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. 

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?