Updated: Apr 27
A BrandSignal is an electrifying message that runs through your business and connects all the elements of your brand.
Your BrandSignal is the story of who you are and what you value. It spells out your intentions and connects your beliefs and values to the work you do every day.
The key elements defining your BrandSignal
My focus is on creating one central concept that aligns your external and internal messaging. Your brand narrative.
The deliverables I create show you how to speak in a consistent brand voice. You do this by developing an EAR for your BrandSignal
E: the expressions you use
A: The attitude you bring
R: The rhythm of your writing or speech patterns
Why call it BrandSignal? Because, if your brand is working, it sends a clear and consistent signal to the right people.
The brands we choose signal who we are
When we buy the supermarket home brand butter, we’re saying we don’t care about brand. We care about price. Butter is a commodity. But if we buy Lurpak butter, we’re signalling that we care about taste and quality. More than we care about price.
A quick trip to the Lurpak website confirms that the Danish brand has ‘held its position as the most delicious premium butter for over a hundred years.’
Their key message is ‘Good food deserves Lurpak.’ Visuals of fresh, high-quality ingredients accompany the message. It’s butter for cooks. A premium product.
So that’s their story. Lurpak is synonymous with quality cooking.
When consumers buy into a brand story, they're less likely to leave the brand or switch than if they just buy a product.
What is a brand story?
Experts agree that brand storytelling matters, but few explain what a story is. In short, it could be either:
A narrative with a central character who undergoes a transformation
Australian business storytelling leader Gabrielle Dolan differentiates between a strategic narrative (such as Lurpak is butter for cooks) and a story in which there’s a character who has to overcome a hurdle in order to transform. We exchanged comments about this a while ago on Linkedin.
For example, imagine there was an ad in which Gordon Ramsay was cooking a dish for his family. His son Jack comes home from the Marines with supermarket home brand butter. Gordon refuses to use it. Instead, he takes time out of a busy day and battles heavy traffic to make sure he gets his hands on some Lurpak.
Then he cooks a delicious meal for his family. The butter makes a difference to the taste, and his son understands why Lurpak matters. Gordon looks around and realises it was less about the product and more about sharing an enjoyable meal together.
That’s a story.
Despite my history as a documentary-maker, I embrace a wider definition of a story.
For me, the emotional connection it makes defines a story.
The Lurpak message connects with me. I value quality ingredients. Food brings me joy, and I like to make the most of the eating experience. If there’s a character in their 'story,' it’s me.
So, if a restaurant or graphic designer claims they’re telling a story with their work, I don’t object. For me, the proof is in whether their message is memorable and has emotional resonance.
Is your brand story your brand strategy?
A unified brand strategy unites your corporate brand, your consumer brand, and your talent brand with a core message. I call this your BrandSignal.
One of the people I admire in my industry is Andy Raskin of the podcast ‘The Bigger Narrative.’ He looks for one overarching strategic message to drive a business forward.
Companies could have a different message for investors from the one they do for consumers.
For example, a health monitoring app may focus on health optimisation for consumers, but its ultimate goal could be to reinvent life insurance for a healthy cohort.
They could attract investors to the idea of disrupting the existing business model for life insurance.
Positioning expert April Dunford rejects the concept of an overarching brand position or narrative. She thinks you need different messages for different audiences or products. I agree and disagree. Underlying all segments there should ideally be one consistent message. One core purpose. Your BrandSignal.
For the example health app, the overarching message could be, ‘Take control of your health. Take control of your life.’
Unilever speaks to its brand purpose, “Better Business. Better World. Better You.” consistently across the dimension of consumer, corporate and talent.
Accenture's new brand campaign is built around the unifying thought "let there be change." The campaign reaches across their consumer, talent and corporate brand.
Your story is a positioning tool
Your story is how you position yourself in the minds of your audience. You can position your business by following a certain model, serving a specific sector, or telling a story. Your voice is also a positioning tool.
Take for example, Who Gives a Crap. It’s toilet paper made from recycled paper or bamboo (which isn’t at risk of deforestation). Half of their profits go to building toilets and improving sanitation in the developing world.
So, the business model is distinctive, and that’s their story. On top of that, they have a distinctive, funny brand voice which positions them as a friendly upstart.
That clever combination has earned them enormous success.
Your story illustrates your purpose
People are increasingly looking to work at businesses with a clear sense of purpose.
Consumers also want to feel part of a story. When we take part in a shared narrative, we become connected.
My core belief is that stories inspire people to live more meaningful lives. This message is the thread that links my background in documentary making to what I do for companies today.
How can small and medium-sized businesses create effective brand stories?
The creative and educational businesses I work with are different from the Unilevers and Lurpaks. They don't have separate departments for brand, marketing and sales. They don't put products on supermarket shelves. So a traditional brand strategy isn't the right solution for them.
Still, they recognise the power of a brand strategy or brand story to put their stake in the ground.
What they want to know is:
> What message to lead with?
> How to put their stake in the ground? Where can they use their brand message?
> How to maintain the brand story and brand voice day-to-day? That’s where the EAR framework comes into play.
Contact me to learn more about my process. Booking now for August 2022.