Product and brand messaging is part art, part science. The art includes the storytelling, compelling visual elements, tonality, and the brand personality. These elements are best left to the creative teams. Research rarely improves them. The science comes in when predicting and evaluating the effectiveness of an individual message, ad, or campaign. This post reviews some of the elements common to effective messaging.
Any messaging execution, whether it is a print ad, online ad, or sales collateral should be built upon your company’s and product’s unique value proposition (UVP). A unique value proposition defines who your customers are, the job to be done and problems your solution solves, and what makes you different from competitors. An effective UVP meets four criteria.
- Relevancy: It aligns with the buyer’s goals; the job they need done.
- Emotional Engagement: It reflects the buyer’s emotional pain points related to the job to be done.
- Credibility: The prospective buyer finds the company claims believable.
- Uniqueness: It distinguishes the company/product/service from its competitors.
At a minimum, effective B2B product messaging checks all these boxes.
As you get closer to the actual messaging execution (ad, collateral, etc.), there are more tactical metrics that can predict the success of your messaging, including:
Breakthrough: Every messaging channel is more crowded than ever. An effective message must be able to break through the clutter. This is truly the realm of the creative experts. That said, there are standard research techniques that can measure how well a message stands out from the competition.
Clarity: The most effective message leaves the viewer with a clear takeaway. Messaging that tries to do too much often ends up diluting its competing themes, leaving little impression on the viewer. The first step in creating messaging is to identify its primary objective—the most important point to get across. Research can gauge to what extent this point is reaching the audience.
Authentic / Consistent: Messaging needs to align with a vendor’s overall brand identity. When it doesn’t, it can create confusion—or even credibility concerns. Viewers notice a disconnect when an old, conservative company uses hip imagery in their ads. Research can help identify the alignment of the messaging with the buyer’s perceptions of the brand.
Call to Action: The goal of product messaging is to drive a call to action—to compel prospects to seek more information about the product or company. With online messaging B2B buyers can run A/B testing to see which executions are the most effective. In the analog work of print ads, research can uncover how motivated buyers are to take action after view the messaging.
Likeability: Within the research world there has always been a debate on the usefulness of measuring the likability of an ad or campaign. We think it is a useful metric to include when testing messaging and ads. Likeable ads tend to have greater recall and provide an indication of emotional engagement. That said, likable message that fails at other more important dimensions will not be effective.
Why conduct messaging research?
In consumer markets, many brands conduct extensive message testing because it is the primary way they interact with customers and prospects. These are markets where marginal differences can have a significant impact on sales. The studies can be large, and some techniques are quite sophisticated—such as tracking viewer biometrics as they engage with an ad.
The story is different in most B2B markets. Messaging is only one of many ways that vendors interact with customers and prospects. The goal of most B2B messaging research is to ensure the messaging is headed in the right direction; it is often more confirmatory than exploratory.
In some cases, the creative team recognizes the need to talk less about the product and more about the buyer and their needs. The team develops messaging strategies that depart from legacy campaigns by reducing the focus on the product—the piece of equipment isn’t the visual centerpiece. This can push company executives, especially those in engineering driven organizations, out of their comfort zone. Research can provide reassurance that the new direction will not alienate current customers.
Whether or not any research is conducted, B2B marketers should take the time to consider how their company and product messaging perform on the above metrics, from relevancy to likability.
If you’d like to learn more about how research can help build effective B2B messaging, fill out our contact form and we’d be happy to set up a call to discuss your specific needs.