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Posts Tagged ‘Product Differentiators’

A brand messaging architecture is the first thing you should develop to help you manage your brand image and communications.  It is primarily used by internal departments and external vendors (such as PR firms) who communicate externally to customers, partners, and influencers.  The brand messaging architecture is a formal structure that summarizes and communicates messages about your company, products, and services. 

There are a lot of components to messaging and not all of them will be needed for every brand messaging architecture.  Depending upon your situation, you will choose from the following components to develop the messaging that you need:

– Vision Statement
– Mission Statement
– Positioning Statement
– Value Proposition
– Key Messages
– Proof Points

Here’s an example of a brand messaging architecture for a global non-profit professional association, the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals (it’s an older version of the brand architecture, so I can share it).

Example: Brand Messaging Architecture

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It’s been a while since my last blog post, and that’s because I’ve been in the process of publishing my new ebook!

I am truly excited to announce the publication of  “Before the Brand: Using Positioning and Messaging to Build Brand Identity.” 

Think about it.  How is your brand perceived?  Unless you consciously define your brand, your customers will create their own perception. This book helps you take control of your brand by defining what your brand is before your marketplace does.  It contains a step-by-step process to create positioning, value propositions and messaging, making it much easier to influence customer perception of your brand.

To learn more, or to purchase a copy ($10 USD), click here.

And there is another change you may have noticed.  My blog brand has changed from “Marketing Magic” to “Before the Brand.”  I’ve had so much interest in the intricacies of positioning and messaging that I’ve evolved this blog to cover that topic more fully.  In upcoming posts, you will learn:

  • How to create a value proposition
  • How to manage brand perception
  • How to position your product
  • What the difference is between vision statements and mission statements
  • …. and much, much more!

I’m pleased to bring my subscribers new, useful tools to help them in their day-to-day work.  Go forth, and make your mark!

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When I speak with marketing professionals, one of the chief benefits that they point to in implementing a messaging process is that it helps them align their organizations around one message architecture.  And when one message architecture is in place, it’s much easier to get the organization moving in the same direction.

But how do you get all these executives, influencers, company employees and partners aligned?  Just what are the mechanics of the messaging process?

The messaging process has four steps:

  1. Gather the Team
  2. Establish a Schedule
  3. Execution Phases:
    • Discovery
    • Team Strategy Workshop
    • Messaging Validation
  4. Evangelism

1.  Gather the Team

When gathering a team together, it’s best to select and involve the team members based upon role, and to define roles in relationship to the messaging process, rather than relationship to the company.  For most projects, team roles boil down to (in order of depth of contribution):  Team Leaders, Core Team, Extended Team and Influencers.  This implies a hierarchy of importance by role and helps prioritize the weight given to input and involvement for each team member. 

For example, you may have a particular customer who has been extremely active in defining a new product or category – plus they just “get” your business.  You really want their active participation in the project and will weigh their input heavily when crafting the final messaging.  In that case, you may assign them to the Extended or even the Core team. 

On the other hand, you may have a powerful executive within your company.  You need to include them in the process, but their input just won’t be that hands-on.  Therefore, you may opt to assign them to the Extended team or even as an Influencer.

2.  Establish a Schedule

The complexity of your project schedule varies according to complexity of the messaging project, such as how many people are involved, how many brands need to be positioned, and how complex a messaging hierarchy is required.

It makes sense to break the schedule out to align with the Execution Phases of the process:  Discovery, Strategy Workshop, and Messaging Validation.

3.  Execution Phases

There are three execution phases to the messaging process:  Discovery, Team Strategy Workshop and Messaging Validation.  The execution phases involve a lot of tasks, people and documents, so it’s helpful to use some sort of project management tool to help you manage the project.

I’ve developed what I call a Project Navigator, which I would post to my blog as a file, except, my blog subscription doesn’t let me post files.  So, instead, let me just tell you what’s in it, and you can create your own.

Tool:  Project Navigator

Using Microsoft® Excel™, create a series of tabs at the bottom of the document — basically, you’re creating worksheets.  On these, I put:

  1. Project Schedule:  A high-level schedule for the project itself.
  2. Roles & Contacts:  Tracks the role of each team member and their contact information.
  3. Status by Team Member:  Tracks what each team member is contributing and status.
  4. Bibliography:  Provides a repository (bibliography) of all inputs, such as presentations, videos, books, web site articles, etc., and their sources.

It’s a great little tool but you’d be surprised the big impact it can have.  Just tracking the bibliography of inputs can be daunting, especially on enterprise projects.  Plus, in the end, this tool demonstrates what went into the project for anyone who needs to know.

In my next post, I’ll break down the steps to the Discovery phase in the execution of a messaging process.

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In my last few posts I’ve been writing about building a messaging document, what it is used for, and what the components are.  A  messaging document is distributed  to customer-facing representatives or employees who will be communicating about the topic you are presenting (a program, launch announcement or technology, for example).  These customer-facing representatives could be company executives, PR agencies, sales and marketing people, customer service representatives, and the like.

How Partner Messages are Different

Partner messages are intended for organizations with whom you have a relationship — whether it is negotiated, regulated, or casual.  In the high tech industry, for instance, it’s common to have technology agreements with other organizations that either influence or own the solution you will ultimately deliver to your customer.  In many cases, companies have sales relationships with other companies, commonly referred to as sell-through, sell-with, sell-to or meet-in-the-channel relationships. 

The intended audience for these messages are partners.  So, the first question to ask is: 

  • What types of partners do we have? 

The reason you ask this question is because each type of partner has different things they care about (or “care-abouts” as my colleagues often say).  The messages you create would then need to answer the following questions:

  • What partner care-abouts does it impact or resolve? What should happen to the partner as a result?
  • How will the partner benefit or make money?
  • How will it help/benefit the partner’s customer?
  • How will it affect the partner’s relationship with you?
  • What is the impact on the industries in which you and your partner go-to-market?

User Stories as the Tipping Point

But the most important thing you can do in any partner message is include user stories or testimonials about how the announcement you are making has worked with a partner and the partner’s customer.  User stories give the announcement credibility and make the announcement real. 

Why is this essential?  Because, unfortunately, often-times companies will make an announcement, create a lot of excitement about it — but ulitmately fail to execute on the promises they are making.  Partners come in all sort of “flavors,” from big, to small, to industry-specific, but one thing they all have in common is that they are tightly monitoring where they invest their resources.  If the announcement you are making requires any resources to implement (such as training of consultants or other financial investments), partners are going to think two or three times before the commit to it.  User stories are often the tipping point for early adoption by the partner, because it tells them that it’s worth the time and investment to commit to it.

Thank you to Norma Watenpaugh for her contribution to this post!

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Once you have created a brand architecture, you’ll want to translate it into usable, practical copy blocks that are customized either by function or audience.  In my post on April 14, I discussed copy blocks.  This post focuses on copy blocks that are used specifically for program, product, or service “launches” — commonly referred to as “launch messages. ”

Launch messages are put into a messaging document that is distributed  to customer-facing representatives or employees who will be communicating about the announcement — such as company executives, PR agencies, sales and marketing people, and customer service representatives. 

Launch Messages

When you are ready to announce a new program, product or service, there is generally some sort of  “launch” to announce it to a market or audience.  In some cases, the launch is as simple as a press release.  In others, a launch is a huge multimedia and communications event – much like the “productions” that Apple puts on when they announce the next “i-product.”

We’re going to start a little smaller — focusing instead on launch messages that go into an internal messaging document.

There are several components to launch messages:

  • What are you announcing?
  • Who is it for (intended audience)?
  • What are it’s attributes?
  • Why should your intended audience care?
  • Who is using it now?  What are they doing with it?

Readers who’ve been reading my blog for a while will immediately recognize that most of these questions are answered by positioning statements, value propositions, key messages, and proof points.  Launch message development is one of the practical applications of these components of the brand architecture.

Here’s how these components map to the questions above:

  • What are you announcing? (positioning statement)
  • Who is it for (intended audience)? (positioning statement)
  • What are it’s attributes? (positioning statement, key messages, proof points)
  • Why should your intended audience care? (positioning statement, value proposition)

Your goal in creating launch messages is to take the above components and write copy blocks in streamlined, easy to understand language that anyone in your target audience will understand.  That means if you are talking to medical professionals, you can feel free to use terms specific to the medical professional.  However, if your audience includes medical professionals and mothers with pre-mature infants, then you will want to include definitions of the medical terms you are using, as well as explanations of the implications of the specific concepts so that the mothers with pre-mature infants will have a better likelihood of understanding the concepts.

You may have noticed that I left off two questions:

  • Who is using it now?  What are they doing with it?

That’s because these questions aren’t answered within the brand architecture.  But, you might say, don’t these questions refer to the intended audience?  Well, kinda-sorta.  Yes, they refer to the intended audience, but the objective of the questions here is different.  The objective behind these questions is to provide a “user story” to the intended audience, so that they can better relate the launch announcement to their own situation. 

So, for example, if your audience is medical professionals and mother’s with pre-mature infants, you may want to include a story of how a medical professional used the product to help a mother with a pre-mature infant and what the result was.  It’s not unusually for a product launch to include multiple user stories to better illustrate the nuances of the application of the program, product or service.

That’s it for launch messages!  The topic next time is industry messages (can’t wait!).

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Over the course of the last few months this blog has focused on the building blocks of the brand architecture — what the components are, how to build it, and how the components relate to one another.  In the end, your ultimate “product” has been the brand architecture.

Now, what do you do with it?  Well, you’re not done creating messaging yet.

The brand architecture functions as your nexus point — all messaging should relate to and be consistent with the brand.

Next, I recommend to my clients that they build a messaging document that consists of all the messaging required for use by internal stakeholders.  The document breaks out like this:

  • Copy Blocks
  • Launch Messages
  • Industry Messages
  • Audience Messages
  • Partner Messages
  • Customer Messages

Copy Blocks

Copy blocks are sometimes called “boilerplates” and function as concise descriptions of your company, product, service, or program (“product”).  They are usually created in 25 and 50 word descriptors.  People can then copy and paste them into presentations, onto Web sites, and into press releases.  In many cases, copy blocks function as “elevator pitches,” quick descriptions of the product, it’s intended audience, and it’s key differentiators.  Note I say differentiators, not benefits.  Differentiators are those key, important attributes that make the product significant.  Benefits are what the product does for you and that’s good.  However, the value of the differentiators is that they are what makes the product most significant in the marketplace.

 In my next posts, I’ll discuss the remaining sections of the messaging document:  launch, industry, audience, partner and customer messages.  Stay tuned!

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There are a lot of components to messaging, and each component takes good old fashioned work to create.  Yes, each component is necessary.  Yes, each component builds upon the previous component.  But how do you then communicate the components in an easy to understand, easy to use way?

I like to aggregate these messages into a one or two page Brand Architecture.  Quite simply, it’s a cheat sheet.

Use this as a method of summarizing your company, segment, product or service messaging in one, easy to reference location.  I know of companies that post it to their internal Web sites, even distribute it to sales people when they are bringing them up to speed on their next product or service.  It’s the best way to keep everyone in sync — after all, if you don’t make it easy to find, use and understand, your user adoption will be low. 

Cable Company Brand Architecture

Vision By 2012, Cable Company will be the leading provider of integrated communications services for the home.
 Mission Cable Company is the leading integrator of digital communication for the home, by providing cable, radio, internet, and mobile/landline phone services.  We delight our customers with outstanding programming, customer service, and seamless integration of communications
 Positioning Statement

(for the Families market segment)

For families who need programming suitable for children, but find that unfiltered content on TV can be unsuitable, Cable Company’s offering is music, entertainment, and educational programming.  This includes parental controls that enable parents to filter TV programming by channel, rating, or programming type, and which prevent access to programming that parents deem unsuitable for their children.Unlike broadcast television or analog cable, our company provides digital television technology that delivers parental control capabilities.
Key Messages(for the Families market segment) Family Programming Parental Controls
  • Family radio channels 1, 2, 3, featuring animated character guest hosts from the popular Almond Avenue children’s series.
  • 12 educational shows, including 3 animal shows, 1 cooking show, 2 math shows, and 6 educational variety shows.
  • Filter programming by channel, rating, or programming type
  • Available for digital subscribers only
  • Menu driven interface
  • Timer capability allows you to shut off the TV at a pre-determined time.  For example, every day at 7 p.m. programming will shut off but can be turned back on with a parentally defined code.

 

  •  “The best source for children’s TV programming,” Martha Seuss, leading parenting expert.
  • 50% of the programming audience for children, ages 8 – 12, Children’s Television Daily.
  • Winner, 2009 Best Children’s Educational Programming, Education Weekly.
  • Winner, 2009 Best Parental Controls, TV Weekly.
  • “I wouldn’t use any other service,” Parenting Blog, Family Magazine Online.

In my next post, I’ll be moving on to another messaging topic:  preparing messaging documents for the internal company audience.

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