Transform customer experiences with personalized brand messaging
Summary To create a strong brand capable of surviving over time, it is essential to learn how to communicate a message that is consistent…
To create a strong brand capable of surviving over time, it is essential to learn how to communicate a message that is consistent and effectively relevant to all dimensions of a company’s identity: who the brand is, what it represents, what it does, why it is unique, how it does what it does, and how it is capable of improving people’s lives. This last aspect has become increasingly central to the agendas of marketers, who with mass digitization, are faced with the need to radically rethink the balance of the brand-customer relationship and shift the focus from the product to the consumer. Taking advantage of the dizzying changes produced by new technologies, a well-articulated message system is now able not only to tell the story of the brand at every stage of the journey, but also to personalize it with respect to the individual customer, in order to transform their consumption experiences and make them more authentic, meaningful, and truly effective.
The message that a brand communicates, in its various manifestations, is what identifies it with its target audience. It is both the starting point and the momentary point of arrival of a company’s adventure. It’s momentary because in digitally connected markets, the brand messaging must be constantly fed and monitored so that it resonates with its recipients. These recipients, far from remaining immobile in time and space, have now learned to live in contexts that are in continuous and sometimes unpredictable transformation.
On the one hand, the experience of this consumer – at once conscious and elusive – is determined by the quality of the brand’s entire message system. On the other hand, each articulation of this complex system of messages, physical and digital – copy, visual design, events, social presence – represents a concrete possibility for the brand itself to enter into a relationship with the recipients of its communication.
Each brand message must therefore be overseen and managed by marketers with extreme care and attention. Otherwise, the risk is to miss important opportunities for the generation of valuable leads or to erode the trust of already acquired customers.
But what is brand messaging, and how can personalization help empower it by allowing it to build memorable customer experiences?
Brand messaging: framework and pillars
Brand messaging is the way that the brand asserts its personality, claiming a formal and substantial difference from its competitors. To achieve this goal, the company designs and uses both verbal and non-verbal communications, online and offline, within an organic and multi-channel strategy, which must be applied in different formats, according to the specific business objectives.
Framework: enter the brand
To proceed with building its brand messages, the brand must give itself a framework, a structure in which to organize the deep contents that constitute its universe of meaning. In order to do this, the brand must first of all have a deep knowledge of its Unique Selling Proposition and its target audience.
1. Who are you?
The USP is that general and specific statement that incorporates the brand identity. It’s “general” because it is placed on an ideal level, and “specific” because it refers to the individual reality of the organization. It is at the same time a conceptual framework and a reasoned list of instructions, a sort of legend of a map that serves a dual purpose:
- helping the consumer orient himself in the world described by the brand,
- Helping brand employees to clarify and consolidate their sense of belonging.
USP also has a definite tone of voice with which the brand chooses to speak to its audience. This is an essential decision that establishes the degree of familiarity and closeness in the relationship with the customer and paves the way for a potentially more intimate and personal conversation.
Defining brand identity, which must then inform the entirety of its messages, means striving to find the answers to a set of basic questions. It’s a bit like having to conduct an interview while also having to take on the part of the interviewee. Or even better, it’s like we have to create the character in a story (i.e. the brand). It sounds like a game; yet, it’s an experiment that invariably produces very real consequences. Let’s get started.
- How does the brand distinguish itself from its competitors?
- What is its proposition?
- Do its messages tell a story? What kind?
- What are the brand’s objectives?
- What are its values?
2. All about your audience
After having clarified our ideas about who the brand is – but be careful, don’t be in a hurry: defining the brand identity is an ongoing process that may require several attempts, ongoing adjustments, and moments of reflection and rethinking — it is now a matter of identifying the target audience.
How? By creating buyer personas that represent customers and their goals, aligning the brand with consumers in a constant fine-tuning activity. Here are some questions to help you with this activity:
- Who is your target audience made up of?
- What do your customers care about?
- What kind of message do you think will resonate with your target audience?
Pillars: from concept to practice
Having arrived at this point, the brand messaging framework has finally taken shape, but still at a purely conceptual level. Let’s take a step further to focus on how this abstract plan actually relates to the products and services that the company offers. This is a key step that occurs through the elaboration of the brand messaging pillars.
The pillars translate concretely into the characteristics of the product or service on which the company can claim a higher level of expertise and quality than its competitors.
Pillars should always be chosen with the main goal of improving the customer experience.
Three categories can be referred to when determining brand pillars:
- Perception, Identity, and Values
- Brand Experience
By purpose, we mean the company’s mission and core values:
- what to communicate to the target audience as the ultimate purpose of the brand,
- what to communicate to employees or potential employees as a statement of intent to aspire to.
Here, we are talking about the actions – marketing, sales, HR, customer service – through which the corporate culture is transmitted and acted upon.
Perception is about how customers see the brand (e.g. hospitable, strong, adventurous, sophisticated, etc.). Being able to get to know the perceived image is invaluable in order to intervene with targeted activities to strengthen or, possibly, modify it.
But if we want to know where and what to change, we have to use the channels available (for example, not only institutional social networks, post-purchase forms, and chatbots) to collect opinions and feedback – better if informal and unstructured – from current customers. Perception is closely linked to the question of identity (understood in the sense of what the brand is, and not what it possesses) to which we have already referred and which stands as the fundamental foundation on which the entire brand rests.
Permeating the entire organization–identity and perceived image together–are its values, which guide the brand’s models of interaction with customers: integrity or solidarity, or the desire to pursue beauty or the choice of a life in contact with nature, just to give a few examples.
3. Brand experience
Finally, brand experience is the pillar that grounds the previous two because it deals with the direct use of products and services. But that’s not all: experiencing the brand means that any touchpoint in the consumption path affects the final experience, which must be understood in a global sense. T
oday, companies have numerous tools at their disposal that they can use on multiple channels and platforms to succeed in conveying their brand messages. Among these, particular attention is increasingly being paid to personalized videos, which are being used successfully by professionals working in different business functions, in virtually every industry, whether B2C or B2B.
Each of the three pillars on which brand messaging is based is increasingly permeated by personalization, a trend that consumers in every market are becoming accustomed to and won’t give up.
The horizon of personalization: new life for brand messaging
According to the second edition of the State of the Connected Customer by Salesforce, “84% of customers say that being treated like a person, not a number, is very important to winning their business.”
Also according to Salesforce, personalization has already gone beyond segmentation methods that may have seemed evolved until a few years ago. Technological advances have made it possible to overcome targeting that was limited to placing people in the same sample based on whether they lived in the same city, worked in the same industry, or were the same age.
In fact, fitting into one of these representative samples says very little about consumers’ tastes, preferences, concerns, or passions.
Instead, brand interactions should reflect the individuality of each person.
In recent years, personalization has emerged as a practice to customize consumer experiences based on knowledge extracted from the information available on each individual profile.
The importance of data in personalization strategies
The most advanced personalization strategies are based on the full exploitation of data, which is stored and interpreted in order to extract real-time insights that are truly relevant. Being able to have large amounts of accurate, modeled, centralized, accessible, and actionable data produces relevant results.
Personalization has evolved from targeting segments with uniform master data (often insufficient, incomplete, and inaccurate) to solutions where data truly resonates at the individual level. A new version of personalization, empowered by advances in technology, leverages analytics and data management systems to build and deliver the content, offers, and experiences that are meaningful to customers, presenting them at any time and through any channel that enables interaction with the company.
Traditional differentiation approaches, (such as pricing models, special offers, and promotions) are not as effective as they once were. Not only are they easily and infinitely replicable, they lack accuracy and personalization. Personalization, in fact, is the real added value that consumers expect – or rather, increasingly demand.
True differentiation is possible if brands choose a personalized approach that creates unique experiences tailored to individual customers.
Personalization has become so pervasive that it’s now expected. While personalization may not be the main motivation for every aspect of the customer experience, customers take it for granted and poor personalization or no personalization can be a cause for abandonment.
Through personalization, companies can achieve great benefits: improved experiences and quality of relationships; increased customer loyalty; higher conversion rates; and significant, measurable growth in business results (source: CIO/Salesforce).
Personalized brand messaging for better customer experiences
In conclusion, in the best personalized experiences, brands make the customer part of the dialog and leverage data to create one-to-one personalization. That’s why personalization, once limited primarily to targeted offers, now seamlessly extends to the entire customer experience and permeates the entire brand messaging system.
Personalized brand messaging therefore uses customer data from past purchase history, biographies, browsing history, and feedback on products and services. This is both data that companies collect directly from customers and data that comes from third-party sources.
And they use it to tailor marketing programs, digital but not only digital, to the specific traits of each consumer and transform their experience, thus making it unique and relevant.
Copywriter for television and online, she has been creating and managing editorial content for more than 15 years for multiple formats, including marketing and television.