Last week I met with a client to help them redesign their sales presentation. When I arrived, I found the board room table strewn with materials–graphs and pictures and data–and everyone was eager to assemble all of it into a winning presentation. But it quickly became clear that nobody at the table really understood the difference between brand and message.
It was important they understood the difference so we could talk the same language and because a solid communications strategy pivots around the two. I’ll explain.
Your brand is your corporate personality. That is, everything from how the telephone is answered to what kind of Christmas party your company has.
Your brand is more than the logo. It is the company–how employees perceive it, how company leadership understands it, how the world understands it and the way you want it to be understood.
Think of your brand as a person. How would you describe that person? What is its story? What are its attributes, image, values and voice? If you can describe all that, you understand your brand. If you can’t, you have work to do.
But I’m not finished yet.
A well conceived brand is based on positioning in the market. Positioning is always in relation to other brands and traditionally stated as “the x for y who want z” as in “the dish soap for women who want softer hands” or “the hotel for businesspeople on the go”.
Any good consultant will tell you to find a position that is:
- available–nobody else is using it
- sustainable–you can maintain your positioning over time
- defensible–you can prevent others from matching you
- expandable–you can use it to expand into new markets and products in the future.
There’s a lot more to know about positioning, but for this brief blog entry, suffice it to say that once you have your positioning, you need to develop it by determining the brand communication points.
Communication points should be limited and consistent. In other words, exactly what do you want and need to convey? Choose descriptive words carefully. Think in terms of your positioning and your target market.
I like to refer to McDonalds as a good example of a company with a strong brand and clear message. If I asked you to tell me about McDonalds, you could probably tell me a lot–whether or not you are a fan. You know their position in the marketplace. For example, they are inexpensive and don’t compete with gourmet restaurants. You’d also know they are good corporate citizens, that they like the color yellow and that speed and cleanliness are important to them. In fact, you could probably tell me lots more, but I’ve made my point: you have a vivid perception of the McDonalds brand.
And even if you’ve never stepped across a McDonalds threshold, you know their message too. It’s something like: at McDonalds you can feed your family decent food at a reasonable price.
When you plan your sales presentations, keep your brand’s communication points in mind. Discard any information that is not on-position and that does not differentiate you from your competitors. Eliminate all the excess detail and market bumph–unless it is on point and conveys the brand personality you want your audience to understand.
Once you’ve accomplished that, be sure your message is clear.
Your message is your brand promise to the world. A strong message is based on the brand attributes, positioning, image and voice and it is said as a statement of fact.
What is your message? When you present, don’t make your audience guess. Say it! State your message early and often–to differentiate yourself from the compeition and win.