To get maximum returns on your advertising campaigns, you can’t keep taking shots in the dark and guessing what will resonate with your audience – that'll confuse them, and you'll fail to make a connection.
For guaranteed success, you need to follow a proper, well-defined plan. Here, we discuss the importance of choosing the right message strategies in advertising according to your business objectives. You'll also find plenty of tips for a good messaging strategy.
What are message strategies in advertising?
An advertising message strategy is about deciding what you want to say to your target audience and outlining how to implement and deliver the communication. Messages should be aligned with your audience's needs and desires and be centred around a specified goal, such as boosting conversions for lead generation, registrations, sales, click-throughs or webpage visits.
Part of putting together a message strategy involves working out the following:
Who the strategy is aimed at – creating a persona for your target audience(s).
How you want your audience to perceive your brand.
The kind of promotional content you'll be circulating.
A timeline for the strategy, including how often you'll be communicating with your audience.
The channels you intend to use to reach people.
Why you need a messaging strategy: five crucial benefits
A messaging strategy helps you strengthen brand perception and control the flow and quality of information coming from your business. Here are some specific advantages:
1. Gives a voice and identity to your brand
Your brand identity tells your audience what your business stands for: its mission and values, personality and the promise it's making to customers. It comprises several elements, including your logo, brand colour palette and imagery, typography and brand voice (how you speak to your audience).
Establishing a unique brand identity is vital to set your business apart from direct competitors and ensure that your business is instantly recognisable.
Consider Mailchimp. As an email marketing platform, you might expect its brand identity to be very professional and formal, given that its target audience is businesses, startups, agencies, freelancers and developers. Yet its brand identity is casual and amusing, setting it apart from competitors – think the chimp logo, bright colour palette and the visual high-five you get when you send a campaign. Its brand voice is clear, jargon-free and injected with humour.
2. Ensures clear and consistent messaging across channels
A messaging strategy provides a framework to ensure all the content you put out to promote your brand is unified. This helps foster trust and eliminates confusion – it gets your audience used to recognising your brand.
An advertising campaign may involve several communication methods – your website, social media platforms, email, online ads and SMS. Not to mention the customer support and sales functions your audience might reach out to after seeing your campaign. That said, your messaging should be consistent across all channels and departments.
3. Defines a clear mission and goals
By defining your messaging, you can steer your advertising efforts and align them with business objectives. Clear messaging also gives clarity to internal customer-facing teams so that everyone is on the same page and knows what to say (and how to say it) when speaking to people.
Once your messaging strategy is underway, you can get input from different teams and customer feedback to evaluate how your content resonates with your audience.
4. Aligns your campaigns with customer expectations
The process of creating a messaging strategy means that you must identify what your target market wants so you can address its pain points. You'll get to know your audience and learn how to speak their language. Then, you can tailor your messaging accordingly.
Strong messaging enables you to build solid customer relationships and maintain an emotional connection at each sales funnel stage while keeping pace with customers' evolving needs and expectations.
5. Helps find the best ways to connect with your target audience
Once you deeply understand your audience, you'll discover what makes them tick. This includes the type of advertising and messaging channels and format. For example, some audience segments may like short, condensed promotional text messages rather than lengthier e-newsletters (and vice versa). You can then adapt your messaging style and harmonise it for different groups.
Identifying and using the channels your audience prefers helps maximise the impact of your advertising efforts, leading to higher customer engagement, conversions and satisfaction levels.
Six types of messaging strategies for advertising campaigns
The most common message strategies concentrate on brand awareness and positioning, a unique selling proposition, scarcity campaigns and emotional appeals. Another tactic is to focus on indirectly related topics (a more subtle approach). Let's break these down in detail and go through some messaging strategy examples:
1. Develop and reinforce brand messaging
A brand messaging strategy helps customers understand what your business does and why they should engage with you. First, you must create a brand identity that speaks for itself. This involves carefully choosing the business name, slogan, logo, personality, colour palette, typography, imagery and tone of voice. It's what your brand will be known by for the foreseeable future.
Next, you'll need to define your mission, vision and values to convey everything your brand represents and where you're headed, including any social causes that are important to you. Create your brand story – a narrative structure that brings your brand to life and encompasses the emotions you want your audience to feel when they think of your business. This gives your brand a personal touch and helps your audience connect.
An example of a brand that does this brilliantly is LEGO®. Check out its clear brand framework that includes the company's belief, mission, vision, idea, values, promises and spirit. One of LEGO's most prominent advertising campaigns is 'Rebuild the World', which celebrates children as the masters of creative problem-solving, tying in consistently with the LEGO brand identity.
Brand messaging ultimately needs to be built into all your advertising campaigns to reinforce what your business is about. So, getting your brand identity and voice right from the start is essential.
2. Sharing your unique selling point (USP)
A USP is something that distinguishes your business from competitors. It sums up what's unique about your brand and why customers should choose you. Your USP could be something about your product or service or even a small but significant feature you offer that competitors don't. For example, you might offer free delivery within a 20km radius or provide 24/7 live support bots to aid customers night or day.
Whatever your USP, focus hard on it. In your messaging strategy, back your USP up with facts, statistics, expert opinions or experiment results to prove its legitimacy. Word of warning: don't overpromise. If you fail to deliver on your USP according to customer expectations, it will have a disastrous effect on your brand reputation and destroy any hopes of gaining customers’ trust.
What if you don't offer something particularly unique? In that case, promote what you're good at – before your competitors do to make your audience notice your brand. Let's say you and your competitors are all sellers capable of delivering orders on the same day. If they haven't promoted this fact, grab the opportunity to make this the focus of your next advertising campaign. Even if your competitors jump on the bandwagon, their campaign won't be as impactful as yours, as you will have made that claim first.
3. Pathos, aka emotional messaging
Pathos can be defined as a mode of persuasion that appeals to customers' emotions. Some people aren't convinced by facts and logic and are moved instead by something they strongly believe. Successfully eliciting the right emotional responses can help gain loyal, long-term customers.
Depending on what you're advertising, you might want to evoke a feeling of happiness or empathy, fear or even humour! Take, for example, Surreal's funny promotional campaigns that increase the visibility of their tasty but healthy cereals (on the most formal of advertising platforms - LinkedIn)! Then there's Coca-Cola, with its focus on a sense of love, community and belonging.
What topic, service or product can you bring into play to tug on heartstrings, instil a sense of purpose, or make your audience giggle?
4. Brand positioning campaign
Brand positioning involves differentiating your brand from competitors to help it stand out. The goal is to give your audience a reason why your brand is better than others.
Sensodyne toothpaste markets itself as a dedicated solution for sensitive teeth and gums. From the company website to TV ads to social media, the messaging has always been consistent with its strapline claim being the '#1 dentist recommended brand for sensitive teeth'. Dentists even feature in Sensodyne ads to further establish authority and credibility that Sensodyne is the go-to for all sensitivity-related oral health issues. It's an area no other toothpaste brand hones in on as much as Sensodyne does.
5. Urgency, scarcity and FOMO
This messaging strategy urges your customers to make a purchase by tapping into their fear of missing out (FOMO). It's a phenomenon, this feeling of missing out on some interesting or exciting experience that others – friends, family, even strangers – are having. One statistic shows that 60% of people buy due to FOMO (and fast, mostly within 24 hours). Hence, FOMO can be a driving force for greater sales.
The scarcity factor comes in when it becomes apparent that the sought-after product, service or experience won't be around for long.
Messente's Demand Generation Specialist, Katria Komp, explains a common approach to this type of campaign: "A customer adds a product they like to their online shopping cart, but don't complete their purchase right away as they want to think about it. Having noticed this action, the brand could send a personalised abandoned cart message highlighting that stocks are running very low to urge the shopper to revisit their cart and buy before it's too late."
Example abandoned cart SMS:
Hi [NAME], your [PRODUCT] is still in your online basket. Don't wait to buy – only two left in stock! Checkout now to avoid disappointment: [URL]
6. Broader, generic messaging
Instead of directly advertising a specific product or service, this strategy focuses on the broad category that your offering falls into. So, a healthcare provider could launch a campaign that spreads awareness about how many people are affected by breast cancer every year and highlights the importance of getting regular mammograms (one of the services offered). The message is subtle, not pushy, to encourage the audience to respond positively and make a booking.
Alternatively, you can conduct generalised campaigns based on specific themes, feelings, or phenomena. Tesla and IBM advertise themselves as green brands through various campaigns to connect with wider audiences than those particularly interested in electric cars or computer hardware.
What does a good messaging strategy look like?
An effective message strategy should be very specific regarding your target audience, key messages, themes and what you want to say. It should also cover all stages of the customer journey so all employees know what to say depending on whether they're talking to prospects or new, existing or end-stage customers.
Additionally, your strategy should include the following essential elements:
A well-defined target audience – spend time nailing your customer persona: their personality, demographics, preferences, and the pain points they're experiencing that you can or will address.
Multiple messaging channels – choose these carefully according to the ones your audiences use the most, and that complement the format of your ad campaign. This might mean using a mix of SMS messaging, emails, social media, printed ads, TV or radio, your website or mobile app – don't lose your brand identity and voice in the process. Here are some examples of which channels work best for specific types of campaigns:
Text message advertising – ideal for scarcity campaigns, flash sales or discounts.
Social media promotion – for brand awareness, generic messaging or sharing your USP.
Emails, printed media or TV and radio – for brand awareness, brand positioning or emotional messaging campaigns.
OTT messaging – apps like WhatsApp are useful for advertising a wide range of special offers and for customer service conversations.
Content relevance – any information your brand sends out should be relevant to your audience segments and cater to their interests and needs. Any sharable current trends or market news should also be relevant to your own brand and offerings.
Personalisation – always customise your messages to appeal to individual customers or specific audience segments. Use data and insights from your customer database or any research you've undertaken.
Realistic goals – these must be achievable and measurable. Decide which metrics you'll use to measure your progress at the outset.
Experimentation – test different strategies to see how your campaigns resonate with your audience. A/B test written copy and visuals and obtain feedback from customers and your service functions. If your campaigns don't hit the mark the first time, analyse their performance and learn from what went wrong.
Do also factor in long-term planning so you can anticipate any changes expected in your industry and work out how to deal with them. It's wise to revisit your messaging strategy each year to check whether it's still relevant or needs to change.
Achieve maximum ROI with marketing messages
An effective messaging strategy determines what you want to say to your target audience and outlines how you'll communicate it so your brand image is perceived in the desired way. Your strategy should be very specific regarding your target audience and the goal you're trying to achieve.
Common messaging strategies centre around brand awareness or positioning, sharing a unique selling proposition, creating an emotional connection and urgency or FOMO promotions. You can also tap into broader topics directly related to your industry for a more subtle approach to advertising (which can also help you reach a wider audience).
Consider multiple channels for marketing messaging – use the ones customers prefer for best results. SMS is a popular channel across various demographics, as it's easy to use and convenient for most people. From a business perspective, text messages are cost-effective and enable a broad reach – SMS is a native app built into every mobile phone. And with open rates as high as 98%, it's unlikely your marketing messaging will get missed.