Intended or not, your brand constantly shares messages every day. I’m not just talking about the caption you whipped up for Instagram or LinkedIn this week (it goes much deeper than that).
I’m talking about your brand messaging pillars, which are the deep-seated truths, beliefs, and convictions embedded in the fabric of everything you say and do.
Brand messaging pillars are kind of like a basketball court. Key ideas are organized based on what’s fair play (on-brand) or out of bounds (off-brand).
So whether you are whipping up a social post for the week, or you’re creating an entire campaign to launch a new offer, it’s these pillars that guarantee your message won’t sound like it came from anyone else ← which is exactly what we want.
There are five brand messaging pillars behind every brand:
Your purpose is the most important brand messaging pillar to nail down because, without a purpose, there’s no reason for your brand to exist. The right people will deeply resonate with your purpose. And even if there are hundreds (if not thousands) of businesses that do what you do, it could be your purpose that drives people to love your brand more than the competitor next door.
Some statements that come directly from your purpose are your…
To reflect a bit on your purpose, ask yourself these questions:
Just to give you an idea of how much weight this holds, based on a recent Harris study, 82% of people say that they are willing to invest in brands that share their same values.
Don’t skimp on this one.
It’s the very heartbeat of what you do. And it’ll serve as your internal compass for making larger brand decisions, long-term.
The next brand messaging pillar to consider is your audience, your leads, your clients, and your customers. To cover all my bases, I like to lovingly call them your people. Because at the end of the day, that’s who they really are: people. Humans.
You’ll often hear the argument that your brand is just meant to serve your audience, and that’s it. I actually disagree.
Being clear on your purpose FIRST before even thinking about the people you serve gives a much clearer direction on where to go. That’s why I listed it first.
As your business pivots (and it will), your audience will change too.
We want to honor the work that lights us up. It’s that fire in our belly that tells us we’re called to add a certain value to the world. Once we’re clear on what that is, then we can invite our audience into the conversation. From there, it makes it easier to see where their purpose and our purpose align.
These are a few brand messaging things to keep in mind when it comes to your audience:
Start thinking about your people with these questions:
You can’t understand your audience unless you talk to (or stalk) them. It’s just the nature of how business works.
To quickly understand your audience, and the other four brand messaging pillars, I suggest creating a brand message framework.
For now, let’s move on to the next pillar: positioning.
Once you’re clear on your purpose, and you know your people, the next natural segue is to figure out your positioning.
With strong positioning, you’re creating a specific image in the minds of your audience about who you are as a brand. It differentiates you from the hundreds of thousands of businesses that do what you do.
Without strong positioning? You’ll easily succumb to looking, sounding, and being like everyone else as you drown in the cold, cold sea of same. (Being dramatic for added emphasis)
These are brand messaging statements that tie back to your positioning:
While it’s important to know who you ARE, it’s just as important to know who you AREN’T. What you don’t do. Who you don’t serve.
Constraint is one of the most powerful aspects of your brand because it keeps you in your lane, focused on what you do best.
It takes gumption to say “No, we don’t do this, but I can point you to someone else who can”. That kind of confidence will build you loyal devotees, fast, even if they never become paying customers.
question to ask yourself to better understand your positioning is
Better yet, head to the blog “What is Brand Positioning?“. It breaks down the 4 S’s (try saying that five times fast) of brand positioning so you can confidently articulate why people should invest in you, for *you*.
Even on the days when you impulse buy a $30 vacuum robot on Amazon (hindsight is always 20/20 on those kinds of things), people like to buy from people.
That’s why personality is the next brand messaging pillar, and it means giving your brand a personality as if it were an actual person.
You’ll have to approach personality from different angles, depending on which of two categories you fall into, either personal brand or faceless brand.
I’ll break down each.
You are your brand, but you are also not your brand. Yes, your audience probably chose to follow you because they love your personal stories, your personality quirks, your industry opinions, and how you show up on social media.
That being said, you have to clearly define what you choose to keep transparent vs. behind closed doors (ex. How open are you with religious/political affiliations? Will you talk about your kids online? Would you share about peeing your pants? All valid questions.)
It all comes down to personal preference.
As a founder, your business is still an extension of you. Even if you aren’t the “face”, what are some personality traits you want to be carried forward through your brand?
Also, challenge yourself to think of your brand as a person — what do you have in common with your brand vs. how are you different from your brand?
For example, maybe own a luxury landscape design brand but you personally would never invest thousands of dollars into your backyard.
These distinctions will help you decide how your brand communicates.
Now, one way to start understanding your brand personality is by thinking about your brand voice conventions:
And of course, these questions can get you started too:
With your purpose, your people, and your personality now in tow, the last brand messaging pillar is promotion.
How do we get your message out into the world? This is where the promotion brand messaging pillar comes in.
You definitely want to have a specific pre-marketing and marketing campaign for each specific offer that calls for it. But in general, it’s a good idea to have a generic collection of topics your brand talks about day in and day out, in a way that’s valuable and relevant to what you do.
These are the general content pillars your brand should touch on, either monthly or quarterly:
Some questions to ask yourself about promotion…
That about covers it! Now that we’ve chatted through all four brand messaging pillars, I’ll send you off with a quick debrief…
Brand messaging pillars are the 5 overarching concepts that make up the entirety of your brand — in terms of what to say. I uncover each segment of the brand messaging pillars, and so much more, through the Brand Messaging Guide Process. Or if you want to DIY your brand messaging, creating a brand message framework is your next best step.
Action-packed methods so your website can spark connections swiftly. Around the same time it takes to finish a leisurely afternoon stroll with a good friend — we should really do those more often.