rapidly evolving field that has uncovered much about the human brain that we never knew (or at least couldn’t scientifically put our finger on).
Every year scientists uncover more and more about the way we behave as humans, the repetitive patterns we follow and why we do what we do.
We now understand that a vital part of our decision making process is through our emotional limbic system in our brain.
So much so that brain-damaged patients left devoid of emotion struggle to make the most elementary decisions.
What does this mean for marketing communications?
The way to your audience is not through the head… It’s through the heart.
How To Develop A Brand Communication Strategy
It’s not difficult to find an article or a video that will wrap your communication strategy up into a single core message.
The reality is, in the modern environment, consumers need 7-8 touchpoints on average to even take notice of your brand — so your brand communications plan needs to speak to your buyer personas to get their attention.
With that in mind, you need a communication strategy that’s a little more comprehensive.
Know Your Audience’s Journey
Let’s assume you’ve already got a grasp of your audience from a “Demographic” and “Psychographic” point of view.
Though many an article will put these two audience analysis tools on a pedestal, the reality is, they don’t tell you too much about who the ideal customer really is.
By understanding the journey your target audience is on, you can begin to understand what they’re going through within their lives — and reach them on the different channels where they get and share information.
Where are they coming from?
Where are they going?
What are they trying to achieve?
What obstacles are in the way?
These questions will get to the crux of who these people are and why the existence of your brand and the solution it offers is so important.
Uncover Their Pain-Points & Emotional Investment
Understanding the journey of your customer opens up their real world to allow for empathy.
Where they’re coming from means something to them
Where they’re going means something to them
What they’re trying to achieve means something to them
What obstacles are in their way means something to them
While many marketers and entrepreneurs go through the motions to get to “selling” as quickly as possible, strategic brand builders that spend extra time on this section reap the rewards later on.
As Abraham Lincoln once said
Give me six hours to chop down a tree, I’ll spend the first four sharpening the axe.
Uncovering exactly what their journey and their obstacles mean to them and the emotions they have attached gives a brand a sharp axe.
Know Your Position
Before the brand communication strategy comes to life, the brand strategist will have done their due diligence.
They’ll have applied creative thinking to uncover an opportunity to develop a differentiation strategy, or value proposition, and ultimately a position in the market for the brand.
This position will distinguish the brand in the competitive landscape and outline why it’s different.
Before a single message is crafted, this position much be clearly defined.
Gain Clarity In Your Value
From here, the brand strategist works to clarify exactly what the value of that position is to the audience.
In other words, what does this position mean and why should the audience care and ultimately, how will it make their lives better?
Clarity in both position and value are key ingredients to an effective communication strategy and no message should be crafted without it.
Develop Your Core Message
With the position and the clear value of that position to the audience outlined, it’s time to develop the core message.
The core message is widely considered to be the cornerstone of the communications strategy.
The reality is, it simply distills the key messages a brand should communicate so the brand representatives are clear on what the “underlying” message should be.
That said, the distilled core message is still important and it plants a flag in the ground outlining the summary of the overall message.
The core message however is not a tool that can be used time and again by the brand manager, that’s the role of the next step.
Clarify Your Key Messages
The core message places the crosshairs in the general direction of where the messaging should go though more detail is required.
The average brand today has a complex web of touchpoints representing the front lines of the brand.
A core message is not going to help you craft messages for so many touch points, which is why your brand communication strategy needs a coordinated effort.
The positioning strategy, the value of that difference and the core message all represent a series of key messages that must all work together to shape the perceptions in the mind of the audience.
Clarify exactly what your audience should know about your brand that would shape their perceptions to create the desired image for the brand.
Integrate Meaning & Emotion
With a comprehensive list of key messages, you can now reverse engineer these messages to uncover the emotions each one will appeal to.
Remember, we make most of our decisions through our emotional brain.
Every last one of your branding messages therefore, must consider the emotion its appealing to and use the relevant language and tone to evoke that emotion.
It’s important to note here; you’re not trying to get your audience to fall in love with your brand through a single message.
Over time however, your audience will feel a connection because the message is crafted from empathy and emotion.
Choose Your Brand Communication Channels
Years ago, if you wanted to create a small business (never mind build a brand), your communication options were limited to:
TV (Which you couldn’t afford)
Radio (Which you couldn’t afford)
Print Media (Which you could scarcely afford)
Yellow Pages (Yay, we’re on the map, now sit by the phone)
Business owners and entrepreneurs today are spoiled for choice and all that’s needed is a consistent series of well-crafted messages designed for the heart.
Here are some of the most effective modern digital marketing channels to distribute your brand communication.
Social Media Marketing
It’s true that organic reach on some social media platforms is not what it used to be.
But the reality is, your audience still congregates on social platforms and groups within social platforms. Social media marketing is a powerful part of an effective marketing communications strategy because it empowers user-centered networking and online social interactions.
With a little bit of searching, you might uncover a highly engaged group and become part of the community.
As usual however, marketers ruined a good thing and it got a bad rep.
Today however, email marketing is more effective than ever as the “permission” filter allows consumers to decide who sends them email and who doesn’t.
Email metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, and opt-outs allow brands to track their performance and adjust the communication strategy as needed.
Email automation now allows brands to slowly and consistently “nurture” relationships to draw customers closer with small deliveries of value on a consistent basis.
Often, your website is the first point of contact your audience will have with your brand.
Whether your traffic is coming from your marketing effort such as search engine optimisation (SEO) and social media or referral links, your website’s messaging needs to assure web visitors that they are in the right place. with a unique selling proposition.
Most businesses will have messages that bang on about how great they are including a detailed biography of the founders and their pets.
Because you’ve now taken the time to develop a strategic communication strategy, your website will display critical key messages that speak with emotion to begin shaping perceptions from the first touchpoint.
A lead magnet here, a call to action there and all of a sudden your target audience is on an email nurturing series en route to their 8th touchpoint and a realisation that your brand is one to watch.
Although YouTube is technically a social media platform, it’s also the second biggest search engine in the world where billions of people go for answers to their questions (and the occasional cat video).
Brands that take their well-crafted communication strategy and integrate it with helpful videos (while displaying an understanding of the emotion related to the problem) on social media, earn a double serving of trust through value and empathy.
This is the magic that makes leads transition into loyal customers in no time.
Podcasts are another way, just like YouTube to provide helpful content and deliver value by helping listeners solve problems.
Podcasts have become the modern day radio but instead of music and talk shows, your channel is a series of long-form advertisements wrapped up in the helpful content.
If brand building is about building relationships through value and familiarity, then being in the ear of your prospect a couple of times a week helping them to solve their problems, it’s a hugely effective brand building tool used by highly successful marketing teams across industries.
Over To You
randing is a game of shaping perceptions on behalf of your potential customers.
Brands built strategically consider each and every one of the tools of influence that shape those perceptions and none are more important than the brand communication strategy.
Take extra time to develop this strategy and craft communication that cuts through like a sharp axe.
Did you gain a new perspective on brand messaging or do you have any challenges or question around crafting communication that resonates?
I’d love to hear from you… drop a comment below now!
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