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Message Design That Goes Viral — Grind It Out Like Starbucks

Woman in deep thought drinking coffee |

There’s one step in your marketing that has little to do with words, but it just may be the key to your message design strategy. Starbucks, one of the top 100 global brands for 2012, does a great job with this. Your brand can too. 

Just as thoughts of social networking often start — at least these days — with internet tools like Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, the word viral tends to conjurer up images of some YouTube video or the latest trending tweet. In real life, there’s more to both words — social networking and viral.

Let’s Get Live!

Many of us have come to pretend that a digital relationship is the best-only way to generate business. With that mindset, however, it’s easy to loose sight of what face-to-face networking can actually do for your brand. After all, the strongest social networking is actually live at some point and in some form, and then it’s maintained online in between time.

When we engage with real live people or real live products, we connect deeper. It’s just like any relationship, the more we interact in meaningful ways, the better the long term link.

True Viral Products Make Money

Starbucks sells coffee. I drop by weekly. But I don’t drink coffee. Plus, as a tea lover I prefer more selections than they offer. Yet, I routinely settle for a hot cup of green tea, or maybe some passion fruit, with honey.

Why? Because coffee isn’t the only thing on the menu and I’m not talking about their list of specialty drinks, cakes, cookies, sandwiches or breakfast.

Where Starbucks really shines,” says Interbrand, “is in engaging its customers and improving their online and in-store experiences.”

In my opinion, the best marketing is organic and natural. Don’t get me wrong, you still have work to do. But the strongest message is designed to feel more like a good-old-fashion conversation with someone who understands you, or with yourself (you know, those inner thoughts).

Effective message design demands a name, a clear message that carries well (tagline), plus an image that says what you want it to say. But the experience takes your message farther than you could carry it on your own.

There’s a pattern.

You can go to any Starbucks around the world and see a pattern. No, they are not all designed the same, the way McDonald’s used to be. But they all set an atmosphere. It’s a place that feels like a second office for some and a second living room for others.

You grab your drink. Sit with friends. And chat it up. Or purchase breakfast/lunch. Sit at a big table. Log on to the free wifi and go to work for the next few hours.  Starbucks mainly offers

  1. speciality coffees that seem addictive to many and
  2. an unmistakeable atmosphere that tends to draw you back.

The combination of great products, great location and a great experience creates an effect that turns into automatic and repeat business. Atmosphere is a key element to this coffee shop’s message design strategy. And that’s what I call viral. It’s something to talk about. It’s something to share with others. And wallets tend to open willingly in this store because we want to be a part of the experience.

But how does this information help my personal or professional brand?

You can do the same by helping your clients live a story with your brand. Focus on the experience. Make it easy for your target audience to engage with you, buy from you, learn about you, and share. The most effective message design begins with the words and ends with the experience. The two must line up.

Yes, the goal is to consistently deliver a quality solution to their lives. But don’t stop there — deliver a quality experience as well, and we’ll tell our friends about you. Of course, we’ll talk if it’s horrible too. But who wants that?

Key Message Design Tip — The Starbucks Way

Like this coffee brand, every business carries an atmosphere; choose to set yours on purpose. Create a memorable experience for your clients by taking care of them and adding some personality to your location, website, service. It’s gives them something to talk about, something to spread. Besides, marketing and message design doesn’t work if there’s no message or the wrong message gets shared. Great experiences can create great conversations. 

PHOTO: Woman In Deep Thought by Yuri Arcurs via Fotolia

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