How to Create a Clear Brand Message

(With Steve Woodruff)

How to Create a Clear Brand Message
Steve Woodruff is a consultant, author, and speaker. He is the president of Impactiviti/Clarity Fuel, where he is known as the King of Clarity and offers life sciences training, consulting, and workshops. In a world full of noise and distraction, Steve helps businesses craft a clear message so they can be heard, remembered, and referred. 

In today’s episode, we’ll discuss the principles in Steve’s book Clarity Wins and how we can create a clear brand message that will help us stand out against our competitors. 

The Clarity Formula

Steve described his career journey as a pinball machine. He bounced around at a few companies before finding his passion for great branding and clear marketing messages. He now consults individuals on their brand, helping them condense their messages into their clearest and simplest forms.

In order to create a clear message, Steve explained that there are three things we should do: get to the point, get our point across, and get everyone on the same page. This means we need to effectively package information so the brain can process it. 

“The brain has a filtering system called the RAS: the reticular activating system, which is always looking for relevance,” Steve said. “It wants the most relevant thing, and it’s filtering out 99% of what’s coming our way. Our challenge as communicators is to get through the RAS by immediately showing the relevance, the ‘what’s in it for me.’ What that means is we have to learn how to get to the point.” 

The formula Steve uses to communicate clearly is to get attention, show relevance, impart information, and then create a call to action. This formula not only applies to everyday conversation, but also to our marketing messages. We need to capture our customers’ attention, tell them what’s in it for them, and then get them to buy our product. 

Just as we need to be clear in our marketing messages, we also need to be clear in our brand as it works hand in hand with our messages. Steve says there are five main elements to clarity: who, what, where, how, and why.

Who: Who are our ideal customers? What: What is the exact service or product that we bring to the table, and what problem does it solve for our customers? Where: Where are we located? Are we online? Are we a global company? How: How do we bring unique value to our customers? How are we leveraging our superpowers to provide value to our customers? Why: Why would our customer want to buy our product or service? This is the driving pain or passion that someone feels and how our product will help them with it. 

When we answer these questions, our brand becomes clear to our customers. They understand what we can do for them and what we stand for. As we make our brand clear, our customers will remember us better and our sales will likely increase. 

Owning Real Estate in Our Customers’ Minds

By following the clarity formula, we make it easier for our customers to remember us. We make it easier to stand out. “Great branding means owning real estate in somebody’s mind,” Steve said. “A great brand is a way of getting embedded in people’s brains.”

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Steve used to work for a company called Formal Systems, which had a software product called Pedagogue. While they were out working with clients, they realized that the majority of people had no idea what they were referring to when they said Formal Systems; however, they recognized the software Pedagogue. Because of this, Steve’s company changed their name to Pedagogue Solutions. That way, their customers would recognize their brand and remember them.

“The lesson for me was that you’re typically not going to get five pieces of real estate in anybody’s mind, you’re going to get one,” Steve said. “Great branding is trying to create one vivid impression in people’s minds and making it stick.”

With our brands, we should strive to create a message or brand name that will resonate with our customers and stick in their mind. Steve did this with his nickname. He calls himself the King of Clarity and people remember it. The King of Clarity is his one piece of real estate in his customers’ minds. 

One of the biggest mistakes we can make as a company is to create a message or brand that isn’t memorable. If a customer is seeing our logo or tagline over and over again, we want them to remember it. 

Something many people see everyday across the globe is a UPS truck, but can you remember what it says on the side of their delivery trucks? I can’t. It isn’t memorable. It leaves no impact on the mind. One phrase they use is “world-wide services” and the other is “synchronizing the world of commerce” but this is only a message to suppliers. This message will not resonate with people across the word since it doesn’t mean anything to them. “Their message, to me, is a lack of clarity,” Steve said. Because of this, they aren’t embedded in their customers’ minds. 

Understanding Our Greatest Competitor 

Steve explained that the greatest challenge many businesses face is knowing their enemy. Most people think their greatest competitor is the business down the road or Amazon. However, our greatest competitors are the noise and distractions our customers come across each day. Simply the quantity of messages and products is challenging.  

“There’s so much noise and distraction . . . that the main challenge we have is getting attention,” Steve said. “If you can realize that your big challenge is getting through the filtering system of somebody’s brain with a message that wakes them up, that will help you really focus on how we can be a great communicator.”

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In order to really grab our customers’ attention and stand out among the noise, we need to find a way to help our customers solve their greatest pain points or achieve their greatest passions. 

“Everybody’s got to earn attention. That means [using] skillfully crafted words and skillfully positioning a brand so that people . . . know why it’s important. Most businesses fail miserably at this. They just spew a bunch of commodity jargon language, but that’s part of the noise,” Steve said. 

When we can connect to our customers’ passion in our marketing messages, we will be much better situated to capture their attention. How do we stand out? We find our customers’ passions and resonate with them in our brand messages. 

There are a million podcasters out there, but if they can find their unique niche, the thing that makes them stand out among the millions, they will find success. They need to find a way to create a podcast that resonates with a niche group’s passions if they want to stand out. 

Referral Networking 

In Steve’s book Clarity Wins, he also discusses referral networking. When we have clarity in our brand messages, it becomes easier to gain referrals from our customers. 

“With referrals, there’s no better way to get new business than [to] have a trusted somebody tell somebody else that you’re someone to do business with,” Steve said. “If referrals are the best way to get new business, shouldn’t we actually concentrate most of our efforts on a referral strategy?”

The best source of new business is referrals. But who has a referral strategy? While many businesses rely on referrals, they often forget to create a strategy to get them. They sit back and hope their customers leave a positive review or refer them on their own. 

We want to help our customers know what to say when they refer us. Entrepreneurs are often missing word packages that a person can recognize us with. For example, Steve calls himself the King of Clarity and he will use that with his customers so they refer to him as such. Our best work is handing off little verbal business cards that can stick in someone’s mind. When it’s in their mind, they will use those words when they refer to us. However, we need to remember to keep these “verbal packages” simple and clear. 

“Narrow it down to the most distilled essence. Referral partners or friends, they can’t also maintain 30 different things in their heads about us; I want them to know one thing: King of Clarity,” Steve said. 

Key Takeaways

Thank you so much Steve for sharing your stories and insights with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:

  1. To create a clear message, we want to get to the point, get our point across, and get everyone on the same page.
  2. To get our point across, we should focus on who, what, where, how, and why. 
  3. To own real estate in our customers’ minds and be remembered, we should be simple and clear in our messaging. 
  4. Our greatest competitor is the noise and distraction our customers encounter. To stand out amongst the noise, we should relate our brand’s message to our customers’ top passions. 
  5. Referrals are a great way to help us get business. We should strive to use “verbal packages” to help our customers know what to say when they refer us in a way that will be remembered. 

Connect with Steve

To learn more about or connect with Steve:

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    About the author

    Nathan Gwilliam

    Nathan Gwilliam

    I help organizations navigate tectonic shifts that are transforming the business landscape, so they can optimize marketing, accelerate profits, and make a greater difference for good.

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