Brand and Messaging

Many people think brand identity (i.e, the visual identity etc) is more important than what a business actually says. When we see pretty things (and like them) it’s easy to get caught up in this way of thinking. Even for the design-minded this can be a logic trap. Younger and less experienced designers often think (and/or actually believe) that those precious design skills and a-la-mode style is more important and will have more impact than the actual message it’s (meant to be) communicating. But … looks aren’t everything, and they’re certainly more than what needs to be shown on the surface.

If a brand has nothing to say, then good looks and great intentions are pretty useless.

For a lot of our brand identity clients — who struggle as much with what to say as how they should say it — our design process has grown to encompass the development of their tone and voice, as well as how they would share their unique stories with the world. It goes way beyond the “simple” look and feel of a brand and explores more of the essence of what drives their company.

While this iDiving into This process I’m about to share with you comes after the brand discovery workshop, where we dive deep into the brand and the ideal customer. The workshop helps us uncover insights about who we’re talking to, their goals and problems, who the brand is, why the brand exists, how they help solve their customer’s problems, and so on.

Once the workshop is done, I begin the fun of writing the high-level messaging to include in the strategy roadmap. These lines are used to guide any written content for the future. It’s especially helpful to have these examples nailed down right from the start since they can be handed over to a copywriter who then flushes out the day-to-day content or develops the messaging portion of the style guide.

Writing for brands:

1. Use common phrases and idioms. 

Remember, at this point we just finished the discovery workshop, so we have plenty of information on what we want to communicate and what will resonate with the ideal client.

2. Look up quotes with relevant keywords to spur ideas. 

I use Google images to look up quotes with keywords taken from our strategy. That way, I can get a quick read of the quote without having to click on a bunch of links. Keeping in mind who we’re talking to and what they connect with, and knowing that the ideal client enjoys some intelligent wit here and there, I knew I could play with this a bit. I will sometimes search “quotes about _____” or “quotes with____” or “_____ quotes.” In this case, I looked up “quotes about say” which gave me many quotes that then spurred the idea to list off all the different languages that ATS translates.

3. Embrace the objection—the elephant in the room—and then pivot.

During the workshop, we made note of any objections the client may have—one of which happened to be that the ideal client may wonder why they shouldn’t just go for a cheap or free option like Google Translate instead of ATS. There are a number of reasons to not use Google Translate for anything beyond small, day-to-day use (just google “Google Translate fails” and you’ll see what I mean). We decided to call out and embrace the elephant in the room—that online translating services were an option, but then pivot and present the reason why ATS is a much better choice:

“Google Translate may have technique, but we have tact.” 

There are many ways to come up with messaging for a brand, but those are my current go-to’s. Some other options are taking things my client says straight from the discovery workshop, while others may require me to do research on TV shows, literature, or catchphrases that would connect with my client’s ideal customer.

I hope you enjoyed this peek into my process. Remember, looks aren’t everything. What you say matters.