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“I See Dead Branding!” Is Your Message Design Strategy Working For You?

“I See Dead Branding!” Is Your Message Design Strategy Working For You? post image

I’m not big on scary movies. They stress me out. I Am Legend is a great film, but to me it’s a horror flick and I can barely handle it (hands over eyes, squirming in seat, the whole bit). So I try to stay away from them. Unfortunately, I see marketing horrors daily. And one of the common, but ignored issues by many small and creative businesses is a dead branding message.


You might have a dead branding message if you find yourself talking at people instead of to them — your mouth is moving but their ears aren’t receiving the conversation. It’s painful, costly, but fixable.  Let’s start with a basic question.

Who Killed The Message?

Well, if you’re discussing features when your people want to hear about benefits (what’s in it for me?), you can kill your message. If you’re talking technical when they want to feel the soul of your brand, then you can kill your message. If you’re all heart but not enough relevant details, then you can lose trust and — you guessed it — kill your message.  A weak message design strategy is the perfect backdrop for a dead brand conversation.

To be effective your marketing efforts need a plan: a clear understanding of who you’re marketing to and a system (even if you tweak it as you go) for how you expect to successfully share the message that your audiences needs and wants to hear. Let’s say you’re selling eye glasses. A weak message design strategy would focus primarily on the hardware that went into the glasses instead of

    1. how good you’ll look,
    2. how well you’ll see, and
    3. how sexy they make you feel.

The hardware matters, but only after you get your audience to feel how your product will change their life. Wrong focus =  dead branding message.

Message Design Is All About The Story

What makes horror movies so ominous is the unknown, the darkness and the freaky little things that tend to jump out around the corner. But, if you cast a little light on the situation, a lot of the gremlins begin to melt. Let’s open the shade on your message design strategy and see what’s inside.

In 1955 Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham published The Johari Window, a graphic model of interpersonal awareness. The Johari Window concept highlights four windows of insight regarding how we and others discover information about us. Here’s a breakdown of the windows:

    1. The OPEN Window is insight about you that is known to both you and to others.
    2. The HIDDEN Window is insight about you that is known to you but NOT known to others. Others will only find out if you tell them.
    3. The UNKNOWN Window is insight about you that is NOT known to you or to others. Since nobody knows, we can’t do much here. So, let’s keep it moving.
    4. The BLIND Window is the gem. It’s insight about you that is NOT known to you, but is known to others. It’s the information that you can only discover through relationship. And it’s the key to effective marketing.

According to the Johari Window you need feedback in order to clear up your personal blind-spots. Your brand is no different. You. Have. A branding. Blind-spot — a pocket of information that you canNOT uncover on your own.

What Do Your People Say?

It’s time to do a little research. To begin have a pow with the entire team that serves your clients. They see things about your brand that you don’t and that’s important feedback, but to get the best blind-spot information, you need to talk to your target audience. And when I say talk, I really mean listen.

Your ability to develop an effective message design strategy depends on your ears. If you don’t understand how your clients see things, how they use your product or how they discuss their problems, then you won’t get the message right. And if the written message is wrong, it’ll misguide the visual message too.

In order to resuscitate your brand message, you have to get to know your audience. Of course, that takes work and humility.  The question is “Are you humble enough to listen to the good, the bad and the ugly regarding your brand?” Hmmm.

Pursue the feedback and use it to breathe new life into your branding message.
Custom Illustration by David Michael Moore

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