When business leaders start considering branding for their business, there’s a desire to focus on visual design factors: naming, colors, fonts, logo and so on. ​​These are important, but there’s much more to branding than visual assets. Your brand is what you do and say consistently. It doesn’t matter how great your brand strategy is; if you haven’t got brand consistency, you haven’t got a brand or an effective strategy.

If you want to grow your business intentionally – as opposed to accidentally – you need to:

  • Define what your brand stands for, 
  • The value your brand brings, and 
  • Who will most benefit from it

and then convey that consistently at every touchpoint. It’s not just enough to refresh your website; you need to relay this message over and again until your message sinks in. When your prospects can clearly identify you with distinction, that’s the moment they recognize your brand, trust your brand, feel connected to it and want to engage with your brand. 

Is consistency responsible for growing your business? In short: absolutely. But before we explain the benefits of brand consistency and how you can build it for your business, let’s define it so we’re on the same page. 

What is Brand Consistency?

When developing a sharp brand strategy, a critical component is brand consistency. Your marketing and communications messaging has got to match with the experience of your customer at every touchpoint. Brand consistency is when your marketing and communications reflect what your brand is all about: the benefits you deliver, the values your brand embodies and the promise your business makes to every customer. Brand consistency is when you’re walking the walk and talking the talk, and everything is aligned.

This also extends to your brand look and feel (your visual identity elements, including brand tone and voice) so every aspect of your brand is in sync with what you put out there. Brand consistency is what you do and what you say about your business, day in and day out, with every touchpoint and for every customer.

Why be consistent?

Let’s take an example: a personal interaction. When you start getting to know a person, you begin to develop opinions, ideas and assumptions about them based on your interactions. If they are dressed in a business suit one day, Bermuda shorts and a shredded t-shirt the next, and then they show up in a Spiderman suit another time, it may be hard to nail down exactly who they are and what they are all about.

Hilarious. But reliable? Dependable? An extension of your brand? 

Now imagine this person is someone you’re considering hiring. Wouldn’t you be concerned about their consistency in their work based on their inconsistent appearance? You might think twice before bringing them into your business because while they’re hilarious, they’re also unpredictable, and you never quite know who’s going to show up at work.

Your customers can feel the same about your brand if you aren’t consistent. If your social media voice is whimsical and silly but your product packaging is sterile and plain, you’re sending mixed signals that will confuse and leave them feeling like your brand is incoherent and can’t be trusted.

The Benefits of Brand Consistency

The truth is people trust brands they recognize. But brand consistency goes beyond recognition; it’s about helping your customers get to know you on a deeper level. When a customer feels like they know your brand and can trust you, they are more likely to connect with your brand and engage with your business. 

Consistency Builds Recognition

One of the many reasons you should build a brand is so customers can recognize and remember your business. When people recognize your brand on their social media feeds, at a conference or in their inbox, they are more likely to think of your brand at purchase time.

Note: This can take a while!

On average, a prospect needs to see a brand message many, many times before taking action. And while constantly putting your brand out there might feel repetitive for you, remember that your customer isn’t only thinking about your brand. She has a zillion different things on her mind and your brand is just one voice of many. But know that if you are consistent with your messaging and it’s compelling, over time, your message will sink in.

For this reason, you should brand your business, and your brand should be consistent, not just in look and feel, but in messaging across all marketing channels and most especially in the customer experience. Customers should see your brand values in action, and they should be able to recall those values when they see your logo. When you and your team create “on-brand” experiences that positively resonate with your customers, you are building recognition, differentiation and loyalty over your competition. For more on this, see the section below on customer experience.

Consistency Builds Trust

Brand consistency also builds a dependable experience and people crave dependability. As the past year and a half can attest, uncertainty is unsettling. There’s great comfort in knowing you can get exactly what you expect from a known brand. A big reason we frequent Dunkin’ Donuts or McDonald’s is that we know the experience we’re going to have, and there’s comfort in that consistency, even if we aren’t getting the world’s best donuts or burger.

Consistency makes customers have more positive feelings toward your brand. Customers should know what to expect and what the outcome will be. When it comes to brand consistency, dependability is critical because it builds trust. If your message is clear and consistent and your content matches the customer experience, you will be seen as dependable and your prospects will develop a deep trust in your business. If they feel like your brand is constantly changing, they will be confused and assume that they can’t trust your business. They will start thinking that your business and its values could change at any moment.

Consistency Builds Connection

When your customers know your brand, it is easier for them to identify with your mission and values. That connection will increase the chances of them purchasing one of your products or services, or recommending your business to others. In fact, 64% of consumers say that having shared values is one of the top reasons they trust a brand.

You want your business to trigger certain positive emotions in your customer. Those emotions can then be evoked when the consumer sees your brand’s logo or hears your brand’s name. Consumers that feel connected to you and your mission are more likely to be loyal to your business.

How to Develop a Consistent Brand

How do we build a consistent brand? Two simple steps: 

1) it requires you getting your brand and story straight; and 

2) you need to put it out there on high repeat. 

To do this, you need to get clear about your branding: what your brand stands for, the value you provide, and who you’re targeting (this blog post can help and this one is good as well). Then you’ll want to design all aspects of your brand (the customer experience, your content, your team and customer interactions, your site and also design elements like your colors, font, logo, etc.) to mirror your brand. This way, your customers and prospects start to see you consistently, from every angle. Below are a few additional pointers to develop brand consistency. 

Nail Your Core Brand Elements, First

Many people feel they need to focus on visual brand cues, but brand values, your brand promise, and even your brand voice and tone are much more important to the impact your brand will leave on your customers. What do you promise your customers, with every interaction? How does your brand treat people? What do you promise your customers, with every interaction? How does your brand treat people? What do you want people to think of when they imagine your business? Answer those questions before getting caught up on the visual assets. Your outward appearance might change, but your core identity should remain.

Once you have these core elements down, take them to a trusted graphic designer who can bring them to life visually and stylistically, so your appearance matches your brand essence.

Build an extraordinary customer experience

Your brand is nothing without an extraordinary customer experience. For all the branding elements I talk about regularly on this blog and in my business, brand strategy is just hype if the customer experience doesn’t live up. It’s critical to make sure your customer experiences the version of your brand you have always sought to deliver. You need to map out what you envision the customer experience to be, and how you and your team can bring that to reality. Then seek out KPIs and other measurements to ensure these are being met.

Not sure about the experience your customers are getting? Ask them. I can’t stress enough how important it is to check in regularly with your customers and ask them for honest feedback. We all have blind spots. Many leaders are often so driven on certain aspects of our business that we overlook other important aspects to the detriment of our long-term brand health and business growth. This blog post on reaching out to customers for their insights can be a good read. 

Develop a Communications Strategy

Once you’ve got your brand developed, you need to get it out there. A consistent communications strategy and schedule can help identify your target audience, the right messaging and where to intercept them, and can help you time your marketing communications, so your brand appears regularly in front of your target customers. This article can help you design your communications strategy and put it into action. 

Above all, remember that your brand is what you do and say consistently, so lean into that. Be realistic about what you and your team can deliver from a marketing and communications standpoint. If you need help in bringing a robust, consistent brand to life, reach out to us; we’re here to help and ready to make your business magnetic to success. 

 

Magnetic Brand Strategy, located in Northern Virginia, serves a global market seeking a methodical approach to branding. Learn more about us.

WHAT you say is crucially important in building your brand. But so is HOW you say it. We’re talking about Brand Voice.

Truth: Your brand’s voice is a powerful persuader or impeder of your business’ success. We’ve all experienced this: a brand that makes us chuckle or connects with us on a human level – well, we just like them more, and find ourselves wanting to buy what they’re selling. Brands that come off as rigid or arrogant – we want nothing to do with them.

Here’s the thing: the brands we love and gravitate towards? Their brand voice and tone isn’t accidental. There’s a deliberate and methodical exercise in defining the communications playground so content is “on brand,” and the marketing folks can deliver the right brand voice and tone, accurately and consistently. 

Let’s dive into brand voice and tone, and how your brand reflect can convey the right voice and tone to engage your customers with intention.

Brand Voice and Brand Tone: The Difference

Brand voice is your brand values and mission and vision, come to life in your communications and content. Voice focuses on what is being said and should be very consistent with the content you’re communicating. By having an unchanging voice, your readers will see your brand as clear, reliable and consistent.

Brand tone is how colorful and expressive you are with your brand communications. As communications strategist Kelsey Batschelet puts it, “Voice is your brand personality. Tone is how you express that personality.  You’re always you (voice) but how you express yourself to different audiences may vary (your tone).” My caveat to this is you need to be consistent. If you show up in one email blast as hilariously snarky, and then the next time you’re monotonous-serious, you will be off-putting. Strive to create a brand tone that can be flexible but still within the voice that reflects your brand and you want to own. 

 Let’s look at some examples. 

SouthWest Airlines 

One of my favorite examples of a brand voice that is fun, approachable and honest is Southwest. Their hilarious “Wanna get away?” campaign has featured people in awkward situations wanting to disappear, and the tone is always deadpan funny. They infuse humor and a touch of snark in their tone, and we love them for it. 

Harley Davidson

This brand has mastered an emotive, irreverent and edgy brand tone, while still keeping it approachable and engaging (and their font is exceptional for driving home their point). You automatically feel something, just looking at their communications. 

How to Craft Your Brand Voice 

Defining your brand voice requires some work. Your goal is to create a filter for your content, so you can ensure consistency and that you’re “on brand.” You’ll want to determine 3-4 descriptors that are genuine, intrinsically already in your communications and reflect how you want your brand to be perceived“when it grows up.” Here’s how you do this. 

  1. Look at your past and current communications: blogs, email blasts, newsletters, articles. Read these as a potential customer would read them, with a focus on brand voice. Now, sift. What content do you love, and why? What are you rejecting, and why? Describe 3-4 characteristics that reflect the brand voice you want, based on the pieces you love. Assess what you value and the voice characteristics you want to keep. 
  2. Turn to your brand values as a guide for your brand voice. What characteristics are emblematic of your brand? What behavior completely defines your brand? Note those values and the characteristics that bring them to life. If one of your brand values is ‘integrity,’ some possible characteristics would be unconvoluted; down-to-earth; and /or uplifting.
  3. If you’ve recently undergone a rebrand, you’ll also want to convey the ideas in your new brand in your voice and tone. Revisit your brand promise and brand’s essence, and the behavior makes that promise / essence come alive for your customers. Consider the other contextual inputs for your brand, such as your brand archetype, the emotional and functional benefit(s) of your brand, your value proposition and what your customers disproportionately value about your brand. Then (as above), uncover the characteristics that bring those to life and write those down.  

Narrow in on three to four characteristics that expressly and instantly convey your brand. These should be an obvious, natural match; your writers shouldn’t be caught off guard or feel like this is a stretch. Create descriptions for these words, with examples, to drive towards the voice you want. Use this checklist against all of your content going forward, so your communications are ‘on brand’ and you’re building your brand with intention.

Your Brand Tone: A Communications Sandbox

With brand tone, you have much more freedom in how you communicate within the parameters of your brand voice. If one of your brand voice’s characteristics is ‘humorous,’ brand tone allows you to choose whether your brand will be slapstick, self-deprecating, witty, punny, sardonic, dark or snarky. 

A few factors to take into consideration when deciding on your brand tone: 

Your brand tone is the overlap of what’s authentic to your brand, how you want to be perceived, and your clients’ appetite for your tone. Remember that your brand is for your company but importantly also for your clients or customers. If you want to be seen as “irreverent” and your strategy is to drop f-bombs everywhere, that’s fine, but if that doesn’t sit well with your clients, you’ve achieved the wrong outcome. 

Having defined your brand voice, you can decide how much liberty to take with your brand tone. Important: tight guidelines to create a safe sandbox for your brand tone (and your communications strategists) to play in. For instance, will you allow cuss words, or resort to *%^#@&! to convey a point? Will you always be witty or cheeky in your copy? Being clear is kind. Being vague is unkind. Set your guidelines and help your writers become the exceptional writers you want working on your brand.

Finally, give you and your team grace. Nearly every major brand has had some communications oopsies: we’re talking about global organizations with some of the most-sought-after writing talent in the world getting it wrong. Give yourselves the opportunity to try new things and learn from any mistakes. In the end, we’re just all human, trying to connect to other humans.

Recent gaffes by major organizations – even super successful brands aren’t immune to screwing up brand tone and voice every now and again.

Need help with your brand tone or voice? Reach out to us for a virtual coffee and let’s chat about how we can make your content magnetic to success.

Most companies waste enormous amounts of money on marketing, and most tend to be disappointed with the results. “Marketing doesn’t work for me,” they say. But rarely do they consider that there might be a problem with the messaging. The fact is, pretty websites and fancy logos don’t sell things. Your messaging sells things. If you haven’t got a clear and compelling message, your customers won’t listen and you won’t sell.

Mind you, getting to a clear and compelling message isn’t easy. The truth is, we’re in competition to not only sell products, but also to convey why customers need our products over the competition. Even if the competition has an inferior product offering: if they convey why customers need that product better than ours: they win. 

It really comes down to conveying your message clearly and easily, in a way that makes it compelling. So how do we do that?

The challenge with messaging

As a leader in charge of your business, you possess a wealth of knowledge about your business. Arguably no one on the planet knows more about your business than you. But therein is also the curse: the curse of knowledge. You know everything about your business. Every feature, every trivial detail. What’s important to focus on? What’s insignificant enough to leave out? And importantly: what should you convey to make your message magnetic to your customers?

When speaking to your customers, it’s a painstaking job to get to the crux of what your business does for your customers. Many leaders tend to overlook this, wanting to communicate any one / all of the following:

  • Their strength in the market (prestigious industry awards, recent glowing press);
  • The many industry sectors they serve; 
  • Geographic presence and expansion plans;
  • Technological advancements and innovations;
  • Their unique business model that gives them a competitive advantage;
  • A whole array of services they offer;

and I’m forgetting a half-dozen more. Leaders often want to explain everything to their customer because it’s so important to them. This has been their struggle, their challenge to grow this business into something formidable and here are the proof points. 

But none of this messaging is relevant to your customer. 

Shifting gears: your customer’s mindset

Your customer approaches your offering from their point of view. How will this help me survive or thrive? How will this make my life easier or more enjoyable? And how is this offering better than the competition – or the substitute product I’ve jimmy-rigged to get by? 

If your messaging does not answer these points in a clear and compelling way, your customer will move along. Your messaging isn’t magnetic. If your messaging hasn’t identified what your customer wants, what problem you are helping them solve, and what life will look like after they engage with your service, they will move on.

Your Benefit Upfront 

I counsel my clients regularly “features tell, benefits sell.” If you want to make your message magnetic, bring your benefit up front. As an example, one of my clients is a skin care brand. The brand is headed up by a scientist who wants to talk about enzymes and polyphenols and carotenoids that penetrate the lipid layer to go deep into the dermal tissue. My response is: what’s the *$&[email protected] benefit?! 

Nobody cares about polyphenols. 

Makes skin luminous. 
Fights the signs of aging. 
Leaves skin glowing. 

What’s In It For Me? That’s what people care about. Answering this question results in a clear and compelling message.

The “so what” is never more important than when you’re trying to convey why people should care about your brand. The myriad features of your offering do not get you there. Benefits do. Benefits talk to the emotional reason for buying a product, and that’s important, because we buy based on emotion (then we rationalize with features after the fact, but we buy based on how a product makes us feel). 

So how do you discover the benefit you bring? 
Ask yourself: What’s the core idea of your business? 
What problem do you fix for your customer? 
What’s the benefit of using your product? 

Note: this is NOT about dumbing things down. This is about getting to the essential core idea of your business and then articulating that. It’s an exercise in prioritization.

Example: The iPod Messaging

Imagine it’s 2002 and you work for Apple. And Steve Jobs comes to you and explains that they have this cool MP3 player that syncs with a computer so you can create your own music library on your computer. “We’re going to have this super music store where you buy can millions of different tracks and you can only buy what you want and then upload it to your portable MP3 player and take your music anywhere. 

Can you tell customers about this product?” 

What would you talk about? (You can only talk about 1 thing.)

Do you talk about having your own personal library of music that you can store on your computer and then download to a device? Or do you mention all the various MP3 features and its simple and sleek design? Do you highlight being able to buy a specific song but not the album and your choice of millions of tracks? 

This is what they went with:

Note: this is NOT dumbing down. This is prioritizing messaging, and constantly asking “so what?” after every feature, until you get to a benefit that succinctly captures what you ACTUALLY get when you have this MP3 player.

Make Your Messaging Magnetic

So, right now, I want you to think about your business for a second. 

What is the Big Benefit behind your business? 
How do you make your customer’s life better? 
What’s your 10,000 songs in your pocket?

And you want to say that – ideally – in 8 words or less. 

Incidentally, this is hard! As a brand strategist, it can take me days to land on a core customer benefit. But you have an advantage. Remember, you are the smartest person in the world about your business. You know your benefits better than anyone. 

To find your benefit, you need to prioritize. Get rid of the superficial and tangential ideas – those ideas that your business executes on that are nice-to-have but not essential. Then prioritize your benefits. Rank your really strong benefits and choose ONE. There can only be one. 

(Because if you say three things you say nothing.)

Finally, lead with your top benefit. Convey how you help your customers thrive or survive and I guarantee you, you will start to see a difference in your marketing efforts. If you still are struggling, please reach out to us, we’re always here to help make your business magnetic to success. 

Recently, a business leader asked how to make his presentations more engaging. As the owner of a networking monitoring company, he typically started his presentations by talking about solutions, network optimization and cloud architecture. I recommended he scratch all that, and instead tell a story his audience could imagine themselves dealing with. To his surprise, audience engagement and prospect interest skyrocketed. 

Why are stories so effective?

Here’s a not-so-well-kept secret: we humans are biologically wired for stories. Really. Studies show, stories engage us on a systemic level

  • When you listen to a story that references color, the part of your brain that processes color lights up; in your mind, you can “see” the colors. 
  • If the story involves sensory issues – like the feel of something, or distinct sounds – the part of your brain that processes sensory lights up, and it’s as if you could feel or hear those parts.
  • When you listen to a story that involves motion, the part of your brain that processes motion fires up, and your heart rate accelerates. 

Not only this, but stories actually alter our body chemistry as we’re hearing the story:

  • As the protagonist encounters conflict, the listener’s body creates cortisol, the stress chemical, creating heightened duress and attention. 
  • As the story unfolds, the body also produces dopamine (the reward chemical) which keeps the listener engaged in the story for the outcome.
  • And last but not least, during the story the body produces oxytocin, bonding the listener to the protagonist and the outcome. The power of story is that it can transport the listener into the story; it’s as if they’re living it themselves. 

All this engagement from simply telling a story? It’s true. Storytelling is simply the most effective communications medium — ever. Which is why at Magnetic Current, we use storytelling strategy when branding businesses, to make client brands magnetic to the people they need to reach.

What is storytelling strategy?

Whether you’re giving a presentation about your products, writing a case study, or delivering your company’s brand story: there’s a strategy for telling stories. In our experience, the best story strategy for B2B brands borrows heavily from the hero narrative structure, constructed by famed mythologist Joseph Campbell

We recommend the following structural storytelling elements in your brand story: 

Source: Magnetic Current, 2020.
  1. Context: You want to describe enough about the situation so the listener is transported. The more details – visual, motion, auditory cues – the better.
  2. Present the Protagonist: create an opportunity for the listener to immediately identify with the protagonist. The listener should understand and relate to the protagonist, and be challenged when…
  3. The Protagonist faces Conflict. Conflict is everything in a story. There is no story without conflict! It’s essential to any story, and certainly to the hero narrative, because it’s the turning point where our hero realizes she has a problem, attempts to fix it, and cannot. Frustrated, she’s about to give up when…
  4. She Encounters A Guide who has The Key. A new character appears, someone who helps her see things differently, and offers her a solution.
  5. Resolution: With this help, she masters her conflict. She returns from her “journey”, triumphant, having overcome a seemingly insurmountable challenge and…
  6. Denouement: is able to go on and do great things. 

We love this simple formula for B2B brands – it’s highly effective in showing (not telling) how your offering can truly help your customers overcome their problems and emerge better than before.

Other elements for storytelling strategy

The things to remember about storytelling in business: while it’s your story, it’s important to remember who undergoes the transformation, who benefits in your narrative, and who is rewarded by your offering. Your customers. They are always the hero in your story. Resist the temptation to turn your story into a company press release. Stay on script, stay in the background and let the flow of your story position you in the right light.

As well, you want your brand archetype to emerge as part of the story, and in tone and style. What is an archetype? It’s really the use of psychological motifs and metaphors in branding, and is a powerful way to further draw connection with your audience. For more about archetypes, we recommend this article.

Also, add the right touches to make your story compelling. Start with a great hook. A startling statistic, a vivid description, a compelling question or a gripping statement: you want to grab your listener’s attention. For more on hooks, this article is a great read. 

Finally, we love open loops to build intrigue and keep readers engaged. Open loops are when information is presented in the story, but not immediately explained. A shotgun is introduced in the first scene – why? We learn the protagonist can talk to animals – why? Our brains are wired for conclusions, and when the answers aren’t provided, the brain engages, waiting until the answer appears. Open loops are a clever way to keep your audience curious. You can read more about open loops here

How can I use these elements to tell my business’ story?

With this map in front of you, study your business. Begin designing your business’ brand story by answering the following questions: 

  • What is the context for your customers?
  • Who is the ideal protagonist?
  • What problem do they encounter that causes them to stumble? 
  • (You are the guide, and your business solution is the key)
  • What would resolution look like, in terms of solving the problem? 
  • And finally, what denouement would you end the story with?

Now, put together the pieces of your brand story. As an example: if you are the networking monitoring company mentioned above, the context could be a situation or event where network uptime is essential. Say, an event like CyberMonday. The protagonist would be a business that depends on being online for revenue purposes: an online retailer. The conflict: their website goes down. The guide and the key? That’s the networking monitoring company and their solution that never-ever goes down because of triple redundancy measures. The resolution is that the guide and the key help the online retailer fix their site so they never go down again. Denouement could be: next holiday season, they triple online sales. 

Once you know your brand story, you can use storytelling for many customer-facing interactions: presentations, case studies, even as a conversation starter to talk about your business solutions and how you help make your customers’ lives better. If you need help with your brand story, connect with us, we’re here to help make your business magnetic to success. 

“My goal is to get 80,000 followers on Instagram.”

A recent client comment prompted me to write a LinkedIn post that went viral. Likes, followers, pageviews, downloads: it’s tempting to focus on social metrics when doing social media marketing. The implication is so alluring: Increased brand awareness! New customers! More sales! The potential for my brand to go viral and blow up!

But these social metrics are pure vanity, and they’re disconnected from real numbers that drive growth: conversion, revenue, retention, customer lifetime value (CLV) and customer acquisition cost (CAC). ✨

LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms can be fantastic brand awareness drivers, and can be powerful marketing tools. But what actually converts customers and builds loyalty for your business? You can have great brand awareness, but if people aren’t buying, you’ve got the Emperor’s New Clothes situation going on.

In working with my clients, I counsel them to:

📌 Choose evangelists over numbers. You don’t need 80,000 followers. You need a handful of deeply loyal customers who love your brand so much, they’ll be your voluntary marketing department and evangelize your brand to their network.

📌 Be choosy. Remember that you don’t want brand awareness from anyone; you want it from that segment that deeply and disproportionately values what you offer. You can’t please all masters. Keep your brand broad to accommodate everyone, and you’ll dilute the strength of your offering. This article has more insights into why you want to target.

📌 Hyper-focus. Hone your communications strategy and message to focus solely on your ideal customers as if they’re the only ones that matter – because they are the only ones that matter. Address their acute and specific pain and how your solution helps to solve that. 

📌 Surprise & delight. If you can’t be all things to all people, you might as well be special to someone. Evaluate your best customers and what they deeply value that you offer. Focus your energies on making and delivering a promise so beyond what’s expected, they can’t help but be surprised & delighted.

📌 Build love. Once they’ve become a customer, continue to build your relationship with them. In what ways can you constantly offer value, so that you win them over and they shower you with repeat business?

You want to focus on what actually grows your business. Social media networks want you to focus on social metrics like increasing your followers or driving likes, because it makes their platforms “sticky” and keeps you engaged on their site. But it’s important to ask if those social metrics grow your business and are worth your investment. Many times, you’re chasing empty numbers that don’t materialize into sales.

Net: you want to build a community of customers who appreciate and value your offerings. If that turns out to be a small, loyal base, that’s perfectly fine. Forget the social metrics and focus on the numbers that matter – those that grow your business’ success. 

ICYMI: In February 2020 Burger King Corporation  launched an ad campaign announcing no more preservatives in its food… with this daring image. A rotting burger.

Yes, it’s a bit tough to swallow (ha!), but as far as a jaw dropping ad campaign goes, it is also freaking spectacular. 

The Goal of Advertising

Recall what an ad campaign is supposed to do: it’s supposed to get your attention. It’s supposed to be provocative and edgy, so you can absorb a relatively banal topic (no preservatives? Yawn) with interest. It’s meant to educate you and make you think about the product / service / offering differently. If done well, it’s meant to do all this and elicit an emotional response and leave you feeling differently about the brand. 

So let’s go back to the Burger King ad now. Consider it. Then ask yourself:

-Does it get your attention? 

-Did you try to understand the message?

-Do you have an emotional reaction to it? Maybe more than one?

-Is it provocative? 

-Do you now know something about Burger King that you didn’t before?

-Did your perception of Burger King change?

Ad Campaign Analysis: A Whopper Win

For me, this ad campaign hits it out of the park on every one of these points. Not to mention the emotional spectrum this brand delivers: my first initial feeling (disgust) to digesting (ha!) the ad and its message (neutrality) to seeing the brand differently (likeability) as a result of this campaign. All in one ad! 💥

This is a fantastic example of effective advertising at work, and let’s take a minute to appreciate the guts to run this. If you were head of marketing for a food company, would you’ve run this ad? Fantastic work from agencies Ingo, Ogilvy and Grey. And hats off to Fernando Machado, the Chief Marketing Officer at Burger King, for the courage to run this. 

What do you think?
Does this change your perception of Burger King?
Do you find the ad compelling?

You’ve decided to do some marketing to highlight how your offering can help customers achieve their goals. And you’ve decided –  rather than using charts, facts or statistics – that you want to show people the impact you can bring with case studies. 

So how do you make your case studies a great read?


First, the case for case studies.

Case studies are far and away the most compelling and effective communication tool to convert prospects into buyers. Over 77% of B2B buyers cited testimonials and case studies as the most influential type of content in their decision making. B2C businesses show similar results as well. And they’re not just helpful for businesses; university students learn subjects faster and retain ideas longer when material is presented in a case study form.  

Why? Because case studies are essentially stories, and our brains are wired for story. 

Case studies tell a success story, walking the reader through a real-life scenario they can relate to. Readers get to meet their peer (the customer you’re highlighting), and see the challenges that customer is facing (challenges that should be strikingly similar to the challenges your readers are facing). They get to see how your offering helps solve the problem and the benefit your offering brings. They can grasp the impact your offering has had on the customer –  saved them money, improved their productivity, reduced downtime, accelerated production…whatever results you have to share. 

So how do I write spellbinding case studies?

Just like a story, good case studies have a beginning, a middle, and an end, as well as a protagonist – your customer – overcoming a problem and achieving their objective, just like the main character of a story. 

With a good case study, by the end of the story the reader should be able to visualize themselves as the hero of that story. They should be able to relate to the problems of your featured customer, and see themselves achieving their own goals by using your product or service.

The most compelling approach involves the hero narrative structure, constructed by famed mythologist Joseph Campbell. The hero narrative almost always follows the following formula:

  1. The hero is going along great, until s/he suffers a loss / experiences a serious problem.
  2. S/he attempts to resolve issues via the usual means, but fails time and again.
  3. The hero goes on a journey of sorts, and along the way, discovers an ally or new approach.
  4. With guidance from the ally, the hero overcomes tremendous odds to resolve the problem.
  5. The hero returns triumphant, having learned something powerful; life is better than before.

Why this model works: 

The hero narrative is a classic way to take your reader through a formula that lays out how your product is the solution, in a way that your brain likes. The order of events and the process by which the information is revealed not only makes sense to us, our brains anticipate and desire and expect stories to unfold in this order.

This formula can work for technology companies offering digital transformation solutions and it can work for Consumer Packaged Goods companies selling laundry detergent. And, this is the formula for every major action / thriller Hollywood movie. From Diehard to Mission Impossible to Aquaman, the whole Marvel Superheroes series and Jason Bourne, they all follow this formula for a reason: it works.

How to make your case studies more compelling:

  • Make sure the reader can see themselves as the protagonist;
  • Numbers / statistics to cite impact;
  • Customer testimonials or quotes;
  • Clear before and after transformation impact.

Watch outs:

  1. While it’s tempting to think of your case study as basically a company press release, it’s not. A case study is also not an advertisement. Good case studies are about your customer’s journey, not your company. Most case studies out there are instantly forgettable crap because marketers harp on about how great their company is and they forget to actually follow the formula.

  2. When it comes to effective case studies, show, don’t tell. Your goal is to place the reader as the protagonist (The Hero) and narrate what transpired, so don’t slide into claims. Show how your product impacted the customer problem. Doing this boosts the credibility of your case study: it’s not about you, you’re removed from the story and simply describing what happened and the impact your offering had.

  3. In your case studies, your customer is the protagonist. Which means your customer is The Hero. So you cannot be. You are the guide who helps them along on their journey to succeed. But don’t be bummed; being the guide is a really powerful role. You’re Dumbledore in Harry Potter. Morpheus in The Matrix. Jack Dawson in Titanic. Nigel in Devil Wears Prada. The Terminator in T2. You get my drift: you’re the enabler, the one who incites transformation and helps the protagonist succeed (which is what you want your business to be seen as, as well). 

Over to you: how compelling are your case studies? We hope this post gives you some ideas for how to make them work harder for you. We also write case studies for our clients, so if that’s of interest, let’s connect and set up a time to chat. 

Compelling content drives connection. If a brand connects with us, then we’re more likely to prefer that brand, we’re more likely to buy from that brand. So how can we create compelling content that connects and captivates? Let’s look at my top tips for content that foster connection and captivate the people we care about reaching.

  1. Be relevant  

    You need to get clear about your target and why they would be interested in your service or product or you fall into obscurity.  Why is your chosen audience the best audience for your product or service?  Why do they need or want your product? When you’re targeting your content to people who are actually interested in what you have to say, your content becomes compelling. 

  2. Tell a Story

    Want compelling content? Write a story. We humans are wired for stories; our minds digest stories infinitely better than facts.  But while we all live by stories and we love stories in our personal lives, especially for B2B and tech brands, we leave all that gorgeous storytelling in our personal lives and it never crosses over into work. We wind up talking about features and services, but facts and facts are boring.  To compel you need to tell a story. Read here for what goes into making a great brand story. 

  3. If you confuse you lose

    . As business owners, we know everything about our business; it’s our area of expertise! We want to share everything! But so much of that content is irrelevant to your prospects. As Donald Miller, author of Building a Story Brand says, “the human brain is drawn toward clarity and away from confusion.”  You need to get super clear about your message. Can you say it easily? Does your team know your message and how to say it to customers?  Is it clear why every prospect should buy your service?
     
  4. Features tell, Benefits sell

     The “so what” is the most important message for your prospects. Distill down the benefit you offer your customers. If you run a car wash, your end result is giving people with a sense of pride. If you have a tutoring business, you’re building self-esteem. When thinking about your business, what do you offer? Peace of mind? A greater sense of confidence? Lead with that point as your headline; then explain how your services deliver on that benefit in subsequent sentences.

  5. Get personal

      Many professionals believe they won’t be taken seriously if they use personal language, but it’s actually a key differentiator in fostering connection. When you write in the first person, you create a conversation between you and your reader.  That helps establish a more authentic relationship. Unfortunately, most websites today use verbiage that reads like a bot wrote the wording.  Skip that.  Use approachable language written in the first person, so it feels like the start of a conversation. Because a conversation can lead to connection and a connection can lead to a sale.

  6.  Lose the Industry Jargon

    Remember that the whole point of marketing and branding is to connect with your audience. And today people are short on time and patience. Make your communications easy to understand and to the point. Write for a 5th – 8th grade level. No one wants to over-analyze your offering. They’ll just move on to someone with more clarity. 
If you need help with your content, we’d be happy to have a conversation about how we can help make you magnetic to success. We help growing businesses become magnetic to success with brand strategy and storytelling.