Brand message strategy: Quick steps to finding a relevant idea you can own.

Posted July 17, 2017 in by

Your brand messaging strategy is a combination of several branding elements. It defines how you plan to position and differentiate your brand within the competitive landscape by communicating a unique value proposition through a unique brand personality. In short, your brand message strategy says what’s special about your brand and it’s personality.

The goal of a brand message strategy.

Brand message strategy has helped successfully position countless brands. Because of consistent brand messaging, we know that:

  • Pepsi is young.
  • Method offers toxin-free clean.
  • Apple is simple design.
  • Dove is realistic, attainable beauty.
  • Axe is horny.
  • Tiffany & Co. is indulgent.
  • Allstate is dependable.

These brands — whether legacy or newer arrivals on the consumer scene — own a relevant idea in the mind of the target audience they’re trying to reach. And that idea ensures that those consumers know what to expect from the brand’s messaging.

We count on Dove to advocate for real beauty.


We expect Axe to be provocative.


Now, imagine the above Dove ad, with the Axe message, “The cleaner you are, the dirtier you get.” It wouldn’t work on many levels. Or how would you react if Dove started using highly glossed-up supermodel types, or if Axe started talking about the importance of long-term relationships? You would sense the disconnect. You would know something was weird.

How to get started.

Can your brand own an idea? Yes. Even if you’re not in a consumer goods category, you can find your unique, relevant slot in the competitive landscape and start building your communications to fit within it. And the good news is that it doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out process.

Here’s the quick approach to who you can (and should) be within your category. For our example, we’ll use a made-up bank in an isolated, mid-sized market. Let’s call it Bank of Anytown.


Competitive messaging analysis.

Bank of Anytown has three primary competitors in its market: First Conglomerate, Super Friendly Bank and Old-School Legacy Bank. Start by looking at the Home and About Us pages on their websites. What are the primary products they’re promoting? What do they say about themselves? For a visual look at what each bank is pushing, try copying all this text into a word cloud generator to see what rises to the top.

Super Friendly Bank, for example, may look like this:



From looking at this (and from reading the copy and viewing the materials), we can conclude that Super Friendly Bank is all about the people of Anytown — employees, community, teams, partners, and families. They do a lot of giving back to the community and highlight that first and foremost.

Message mapping.

Once you’ve done a simple messaging analysis for each competitor, plot them on an X/Y grid that defines the predominant attributes in the category and market. You can also just do a linear spectrum or a full-out scatter plot if you have multiple competitors. If you want to get really fancy, you can make each competitor’s dot larger or smaller depending on what you think the competitor’s overall market share is.


Vacancy audit.

Looking at where the competitors fall, you can then determine where a unique brand messaging opportunity lies. From our example, it looks like the market is needing a full-service bank that is more relatable and relational. There’s also room for a highly secure/technical/professional specialty spot. Which one are you?

Values alignment.

Looking at Bank of Anytown’s brand values, we see that they strive to be Helpful, Dependable, Community-Focused and Family-Friendly. True, a more generic list of values would be harder to find, but it does give us a good starting point. Clearly, who Bank of Anytown is and wants to be is more aligned with the relational, full-service vacancy in the competitive landscape.

Brand essence crafting.

Now, we’ve widely narrowed the field. We don’t yet have a positioning statement, a tagline, brand attributes, personas, a style guide and other essential brand messaging elements. But we DO have a start. We know the end result will be a friendly, casual, maybe even a little quirky personality that offers a streamlined experience that’s easier to stomach than the stuffier spots in town.There’s work to be done still, but at least now Bank of Anytown has the right direction around which to push their brand development efforts.

The relevance test.

Now that you have a brand message strategy in the works, you’ll want to make sure that you put that content through a relevance test. Any message you want to own must be the most relevant message to the audience you’re trying to reach. When they’re searching for a new bank online or hearing a message from Bank of Anytown, consumers use resonance as their filter. Does what you say matter to them? It doesn’t matter if you have ownership of an idea if no one cares about it.

This post has been updated and was originally published on January 9, 2013.

New Call-to-action

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on RedditShare on Google+