Let’s talk about your key message. First things first, here’s a question for you:
Does your organization have a key message?
- Yeah, of course
- I think so
- I’m not sure
- What is a key message?
If you happened to answer, b,c,d,or e – hunni, we need to talk. If there is one thing that should be crystal clear in any of your marketing and outward facing communications, it’s your key message.
Without one? *Gasp* We dread to think about the potential outcomes.
If you’ve been through our blog pastures before, you may have noticed us mentioning the importance of a key message at least 16 dozen times. With that in mind, let us explain why we’re so adamant about the whole thing.
We promise this is the last time we’ll bring it up.
Actually, don’t hold us to that. It’s definitely going to come up again. We can’t help ourselves.
What’s a Key Message
Your key message is, at its core, a strategic way to communicate your value proposition to your customer in a way that will resonate.
A lot of organizations have a bunch of reasons and messages that are intended to convey why you should buy or work with them. The best prices! The most trustworthy! The most philanthropic! The best culture!
When there’s a long list of things you want your audience to know about you, it can be hard to whittle it down. A Key Message is one consistent message that tells your audience exactly what you want to be known for. When we explain why a Key Message is effective, we turn to the Tennis Ball Concept.
Consider this scenario…
I’m holding 10 tennis balls. Each of these tennis balls represents something I want you to know about our agency. Here’s ten for you.
- We’re strategic!
- We’re creative!
- We’re fully integrated!
- We have a great work culture!
- Our team is talented!
- We have a dog!
- Our services get results!
- We work with the best clients!
- Sometimes we have parties!
- We’re really awesome human beings who care!
So now, I’m going to throw them at you. I am going to throw ALL of them at you, simultaneously. Unless you’re some kind of magician, you’re not going to catch them all. Maybe you caught 3 (Good job! Super impressed with your catching skills).
Now, I have no control over which 3 tennis balls you caught. Maybe you managed to capture:
- We have a dog!
- Our services get results!
- We’re creative!
It’s not really doing us any favours that you caught the whole “we have a dog” thing – albeit, he is adorable. However, that’s the problem. I have no control over which messages you caught. Further still, you may want to tell someone else about our agency.
You meet someone in a hotel bar, and you want to tell them all about us (Why wouldn’t you?). So you take your 3 tennis balls, and you toss them over.
Image: My Loud Speaker
They probably caught one. And now there is one more person in the world who knows we have a dog. An adorable, barking dog.
We have a dog!
So that’s the thing about having one message. You get a lot more control about how people speak about you, because there’s one simple takeaway. Rather than toss every ball their way – pass one. Just make sure it’s the best of the bunch.
Our dog is excellent – so no offense, Office Dog. But it’s definitely not what I want you to know about My Loud Speaker.
A Key Message that is clearly defined helps you to control the conversation people are having about your brand. If it’s concise, focused, and resonates with your target, everything you put forward will be communicating something clear and effective. Not to mention, it adds definite memorability and will be easy for your audience to pass on.
Your Key Message in Marketing
Your key message should permeate through all of your marketing materials. Whether your website, brochure – heck! – even your business card. It should come through in your copy, it should be reflected in design. In fact, everything you put out into the world should in some way convey your key message.
It would be boring if you just slapped the same message on everything. So don’t get us wrong, we don’t expect you to copy and paste your message all over the place willy nilly. Rather, it’s important that you find different ways to ensure that the main takeaway of your message is shining through. Maybe not verbatim, but the essence should always be there.
When we worked with DMCL, an accounting firm based here in Vancouver, it took a long while to decipher what their key message was. When you have 19 partners, and are all trying to get onto the same page – it can be challenging.
We compared DMCL to their competitors to suss out what their key differentiator was. They offered up that they were exceptionally responsive. More responsive than the others. Timely! And when you consider their target – a professional making an easy 7 figures a year – timeliness is of the utmost importance. You know that saying, “Time is money!”
Their key message quickly developed: The knowledge you need, the urgency you deserve.
Perfect! So we had a message that would resonate with their target and effectively communicated their value proposition. We worked on a number of deliverables for the firm, including their website, brochures, and other print materials. And no surprise, every one of them included their key message, and the essence of the message bled through into design and copy.
In the case of their website, our UI/UX designer ensured that everything directed the user to getting in touch with a partner. Making for a seamless user experience that subtly always guided the user to get in touch and get the knowledge they need with the urgency they deserve. Same goes for the copy, we used terms like agile, quick, experienced – the list goes on. By using these terms, the user would surely take away the essence of the key message.
The same can be applied to other clients we’ve worked with.
This summer, we helped the Strathcona Business Improvement Association (SBIA) to launch their new campaign “Most Walkable Street 2021”. The deliverables themselves helped to convey that message clearly, starting with a Street Party where attendees were encouraged to take walking tours through the neighborhood. The Walk Pop-Up Shop which helped to communicate the type of businesses that would encourage the public to walk through the streets. And not to mention, a whole lot of cool branding that highlighted the routes and walkable ways to explore Strathcona.
It’s concise, it’s focused, and everyone got the message.
Where Do Key Messages Come From?
Where do babies come from? A stork.
Or, if you want to be crass about it, two adults – who may or may not love each other – drink Pinot Noir, light a vanilla scented candle, and babies just happen.
But where do key messages come from?
In order to create a key message that will truly resonate with your audience, you need to take a step back and do some analysis of your organization. Our method involves a Situational Analysis, a Competitor Analysis, a Macro Environmental Analysis, and a Customer Analysis.
Generally, this takes a great deal of time and consideration in order to develop the perfect key message.
The Customer Analysis will allow you to define your bullseye target. By taking a look at your current customers and then thoughtfully selecting one that has the most opportunity, you’ll have a clear picture in your head of precisely who you’re marketing to. And all of your marketing materials will be directed distinctively at them.
Your Competitor Analysis will measure and analyze what you do differently than the pack. You need to assess what your competitors do well and where they fall short. You’ll want to apply the same lens to your own organization. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Once you’ve collected all the data, you need to look at it all together and you should be able to define your value proposition – that key differentiator.
A Key Message will combine what you learned in both your competitor analysis with what you know about your bullseye target. Put simply, your key message will be your value proposition worded in a way that will resonate with your bullseye target.
Taking into consideration the other findings from your analysis exercises and ensuring all the pieces fit – you’ve got yourself a key message! The marketing stork has arrived, and it’s delivering a bouncing, bubbly message that will guide your marketing to success.
However, I do need to tell you, we generally brainstorm 50 to a zillion variations before we settle on the perfect match. It’s no easy task, and it’s nice to have a wordsmith on deck to make even a simple value prop like “great service” sound sexy and unique.
Great Key Messages
What could be worse than a key message that falls short? The short answer is papercuts.
On the flipside, a great key message is a powerful thing. We’ve helped many businesses, brands, and organization to design effective key messages that have helped them towards their ultimate marketing goals.
Opticians Council of Canada
Key Message: Hate Your Job? We Love Ours!
For this year’s campaign, we launched with a new focus to spread awareness of the Licensed Optician profession to potential students.
Considering our young target and the brand’s differentiator “versatility of profession” we made a swift shift in tone to align the new campaign to the frustration and angst of our target.
Compared to other educational institute messages which speak largely to “a great career is waiting for you”, we wanted to take a unique approach that would stand out from the generic campaigns. Our buzz-worthy campaign and key message was not only strategic, but also highlighted a humorous and relatable portion of the brand’s personality.
It tapped into the target’s main gripe: their thankless day job. To complement the message, we designed an amazing website that was filled with ‘hate your job’ related content that would all lead the user to Opticianry as a viable profession. In a funny way.
Their social media channels were created to help drive more of their targets to the campaign website and spread awareness. We used meme content, a Millennial insta-habit, related to hating your job and drove everyone back to the website.
Key Message: We are more alike than different.
When we sat down with Metrin Skincare to help develop their marketing strategy and design their key message, we were enthused to find they had a very different way of looking at skin. While a lot of brands market products to specific types of skin – oily, combination, dry – Metrin Skincare believes there are no skin types.
Rather, it’s their believe that all skin is created equal. It’s all just a matter of balance and their product line helps people to get healthy, happy skin. Therefore, our goal was to design a Key Message that would communicate this unique value proposition. Best case scenario, the message would be strong enough to contribute to a greater conversation that we are more alike than different.
Given the current political and cultural climate, messages of inclusivity are more relevant than ever, and Metrin was the perfect brand to position themselves behind that message.
In order to convey the key message in an effective way, we developed a campaign concept for social platforms. We used real Metrin customers, who were diverse in both age and backgrounds, and through a survey uncovered unlikely commonalities between the models. We photographed their clients and communicated through visuals that we are more alike than you’d assume at surface value.
This was a great way to show their key message in a visual way.
Congratulations! After reading all this insightful stuff about the importance of a Key Message, you’re probably thirsting to either learn more or get cracking to define your own. With the right combination of analysis, research, and thought – there is nothing standing in the way of your success.
A Key Message is the cornerstone of your marketing and making a memorable impact with your audience. It has a lot of power to shape the way the world sees you, and it can help guide you through. Stay the course and choose a perfect message – the results will come. We promise.
If you’re ever having a hard time or you want some experts to swoop in and do the tough work for you, all you have to do is ask. Don’t be shy, we’re here for you.
If you want to learn more about specific key elements of an effective marketing plan, read our 50+ page booklet on How to Write A Strategic Marketing Plan That Yields ROI – complete with explanations