August 17, 2012

Why Messaging and Branding is So Hard

I think it has to do with several key factors:

1. Optimizing H1 tags for the most valuable keywords has significant value in getting you more traffic so your headline is heavily influenced by what’s optimal for getting traffic and not an organic or original thought. Messaging has to be consistent across your site.

2.Be simple and focused. It’s difficult to separate yourself from the product when you’re so involved. You become defensive of all of the changes and regularly toggle back and forth about what is important.

3. Things change a lot during the early stages of your company. You find different opportunities and become more influenced by people’s opinions because you are unsure of yourself. The result is you end up listening to everyone.

4. We don’t answer the “why” for our customers because we’re afraid that being ourselves won’t work.

For 6 months we stared at our download conversions in disbelief. We were consistently above 15% conversions.

Compared to industry standards at 5%, I’d say we were doing pretty well. And then we changed everything completely.

Maybe you can recall our landing page said one thing: “Data Entry Blows”.

There were two options on the landing page:

1. Watch the video.

2. Download for free.

It seemed like all of our customers loved this and really resonated with it emotionally because data entry does blow. When advisors would challenge me on the landing page, I’d show them our conversions which immediately put their concerns at bay.

But there was one comment that stuck in my head for 6 months that I just couldn’t shake. And what made it even more difficult was how confident the person was that stated it. It was as though we just became a data point to him and not a company when I told him I was confident this was the right messaging and we weren’t going to change it.

Adam Doppelt is the founder of Urban Spoon, CubeDuel and Dwellable. He’s a successful entrepreneur a few times over. His comment to me immediately after proudly showing our tagline was, “Sell the dream”. Why our messaging wasn’t the most optimal was because we’re just talking about the problem. We were not inspiring anyone.

6 months later, although conversions were still great, it felt like we still didn’t know what our messaging should be.

5 branding books and countless posts on messaging later, one tweet stuck out to me and felt like it was right. I don’t know the originator of it but it said, “Your culture is your brand”. The immediate feeling was, “Wow, that’s it”. Our culture is to be able to spend more time on the things that matter. We like building our product so our customers can add more time to their day and have peace of mind. That’s “why” we exist. We changed our messaging to reflect this. We immediately became nervous that our conversions were going to go down significantly, but they didn’t.



I don’t know exactly why things started to get easier for us and we started picking up momentum around this time while making our brand our culture, but if I had to guess, it seems like when your brand is your culture a few things fall into place:

1. You start to feel confident in answering what you do.

2. There’s consistency with what you say in conversation about your company which makes thinking about your messaging easier.

3. You start to attract the talent and customers that have a similar vision. This is important because communicating a vision is difficult and then upholding it when things change is even more difficult. If each day you show this, your team can get confidence in the collective goal. And if you believe that “people don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it”, consider making your brand your culture.

One Comment on “Why Messaging and Branding is So Hard

August 30, 2012 at 12:56 am

Deciding between making headlines focus on the greatest risk of not using your product vs the greatest benefit of using your product was nagging me until I read this. Thanks Paul.


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