There is a great quote we like to share around the office and with our clients. It goes like this: “Advertising is the tax for unremarkable thinking.” In our experience, this has proven itself to be true over and over again.
We’re often surprised how little people think about what they’re doing, or how little they consider the people for whom they’re doing it and how little they reflect about why they’re doing it in the first place. This lack of thinking is often the root cause of ineffective marketing and communication. Inauthentic story telling suffers poor conversion rates. Poor conversion rates requires reaching many, many more people to start with. Indeed! Advertising is the tax for unremarkable thinking.
We spend a great deal of time with our clients challenging them to think more deeply about their work and help them uncover the more meaningful and more compelling stories about their organizations, their products and/or their services. Meaningful stories make a connection with the people. Connection leads to relationships and relationships drive business. We think written communications are really important. But if you have not thought clearly about your business, don’t waste your time “wordsmithing” or copy writing. The problem with your messaging is rarely a lack of grammar skills.
“Advertising is the tax for unremarkable thinking.”Robert Stevens
We’re going to assume that you’ve thought deeply about what you do, who you do it for and why anyone should care. That being the case, you may still be challenged with the issue of how to tell your story. We’re going to suggest 7 different pieces of language or types of statements, if you will, that every self-respecting organization should have in at least one form or another.
Here they are in order:
- Brand Story
- One liner
These statements help you clarify your message and maintain consistency. In the noisy world we live in these days it’s clarity that wins. Clarity allows us to pay attention long enough to hear what you have to say. Clarity helps us understand what you’re saying. Clarity helps us retain what you’ll share with us. Clarity equips us to tell others.
So how do we create clarity?
1. Mission Statement: Start with “WHY?”
Your mission refers to your purpose. The reason your organization, company, or your brand exists. A mission statement can be a statement of belief. It’s usually philosophical and abstract in nature.
E.g.: We exist…
- To further man’s exploration of Space (NASA Circa 1960s)
- To design the coolest gardens ever
- To redeem the stories we tell in the marketplace (that’s ours)
2. Vision Statement: Describe what you see
Vision is a descriptive picture of the future in which you’ve accomplished your mission. Casting a vision is a key responsibility of leaders because the task of leaders is to get people from where they are to where they have not been. Think of embarking on a trip with several travelling companions. You’ll need to describe where you’re going, both to inspire others to join you and so you’ll know when you’ve arrived. Vision implies sight. So start your vision statement with “We see…”
E.g.: We see…
- A man on the moon by the end of the decade (NASA)
- A computer in every home (Microsoft)
- Less clutter, less noise, and the emergence of more, meaningful, and trustworthy brands. (That’s us again)
3. Values: Decide what’s important
You can’t be all things to all people. If everything is a priority, then nothing is. There are only a certain number of priorities and behaviours that will be instrumental in helping you fulfill your mission and see your vision become reality. Other stuff will only serve to distract and slow progress. Focus is required. Choose no more than 8 specific values that will guide your organization. Challenge yourself to go beyond the basics of human existence like honesty and integrity. (The bar has been raised far higher than that since the rise and fall of the Barbarians). It’s much easier to make decisions when you know what your values are.
4. Positioning. Describe how you’re different
Some people call this a USP, or a ZAG, or an ONLINESS statement. Essentially you need to set yourself apart from others who may be offering or appear to be offering the same thing as you. Humans are designed to spot differences. When unable to spot the difference, purchase decisions almost always default to the issue of price. The lowest one. Unless your positioning is “lowest price,” avoid the race to the bottom by communicating, clearly, how you’re different. The people who find your difference compelling enough will gladly pay a little more for it.
5. Brand Story. Tell ‘em a story
People love stories. We read stories, watch stories, listen to stories, tell stories. In the past ten years film production has doubled from 4,584 productions in 2005 to 9,387 in 2015. We’re wired for stories. Stories are how we make sense of our world and also how we make sense of the brands vying for our attention. And here’s the interesting thing. Almost all stories follow the same path. Think of a movie you’ve watched recently and see if it doesn’t follow this formula:
- We’re introduced to a hero. (Luke)
- The hero has a problem that he needs help solving. (Evil empire)
- He meets a guide. (Yoda)
- The guide provides a plan. (Use the Force)
- The plan calls the hero to take action. (Fight Darth Vader)
- The Hero will need to choose. (I will do it)
- His choice will end in failure or success. (the rebellion will live on)
What’s your brand’s story? Here’s a little hint: Your brand is not the hero. Your brand is the guide. (Read more about how to tell a story here).
6. One-liner - For when you’ve only got 10 seconds
There will be many times when you won’t have the opportunity to tell someone your whole story as riveting as it might be. For these occasions, maybe most occasions you should be able to share your story in about 15 seconds or less. For this we recommend a one-liner which follows this formula: pain-point, plan, success. Perhaps the best way to describe this is by way of example. Here’s a one liner we wrote for our friends at Deliberate U:
[PAIN] If you’re pounding hard, struggling to make everything work or just feeling a “slow fade”
[PLAN] our veteran business mentors will come along side you in the trenches offering you some much needed encouragement, practical advice, and the tools & training you need
[HAPPY ENDING] and help you reconnect with the one who made you so you can get growing again.
7. Tagline - Your story in ideally 5 words or less
Pascal once famously said, “If I had more time I would’ve written you a shorter letter.” No writing exercise is quite so arduous as editing your brand story down to the 5 or fewer words that should make up your tagline. And nothing is quite so powerful in terms of spreading a message. It took us nearly ten years to distill our philosophy, values, and positioning down to our current tagline: “Because business is beautiful.” Beside your logo there is probably no other piece of marketing communication that is more important to your brand than your tagline. Recognize these?
- Think Different
- Just do it
- The Swiffer picker upper
- I’m lovin’ it
- It’s in you to give.
“In telling your story, your brand is not the hero.”
The only caveat on writing your tagline is that you’ll have to do the hard work of writing all the other statements first. There’s no shortcut here. But have fun. Be creative. Be real. Be…human. It’s a connection with another human being we’re going for here remember?
Here's another quote we're fond of: "Clarity in communication is an act of love". We agree. Especially today when people are short on time and long on options. Let us help you cut through the clutter and connect with more clarity. People will LOVE you for it.