In our recent post Why Your Brand Doesn’t Need a Tagline, we recommended that you create a palette of messages instead of focusing on using a singular tagline. This week, we’ll expound on this topic, because there seems to be confusion (or lack of consensus) among entrepreneurs and small businesses in the area of taglines and messages.

In this post, we’ll define and distinguish three key terms: Message, Messaging, and Copy.

Don’t be fooled by amateur branders who will tell you they’re one and the same. We’ll explain each of these terms and how they’re used to express your brand

01. Message

We’re always hearing entrepreneurs and small business owners wondering “What’s my message?” Usually what they mean is “how should I talk about my business?” Or, “what should be my elevator pitch?” Or, “what is my ‘Why’ (as Simon Sinek would say)?”

If this sounds like you, we would argue that what you’re really looking for in a “message” is what we call a “Brand Promise.”  Your Brand Promise is the ultimate benefit that your customers or clients receive when they buy your products or services. A Brand Promise frames how you can talk about your business in terms that’s meaningful to them.” To learn more about Brand Promise, check out 3 things to have in your Brand Promise.

So, then what is a “message?” Simply put, a message is a “key communication point.” They’re not necessarily the actual words you’ll use. A “message” is the crux of your communication point — after you strip down all the words surrounding your point.

Here are some examples of messages:

  • Safety
  • Reliability
  • Accessibility
  • Expertise
  • Social Impact
  • Great Place to Work
  • Industry expertise
  • Certifications

02. Messaging

“Messaging” is a funny word, right? It’s not often used by the general public, but it’s a common word in the branding and marketing profession.

Simply put, “messaging” is a “an organizing framework for all messages.” Usually messaging is populated in a table. At Branding For The People, we call it a “Messaging Matrix.” There are many ways to slice and dice a Messaging Matrix. However, in our experience with our clients, the most common way an entrepreneur or small business should organize their messaging is by target audience or by hierarchy of information. And, both in some cases.

Organizing your messages by target audiences keeps you focused on communicating messages to them based on what’s most important for each. Some people will resonate with some messages over others.

Organizing messages by hierarchy of information allows you to prioritize your messages in terms of primary, secondary, and tertiary. In this approach, all messages are important to your target audiences, but you need to present the messages in the order in which they’ll want to hear it. This aids in their desire to read through the information and/or make a buying decision. And, for your copywriting team, this hierarchy of information helps guide them by identifying which messages should be emphasized in a headline, a sub headline or in body copy.

This organization and prioritization process is also known as message segmentation.

In some cases, a Messaging Matrix organizes messages by target audiences and hierarchy of information.

For example:

Messaging Matrix

Target Audience 01 | Customer

Primary Messages

  • Safety
  • Reliability
  • Customer Service

Secondary Messages

  • Expertise
  • Loyalty Programs
  • Money Back Guarantee

Tertiary Messages

  • Social Impact
  • Great Place to Work
  • Partner Brands

Target Audience 02 | Channel Parner

Primary  Messages

  • Brand Exposure
  • Shared Revenue Potential
  • High Profile Existing Channel Partners

Secondary Messages

  • Dedicated Team
  • Robust Partner Program

Tertiary Messages

  • Future Partner Programs
  • Social Responsibility
  • Foundation

Target Audience 03 | Potential Employee

Primary Messages

  • Flexible PTO
  • Meaningful Work
  • Upward Mobility

Secondary Messages

  • 401K
  • Global Offices
  • Professional Development Programs

Tertiary Messages

  • Ranked on Most Reputable Companies
  • Founder’s Story

03. Copy

The fun part. Let’s discuss “copy.” Simply put, copy is “the actual word or words used to express your messages.” It’s what you actually say in your branding and marketing communications. If you’ve ever hired or worked with a copywriter, you know that it helps to tell them what you want to communicate in marketing.

Your Messaging Matrix (and the corresponding messages within that matrix) is a useful tool to guide them and keep them focused on what your brand needs to say… and to whom. This Messaging Matrix makes a copywriter’s life easier and enables them to focus on what they do best, i.e. write copy.

Here are a few examples for illustrative purposes:

  • Safety (message) = “We saved X number of lives last year because of this safety feature alone.” (copy)
  • Reliability (message) = “You can count on our team to be there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.” (copy)
  • Accessibility (message) = “If you can’t find what you’re looking for online, meet one of our advisors in-person.” (copy)

Hope this article clears up any confusion you may have between Message, Messaging and Copy.

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