– [Announcer] Brand X, brand Y, brand Z, not one sticks. Watch it again in slow motion.
– Welcome to the Sticky Branding Podcast. In this show, we are unpacking how companies grow sticky brands. My name is Jeremy Miller. I am the founder of Sticky Branding, and host of the show. Today is a unique episode, in that we’re gonna do a deep dive into your brand messaging. I wanna talk one-on-one with you about how to develop your brand messaging and really make it work, because, so let me just start out with a question. How effective do you think your brand messaging is? Do customers get it? Do they resonate? Does it provoke them to buy? So many marketing dollars are wasted simply because our brand messaging isn’t connecting with the right person, at the right time, with the right message. And as a result, we have to increase our marketing dollars, increase our effort, to try and hopefully get enough out there that we make it work. But when you get your brand messaging right, it’s fire, it’s an accelerant, it increases the velocity of your communication, and it drives sales. And that’s what we’re gonna explore today. Now, let’s just take this first step and look at what we see in the world, because so much brand messaging is not very good, and you can see it on people’s websites. Just take a look at your competitors in your industry, and you’ll see things like, “We are the oldest,” “We are the greatest,” “We have the best service,” “We have the best people,” “We have the best features,” “We have the best prices,” “We, we, we.” But please, please don’t we-we all over your customers. Nobody likes to be we we-we’d all over. But that’s what’s going on. When we think about our messaging, it starts coming from ourselves, and we start to talk about what we do, and what we believe, and what we think, and we talk about our why, and we talk about our features, and we talk about our prices, and as a result, we we-we on everybody. What great brand messaging does is it connects with your customers in a meaningful way, and the measure of success is, they get it. Instead of them saying, “That’s interesting, tell me more,” or, “That’s really provocative,” it gets understanding, and when people understand, they buy. And this is a core concept at Sticky Branding. We call it Simple Clarity, which is the ability to describe what your brand is, and who you serve, and what makes you unique, ideally in 10 words or less, and it’s gotta be simple and succinct and clear. This is a concept I believe in so greatly it is actually the first principle of my book “Sticky Branding.” If you take anything away from “Sticky Branding,” this is it: how do you describe your brand, and what makes it unique in 10 words or less? And in this podcast episode, I am going to show you how. I’m gonna give you the formula, I’m gonna give you examples, and we’re gonna walk through what does it take to create the brand messaging that gives your business Simple Clarity? Before we do that, let’s look at some examples. I think the easiest way to talk about brand messaging is to look at what other people do. One of my favorite examples of this is Big Ass Fans. As you can imagine from this name, they make really big fans. This is an example where the company’s name is actually their Simple Clarity statement. In three words, you know exactly what this business is all about. They make big ass fans. Now, the company actually started out as HVLS Fan Company, which stood for high volume, low speed fans, but their customers kept calling up and saying, “Hey, are you those guys that sell those big ass fans?” And after a while, management cued in on this, and they rebranded the business to Big Ass Fans, and it took off. This company became just a shining star of a B2B brand. You’ve got the donkey in their logo, the whimsy of it all. But they played with it, and they were so functionally descriptive that it’s hard to ignore. Now, you don’t have to have Simple Clarity in your brand name, and chances are, you don’t, we rarely are doing that descriptive a name. But it’s in your description. Think of this as the first thing somebody sees on your website. Another example that I truly love is Patriot Software. If you pay attention to any of the cable news networks in the United States, Patriot is a prolific advertiser, and in all of their ads, they say the exact same thing. “Patriot Software is accounting and payroll software for companies between 1 to 100 employees.” And you’ll have an ad where the founder gives a story of how he started out as a serial entrepreneur and some challenge that he faced dealing with payroll. But in that ad, they’ll say it two or three times, “Patriot software is accounting and payroll software for companies between 1 to 100 employees.” And just think about how that works in your mind. Because, if you are a small business between one to 100 employees and you’re dealing with a payroll or an accounting issue, you’re gonna pay attention to it. If you’re out of that market you may not pay attention to it. Now, you may pay attention to it if you know a friend or a colleague who has a small business and you might refer Patriot to them. But what this messaging is doing is being absolutely crystal clear of who this company serves and where they fit in the world. It’s not brilliant copywriting and it’s not super colorful. It doesn’t look like advertising of yesteryear. We used to have these brilliant slogans like, De Beers, “A diamond is forever” or M&Ms, “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.” Great copywriting. Problem is you can’t find it. What Patriot and Big Ass Fans does and Simple Clarity as a concept is it’s like putting a label on a file folder in your mind, or better yet, it’s about putting a label on a file folder in your customer’s minds. And that file folder gives them the ability to reference and recall you when they have a need. And that’s what Simple Clarity is all about. How do you get someone to understand you and then call you when they have a need? And I love this metaphor of a label on a file folder because it sets a set of criteria. If you think of it, a label doesn’t contain a lot of information, it’s gotta be descriptive. It doesn’t tell you all the contents of the folder, the folder gives you that. But the label allows you to find it. So a label to be effective has really three things. Number one, it’s short, it’s 10 words or less. Second, it’s descriptive. It’s got a clear explanation of what’s inside. And then finally, it’s memorable. It’s easy to share and hard to forget. And when you get those three ingredients, that’s Simple Clarity That’s the ability to describe your business and what makes it unique in 10 words or less. And when people get it, they recall it. And that makes your business more find-able, more referrable, memorable and desirable. And the way you’ll start to see it is when you start to market and promote your messaging, you will see an immediate lift in terms of referrals, inbound inquiries and the acceleration in which somebody buys, that velocity from inquiry to close. When they don’t have questions, they buy. And that’s what we’re looking for. That’s a great brand messaging does. So how do you do that? Well, we use a simple formula at Sticky Branding that, this is how we answer the Simple Clarity challenge. And it’s answering three questions: you are, you do, you serve. So if you break that down, what we’re answering in this is: your category. What is your business category? Your services: what do you do? And then your market: who do you serve? So taking Patriot, their category is accounting and payroll software. Their market is companies between one to 100 employees. Now, they’re, what they do is implied in their category: payroll, accounting, it’s software, it’s the tools that you’re going to use and it’s an alternative to say, other products in the market like, say, NetSuite or QuickBooks and other solutions. So it’s setting that up that you get it. And that’s what we’re really looking for here today Now, let me just give you my story and where this comes in. Then we’ll unpack more of how do you create that Simple Clarity statement? I’ll give you some examples of it. For me, the value of this, this label on a file folder becomes so valuable because it drives sales. And I saw this very early on. When I rebranded my family’s business from Miller and Associates to Leap Job, this is going back to say 2004, 2005, that origin story of where Sticky Branding came from is, I was tasked with coming up with new brand positioning. Now, what had happened is, as we rebranded the family business, we had taken our business from IT staffing to sales and marketing recruiting. And we did that for a variety of reasons. And we talk about it in the book “Sticky Branding,” but in brevity’s sake, we made a category positioning change. Now, when we went through this transition, I tried to find better ways to describe our company. And I looked for all these colorful and clever ways to do that. I hated the word “recruiter.” That was my fundamental issue here. It came with baggage. People thought of us as headhunters and it was negative and gross. But what I wanted to try and do is find a way to elevate our business And I was trying to do that in our brand messaging. So I’d call ourselves a sales talent agency or search consultants and talent acquisition specialists. And the thing that would happen again and again, I’d go to a networking event or I’d go and meet people and I’d say, “Hi, I’m Jeremy, I’m from Leap Job. We are sales talent, we are a sales talent agency.” And they’d be like, “Huh?” And it would literally dumbfound them. Now, the reactions would go at a couple of ways. One, they’d be like, “Oh that’s interesting.” And they’d smile and nod, and then they’d change topics, we’d talk about golf or sports or wine or whatever. But they didn’t get it so they moved on. The other reaction was simply, “Huh,” and they’d walk away. And I was forced again and again to try and hold someone’s attention and then explain what we were all about. And that was hoping that they would give me the attention. And when you don’t have your brand messaging right it feels like you’re in purgatory. You’re talking to people and nothing works. You put your messaging out there and it falls flat. And that’s the issue we have in marketing. So many marketing dollars get wasted because we’re promoting the wrong messages. People don’t get it. And when you don’t get it, you feel like you are in purgatory. And I wrestled with this problem for months. But what had happened was I was trying to find this better way to look at it. And I started looking at our keyword analysis. Back in the day, you could see all the search traffic on Google Analytics of who was visiting your website and what the keywords that were coming in. And I created a word cloud using that, and I noticed that most of the inbound traffic was really three words: “sales,” “recruiter” and “Toronto.” And it just dawned on me, it was like that big ass fans moment. I went, “Holy cow, that’s our branding.” We are a sales recruiter in Toronto, or a sales recruiter Toronto. And I put that up on the website and we started getting inquiries. People would Google it, we would come up first, we would get those leads. I’d go to an event and say, “Hi my name is Jeremy. I’m from Leap Job, we’re a sales recruiter in Toronto, We specialize in the Toronto market.” And we would immediately get referrals. People would say, “Oh, I need to hire a sales person,” or, “We know someone that you should talk to.” And immediately it created a lift. And in getting those three words right, changed everything in the trajectory of our business. And so, that’s why I believe in this so much, is that when you get your brand messaging right, when you have something as simple and evocative as sales recruiter Toronto or big ass fans, when you can describe your business and people get it and it’s that label on a file folder, it takes you out a sales purgatory, it takes you out of that nonsense of trying to explain yourself and hold people’s attention. They get it, they understand it and they move on. And that’s actually the measure of success. Is what people go, “Oh, got it.” And then they start talking about how or why and other things. They don’t get you to tell them about your business and how you got started on why they should care about you and all that kind of stuff. They get you to help them solve problems because you’ve created understanding. So, let’s talk now about how you take those three terms, you are, you do, you serve, and put it together. And the key to all of this is about the words you choose, it’s about the facts. When you think of so much marketing we look for these brilliant and colorful ways to describe our businesses and brands. But it’s in the facts that get you there. So let’s look at an example of Shift Coaching. Now, I won’t give you their story out of the gate, let’s use the you are, you do, you serve to unpack this to see who this business is because it answers these three questions. So number one, Shift Coaching is, their category. Well they are leadership coaching. They are a leadership coaching company. This is a business I’ve worked with for a very long time. And they serve companies from around the world. But their core market are helping managers and leaders perform more effectively. And they serve mid to large size organizations that are going through a transformation. The reason the name is called Shift Coaching is it’s the shift. What separates Shift from all the other coaching firms in the world and the Deloitte’s and the big firms that they compete with is they really work with organizations that are going through a transformation. Whether that’s through regulatory changes, mergers and acquisition, culture changes, when you need to shift the business, when you need to shift the teams, managers need a new toolbox, especially around coaching. And so being able to answer these three simple questions becomes very, very powerful. And what’s interesting in this is not only can use this to describe the business, you can use this from a sales context to help answer questions. So for example, Shift uses these three questions actually in reverse. They will use their questions to help qualify a prospect. So first and foremost, are you looking for leadership and coaching development services? If “Yes,” move on to the next question. If the prospect says “No,” they know they’re not a fit for them and they move on, they don’t have to sell them, they can talk about golf and wine and sports. But if the customer says “Yes,” then they can ask, does your company or your division have between 200 to 4000 employees? That will set a qualification on the size of the businesses they work with. So who do they serve? Remember Patriot works with companies between one to 100 employees. Shift works with companies and divisions between 200 to 4000 employees. And then the final question, and this is actually the most important one, is is your business going through a shift? And it’s in that question that creates the dialogue and the conversation that allows them to explain their services and how they help. But that category, the starting point, all starts with, we are a leadership development company that works with companies between 200 to 4000 employees that are going through a shift. When you have that Simple Clarity, when you have that label on a file folder in your mind, it makes things work. So let me pass this back to you. Try it out. You are, you do, you serve. What is your category? Just take your industry. If you’re in accounting, put that there. If you’re in wealth management or financial services, that goes there. If you are a manufacturer, a consulting firm, a software firm, whatever your business and category is, that’s gonna be what you are. At Sticky Branding, our category is, we are strategy coaches. Next, your services. What do you sell? What do you do? And finally, who do you serve? You are, you do, you serve. What I encourage you to try is to simply take a moment with a pad of paper and some time this afternoon or when you have some time in the day to simply take a moment to write out a sentence or comment for each. Think of them as bullets. And when you go through this exercise, you may have something long, but if you get to the foundational building blocks, now you can wordsmith it, now you can shorten it, now you can get it down to that essence like, big ass fans or sales recruiter Toronto. when you get it to that Simple Clarity where anyone gets it, amazing. So let’s take this now a step further. I want to push this. So as you’ve taken this exercise out and you do this on your own time, let’s take another moment to say, “What is the kind of words that matter?” And I want to introduce you to one of the biggest obstacles to marketing, especially in copywriting and copyediting and marketing, and it’s the use of abstract and concrete words. As marketers, as businesses we are guilty of using so many phrases and terms that have zero meaning. Innovation, best in class, world-class, bespoke, artisanal, they sound amazing, but they’re wholly forgettable. You can’t picture what they are in your mind so you forget them. Let me give you an example. Here are three slogans based on the word innovation. They all come from three large automotive brands. So the first is, “A tradition of innovation,” The second, “Driving American innovation.” The third, “Innovation that excites.” So “A tradition of innovation,” “Driving American innovation,” and “Innovation that excites.” Can you tell me which one, which car company is associated to which? I’ll give you a hint. It’s Nissan, Ford and Firestone. But what order is that? Now, the funny part is, I’ve done this exercise a thousand times, I’ve done this in keynote presentations, I’ve done this in workshops, I’ve shared this oodles of times. I actually still forget it. but the three are Firestone, “A tradition of innovation,” Ford, “Driving American innovation,” Nissan, “Innovation that excites.” And the problem is you could move all those around and it wouldn’t actually matter. The issue is you can’t picture what innovation looks like, so you can’t remember it. And that’s the issue with abstract words. What we’re looking for is concrete words. Let me give you an example. At the turn of the century, astrophysicists, the smartest people in the world, People like Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer and Volkov and all the people that were working on the Manhattan Project, the project to make the nuclear bomb, the atom bomb, they were studying a phenomenon in space known as totally collapsed gravitational objects. And in that they were trying to find, there was this phenomena in space and they were fascinated by it because when a star dies its gravitational forces collapse on it itself and the forces can get so strong or so great that not even a particle of light or an electron can escape from it. And so these individuals, these brilliant astrophysicists would tour the country and they’d speak at universities and give lectures because they were fascinated by this. It’s all tied out to the physics that they were working on in creating a nuclear bomb. They loved the idea. But the problem was, unless you knew the math, unless you knew the physics, you couldn’t participate in it. That is, until the got a better name. David Wheeler one of the group here, one, just a brilliant astrophysicist, came up with a better name for these totally collapsed gravitational objects. He called them a “black hole.” And in two words you know exactly what this is. It’s a region of space where everything gets sucked into it and not even a particle of light or an electron can escape from it. And it’s a remarkable what this simple two word phrase does. You know what black is, you know what a hole is. Put ’em together and you can picture that in your mind. Now, you may not understand the physics. You may not understand the math. But because you can mentally picture it, you can now have a conversation on it. And that’s what concrete words do. When you get your language clear, when people can picture it in their minds, when they can associate to it, when you remove all those abstract words, like innovation, artisanal and best in class, then you start to really create Simple Clarity that not only is clear but memorable. Let me give you a couple of examples. We talked about M&M’s earlier. It’s still one of the most brilliant pieces of copywriting because of how functionally clear it is. “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.” You may not know what the candy tastes like but you know its functional benefit. You won’t get sticky if you’re eating this stuff in a theater. Or taking a modern brand, Hello Fresh. I love their language. Take a look at their marketing it is simply brilliant. They are a meal kit delivery service` delivering farm-fresh pre-cut ingredients delivered to your door. There is not one abstract, puffy word in this phrase. It is clear. It is concise. It gives you everything you need. And that’s what this is all about. We’re really trying to push things in a direct and meaningful way. Now, the final point in today’s podcast and this episode is I want you to take this formula, I want you to go through you are, you do, you serve and really try to push, do you have it right? Is it clear? But then what I’d like you to do is prove it works. Brand messaging in isolation is useless. What you create at the boardroom does not matter. What matters is when you get in front of a customer, do they get it? Is it like my story when I was at Leap Job, I tell someone I’m a sales talent agency, I think I am brilliant and they go “Huh?” and they don’t get it. When I started saying we were a sales recruiter in Toronto, they got it. That was the moment that matters. When your customers get it, they buy. And so a simple offer I want to offer to you today, and there will be a link in the show notes, is a win/loss card. Go and create your statement, you are, you do, you serve and then go out and try this on 10 prospects or customers. Go and speak to someone who could buy your services and tell them your phrase and see how they react. What questions they ask you, what resonates, what causes confusion, do you get to a next step? Now, each win/loss card on their own doesn’t tell you very much but when you’ve done 10 of them, you’ll start to see trends. And when you see those trends, you can adapt and refine your messaging so that it works. So again visit us at stickybranding.com, go to the podcast show notes, you’ll see a link to it. If you don’t you can also email me at email@example.com and just put in the subject line, “win/loss card,” put it into the email so I know what you’re asking for and I can get it to you, but if you send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, I’ll also be happy to send it to you. This is the kind of stuff that I think really makes a difference, when you get your brand messaging right, you will actually see an acceleration in your business. Now, the final comment and point I’m gonna put out here is why is brand messaging so difficult? It actually has nothing to do with copywriting or messaging. It has everything to do with choices. When you are struggling mightily to get your words right, the moment is to take a step back and really ask if you have the business and brand strategy that is clear, where do you play, how do you win, how do you want to be known? And ask that using the Simple Clarity questions. What are you? Who are you? What do you do? Who do you serve? So what is your category? What are your services? What is your market? It’s actually in the choices. When we try to be all things to all people, is what screws up our brand messaging. But when you’re crystal clear about how you are going to market, who you’re serving and the impact you want to make, it creates acceleration. Messaging is strategy. So I hope today you’ve got some ideas, some best practices. You can get a deeper dive by picking up “Sticky Branding,” the book. The first principle is Simple Clarity and put these ideas to practice. So thank you so much for tuning in, if you have any questions send them our way and be sure to subscribe to this podcast, wherever you get your favorite podcast. All of these episodes are available on YouTube. Like, share, comment. If you like the style of this episode and you want to get more of these one-to-one types of deep dive conversations, again, let us know, we want to hear from you. And finally, visit us at stickybranding.com for more ideas, best practices and services on how to grow your business into a sticky brand.