Creativity can be highly useful in marketing, but it won't get you very far if your message strategy is off the mark. In fact, it's a waste of talent.
Your message strategy is the foundation for everything you do in marketing. And when your message strategy is consistently and repetitively executed, creativity is the icing on the cake.
Think of your message strategy as the recipe for how to write and talk about your product. Your copywriters follow the recipe, mix ingredients from the message strategy, add their creativity, and you end up with a great story about your product.
A message strategy includes a positioning statement, three or four support points, and as much detail as necessary to accommodate all marketing communications.
Positioning Statement Defined
A positioning statement is a short, declarative sentence that makes it clear what you do and why the target audience should care enough to want to know more. Here are a few positioning statement examples:
- Automated Business Design has created the only staffing and recruiting software you'll ever need.
- Stowga is the ultimate tool to instantly find the best warehouse for your business.
- Vendavo's CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote) Solutions maximizes profit with every quote.
- Eckerson Group helps you get more business value from data and analytics through strategic consulting, thought leadership, and education.
Creativity can make a solid positioning statement come to life. For example, a financial analytics consulting company positioned its solutions as "accelerating decision-making throughout the enterprise." The position was executed in marketing communications as "see how fast your business can run."
Support Points Explain Your Positioning Statement
The reaction you want to your positioning statement is "That's interesting! Tell me more. How do you do it?" Three or four support points explain how you deliver the promise you've made in your positioning statement; they prove the claim made in your positioning statement, and they help your story unfold with detail.
Support points also provide a structure for product, solution, or technology demonstrations. They create a framework for you to include product detail in your message strategy. Just remember that you need to prove every claim you make. Ultimately, each support point should drill down to a portion of the demonstration that proves a particular claim or set of claims.
Here is a positioning statement that has two support points that give it more meaning: "Microsoft Forecaster is the fast, affordable way to gain control of budgeting and planning."
- This support point quantifies "fast:" "In as little as two weeks, you can be using Microsoft Forecaster to speed up your ongoing processes for budgeting and planning."
- This support point begins a discussion about an "affordable" implementation: "You can tailor Microsoft Forecaster to meet your budgeting and planning needs without breaking your budget."
As you can see, support points provide the reason to believe your positioning statement. Therefore, you need to choose your support points carefully.
Your positioning statement becomes the theme for as much of your marketing communications as is practical. It needs to be important, unique, and believable before creativity can make a difference.
Your positioning statement is important when it expresses a benefit that solves a pressing problem for your target audience. It needs to seem inherently true and differentiating—no other competitor has the same position.
Creativity Can't Help a Weak Positioning Statement
No amount of creativity will save your marketing when your positioning statement fails to meet any of these criteria. Buyers only care about how you solve their pressing problem. Failure to do so can't be fixed with creativity.
For example, "Run as one" is how a software company positions its product on its website. "Run as one" has a nice ring to it. It's interesting and engaging. But it's only a creative way of saying, "you can run your entire business on our comprehensive, integrated solution."
"Run as one" is what the company does. It's not a benefit. It doesn't address a pressing customer problem. Instead, recipients of the "Run as one" message have to interpret the benefit. Since we all think differently, the benefit depends on the recipient's reaction to "Run as one."
A better approach is to tell the target audience why they should care about the "Run as one" product: i.e., the benefit.
There's another problem creativity can't fix: lack of differentiation. The decision-making portion of the brain is looking for reasons to make a quick decision, according to the science of neuromarketing. Without a clear difference, buyers become confused.
In addition to the three criteria, there is another test your message strategy needs to pass before creativity can make a difference: usability. In other words, copywriters need to be able to use it in all marketing communications.
Start usability testing by combining your positioning statement and support points into a 75-100-word overview. If your high-level message strategy can be executed in a way that seems logical, compelling, and coherent, then keep testing it by writing a longer description, homepage copy, and the first few paragraphs of a brochure.
A banner ad test is a good way to determine whether your positioning statement can be expressed succinctly. And by writing a draft press release, you'll know your message strategy is comprehensive and well suited for more formal, less creative marketing communications.
By testing your message strategy several ways, you'll be confident that your positioning statement can be used as the theme for all your marketing communications, and that your support points are complete. They set the stage for talking in more detail about your product.
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When your message strategy meets the four criteria—important, unique, believable, and usable—you have created a strong foundation for all your marketing communications.
Creativity can then make your marketing more effective and help you claim a position in your market.
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