How to Improve Your Brand Messaging with StoryBrand

Brand messaging

Are your business results where you’d like them to be?

If you’ve followed Donald Miller and StoryBrand at all, you will have heard one of their key points for brands before: people buy because of the words you use, not because you have the prettiest website.

Your brand messaging is what either draws your target audience in, or pushes them away. If there is any confusion or lack of clarity, they’re more likely to look elsewhere.

StoryBrand has been on a mission to help businesses improve their brand messaging and their desired results along with it. Your messaging should be developed as part of a strong brand strategy – here’s what to consider:

What is brand messaging?

Brand messaging is the overall message you convey to your target audience via various tools and channels. For example, you’ll be communicating something via your tagline, your social media, your brand promise, brand story and any other content you produce.

Some important parts of brand messaging are your value proposition and brand positioning. When these are clearly defined, they ensure that your messaging is consistent. For example, brand personality is part of positioning – you want to be consistent with the tone and personality you convey. It would be confusing to switch from a friendly, informative sort of personality to an edgy or more aggressive stance.

What Donald Miller teaches via StoryBrand is that a confused customer will always say no. You might change your content format or advertise via different channels, but your underlying messaging should remain consistent.  Your message is in what you say and how you say it.

The overall goal of brand messaging is that it specifically resonates with the target audience that you intend to engage with. The customer relates to your brand, is inspired, persuaded and ultimately, motivated to buy.

Key takeaway: Your brand messaging is much more than a tagline. Nike has the infamous “Just Do It” line, but this is just one part of an entire brand messaging framework. If you were to assess your own content including website, social media and anywhere else, would you find consistent messaging across each?

Brand messaging is more than a tagline, it should be consistent on all channels you use Click To Tweet
Brand messaging

Typical brand message mistakes

What is the biggest mistake companies make with their brand messaging? They’re not clear enough. If you’re audience has to hunt around to figure out what you’re about, you’re not doing it right. As Miller says, people don’t buy the “best” products, they buy the products they can understand the fastest.

The root cause of this lack of clarity is often that the business didn’t define their customer first and put their needs at the front of their messaging. With just a quick look around the internet, you’ll discover brands that have tried to be clever with their messaging, but it falls flat because the target customer doesn’t understand.

As Miller puts it, brand messaging should be able to pass the “grunt test.” If a caveman or woman were to look at your website or marketing material, would they be able to grunt out what you are offering, how it will improve their lives and what they need to do to buy it? Within five seconds, your audience should be able to grunt out an answer to these three things.

Free download: Define your brand positioning

We’ve already hinted at another mistake – confusing brand messaging with a simple tagline. A tagline may be catchy, but every business owner or marketer needs to take a look at the broader picture too. Your audience, value proposition, imagery, tone and product positioning are just a few of the other items that go into your overall marketing strategy. Some taglines may communicate the three things within five seconds – most don’t.

Thirdly (although we could point out more mistakes), another common brand message mistake is failing to excite or motivate the target audience via your messaging. Miller talks about how we are motivated to action when something can help us to survive and thrive. If this key ingredient is missing from your messaging, people may understand what you do, but fail to see why it should matter to them.

Tips for better brand messaging

Where should you get started with better brand messaging? Donald Miller and the StoryBrand Framework provide businesses with some great strategies for improvement, including the seven parts of the framework outlined here.

Here are some tips to go along with that:

#1. Put your target audience first

Who is your target audience? What do they really care about? What sort of tone, language and overall messaging will really resonate with them? 

Sometimes brands are so close to their own products and services that they fail to see their messaging through the eyes of the customer. They might try to be clever with their words in such a way that goes over the customer’s head – sort of like telling “inside” jokes. They might use jargon too heavily or other language that is difficult for the customer to interpret.

That’s the thing – your target audience shouldn’t have to interpret what you’re saying, you should have done that for them. 

Your brand messaging should be customer-centric rather than brand-centric – think “you” rather than “us.” As Miller puts it, the customer is the “hero” of your story – it’s not all about your brand.

Before you develop any sort of messaging, you need to be inside the minds of your target audience. Consider pain points, goals, favorite features and anything else that appeals to them.

Activity: Do you have a clear definition of your target audience? If not, try creating a picture of a customer “avatar,” including their demographics, pain points, goals and interests.

#2. Define your brand positioning

Brand positioning refers to the space that your brand occupies in the minds of your target audience and how it compares to competitors. Your messaging helps to communicate what your positioning is. Brand positioning strategy involves creating associations in the minds of your customers so that they perceive your brand favorably over competitors.

One of the keys with positioning is that something needs to make you different. That’s what helps to distinguish your brand in the eyes of the customer.

As an example of great brand positioning, consider the grocery chain Trader Joe’s. They operate in a highly competitive sector but tend to stand out from other, larger grocery chains because of how they have positioned themselves. They talk about being a “national chain of neighborhood grocery stores” and work to have that friendly neighborhood feel in their stores.

They offer high-quality food and low prices and a fun shopping experience with nautical themes, Hawaiian shirt-wearing team members and free samples. Overall, their entire experience is different to that of competitors.

Activity: How will you distinguish your brand from competitors? What will your brand call to mind for customers?

Brand messaging

#3. Develop a clear value proposition

Your value proposition is essentially the “what’s in it for me?” for your customers. It is customer benefit-driven and states why they should do business with you. Sometimes it takes the form of a single statement, but quite often it might be a series of bullet points or similar.

In fact, Donald Miller says of developing your website homepage:

“On the web, we tend to scan rather than read word-for-word, so consider framing these value points as icons with short descriptions beneath them. That way, people will understand them quickly and easily. Bullet points work, too.”

A common mistake is to list features instead of the actual benefit to the customer. Always keep in mind that if something you’re saying doesn’t answer “what’s in it for me?” then it’s probably not benefit-focused.

Your value proposition carries through to any other content you put out as well – your social media, emails, opt-ins, product descriptions… All of these things should have a consistent position on the benefits that you offer.

In a blog post, Donald Miller talks about a powerful way to convey value. When it comes to purchasing a product or service, people often have an internal problem, an external problem and a philosophical problem. The philosophical problem can be related to a wider issue, for example; “I need a new car but I should also do my bit to save the environment.” Miller uses Tesla as an example:

External problem: I need a car.

Internal problem: I feel cool when people see me driving the latest technology.

Philosophical problem: I should do my part to save the environment.

Activity: Have you got a clear value proposition? What benefits do you offer that will resonate with your target customer? Can you frame value in terms of external, internal and philosophical problems?

Get our steps to defining your brand positioning here

Final thoughts

Your brand messaging should communicate your positioning, voice and value as clearly as possible to a defined target audience. It’s about much more than a tagline – your messaging involves every component of how you communicate and should be consistent.

StoryBrand has created a simple framework to help brands be clearer with their messaging. It’s a common mistake that many confuse customers, causing them to leave without buying.

We use and recommend the StoryBrand framework here at One Week Website. If you want to know more about it and how we apply it, hit us up with your questions!

Avatar for Danny Peavey

Danny Peavey

Danny is the founder and CEO of One Week Website. He is also a certified StoryBrand Guide. When he's not talking about clear messaging or marketing, you can find him drinking amazing coffee, shooting hoops, and spending time with his family.
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