What Makes Great Marketing Messages?

Jon FriedmanTips of the Trade

In the first post in this series we listed four signs that your marketing messages need work. Now let’s outline some characteristics of great marketing messages.

Concise and conversational

One of the key functions of a marketing message is to cut through the noise that bombard potential buyers and get their attention. To be successful in this role, the message needs to be:

  • Concise, because busy people tune out messages that are too long or complex.
  • Conversational, because formality, long words, and convoluted sentences are uninviting and make it hard to remember the key points of the message.

Marketers are tempted to bulk up messages with buzzwords to sound impressive and multiple benefits in the hope that some of the spaghetti will stick to the wall, but these excesses dilute or obscure the central ideas of the message.

Different, but recognizable

One of the most interesting challenges of creating effective marketing messages is striking the right balance between originality and familiarity.

On the one hand, you can’t sound exactly like everyone else. Some of your messages (although not all), need to include features benefits that are novel, or connect your product to some big idea or market need that haven’t become clichés.

On the other hand, it can be very risky to tout completely unfamiliar features or claim to be revolutionary, because these make your product seem way out there. Why aren’t other companies doing the same thing – is it because they know that this approach is likely to fail?

Meaningful and compelling for a specific audience

A lot of marketing messages highlight “nice to haves” for everyone, in the mistaken notion that appealing to a broad market is the best way to increase sales. But these days very few companies are spending money on “nice to haves.”

In fact, sounding essential to 100 potential customers often will result in more sales than appearing moderately useful to 1,000.

An effective marketing message should highlight an issue or a benefit that is top-of-mind today for a specific audience. The message doesn’t have to name the target audience (as in the “For ______” statement in a classic elevator pitch), but the members of that audience should immediately understand that “this is for me.”

Memorable

Nobody is going to memorize the exact words of a marketing message. But members of the target audience should remember that the product does one thing that they really need.

Refining our definition of a marketing message

In the first post in this series we defined a marketing message as a short statement about why a reader or viewer should be interested in a product. But in light of the characteristics we just discussed, let’s refine that description to say:

A marketing message is a concise statement of why a product is the best choice for a specific audience.

That wording captures the requirements that a marketing message should be concise, should suggest an important difference or difference from alternatives (“the best choice”), and should be compelling for a specific audience. And if it succeeds in those goals it will certainly be memorable for members of that target audience.

Next up in this series: Examples of effective marketing messages.

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