Positioning and messaging together make up the cornerstone of branding, and yet so many organizations struggle with both. No matter how much money you invest in advertising and marketing, your messaging can't possibly be effective if you haven't clarified your positioning.

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Matt Desmier is a keynote speaker and strategist who works with agencies, brands, and other organizations to help them clarify their positioning, messaging, and branding. Matt also sticks around to help businesses manage the major shifts they need to make in order to consistently deliver on their newly formed brand promise.

I saw Matt speak at the Spark.Me conference in 2018 and knew I had to have him on Marketing Smarts. It's taken this long to make it happen! I invited him to to share tips on clarifying your organization's purpose and position, then rallying your employees so they create messaging consistent with your positioning statement.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Even if you're clear on your messaging, make sure it's being received the way you intended (03:30): "For brands and businesses, they spend a lot of time, effort, and resources thinking about the thing that they're putting out in the world, the identity that they're putting out there. And they don't seem to spend quite the level of effort on understanding how all that stuff is being received.... It's understanding 'how do I associate my business in the mind of the customer?' I just don't think we spend enough time thinking about how that message is being received."

Think about what you want your brand to mean to people...then test your concept on actual people (04:30): "If we think about brands as being more than just the outward appearance, the visual identity or the logo, it's every single touchpoint along the way. It's the point at which that identity you're portraying meets the image the audience is receiving. And that might be from your website or your social channels, physical stores, or even down to how your staff answer the telephone or the tone in which emails are written. All of these things. You need to test that with people.

"I work with companies and we spend an awful lot of time [working with] the internal marketing team trying to get under the skin of what they think their business is about. And then we'll spend a bit of time segmenting their audience and building up some personas. And then we'll go out and speak to those people. It's about testing it first."

Branding, positioning, and messaging involves every department at your company (not just marketing) (19:00): "It's super important to include [people from across the organization] right from the start. I remember doing a workshop and there was someone from the finance department and they sat there in this workshop saying, 'We don't normally do this, we're just doing the books,' and I said, 'But you speak to people, right?'

"'You speak to people who owe you money or whom you owe money to. You speak to various different stakeholders. You have a voice. Your voice is of this business. You're important to this process.' We always work with people from every department right from the start and they all bring a different perspective."

Trust is the foundation of a successful organizational culture, which in turn is the foundation of a successful brand. (22:00): "Lack of trust is one of the main problems that we constantly see when working with teams. It's down to a lack of transparency and a lack of accountability. No one is willing to put their head above the parapet and own something.

"And if you've noticed that, then that's going to have a negative impact on your culture. And if that's having a negative impact on your culture, then is your brand message going to be as truthful and as authentic as you might want it to be? If you see this, you've got to act on it and do something about it."

Have brand guidelines, but empower your team to interpret them as appropriate (27:22): "I hate brand guideline books. Obviously, they need to be there, but people treat them so rigidly. If you have a team that 100% understands the positioning and the messaging that you're using to different audiences, then sometimes how the logo appears or the space around it or the tone of voice sometimes...you should enable your team to deal with that."

To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn. You can also follow Matt on Twitter at @mattdesmier or check out his website: WiseOldUncle.com.

Matt and I talked about much more, including how culture is where branding really starts, and why knowing your company's "why" is not enough to differentiate you from your competition, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.