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How to cut the noise and clutter to clarify your brand message

Brand noise is more significant in destroying ideas, products, and services than recessions, taxes, lawsuits, growing interest rates, or even inferior product design. Once we cut the noise and clutter, and have the right brand story, it's easy to grip customers' interest in our brand. So, we must master the art and technique of storytelling.
how-to-cut-the-noise-and-clutter-to-clarify-your-brand-message

An insidious enemy lurks behind every business; if we don’t identify and fix it, it will twist our business into an unrecognizable mess. Noise is the enemy I am referring to. Brand noise is more significant in destroying ideas, products, and services than recessions, taxes, lawsuits, growing interest rates, or even inferior product design.

What is brand message noise? It is not the noise inside our business. It is the noise we create as a business. It’s the way we speak about our brand and our way of doing business.

In the name of marketing, we often create clutter and confusion that takes a permanent seat on our websites, marketing collaterals, emails, and commercials. This noise costs us millions of dollars because what we say, and what customers hear are at odds.

The stark truth about customers is their purchasing decisions are based on what they hear and not on what we say. Whether you run a small company or a multibillion-dollar brand, confusing customers comes at a high price because we fail to explain how we help them survive and thrive. Too often, we divert customers to competitors because they communicate more clearly.

The noise-canceling machine

What’s the most effective way to cancel noise? Tell a story.  

Things can be different when we clarify our message and communicate better. To grow our businesses we need to clarify our message by organizing our thinking and obliterating confusion.

We have only one weapon to combat noise, and that is a story. The right story that people are compelled to pay attention to it.

A good story compels customers to pay attention because nobody can resist a good story. Neuroscientists claim we spend more than 30 percent of our time daydreaming unless we’re reading, listening, or watching a story unfold. Why? Because when we are engaged in a story, it daydreams for us.

Once we have the right brand story, it’s easy to grip customers’ interest in the website, elevator pitches, email blasts, commercials, or keynote presentations. So, we must master the art and technique of storytelling.

Lessons from Apple, the master storyteller

When Steve Jobs began conveying his message through storytelling, Apple grew.

Jobs was forced out of Apple in 1985 after a power struggle with the company’s board. In the same year, Jobs founded NeXT, a company that developed computers for higher education and business markets. In 1986, he also funded the computer graphics division of Lucasfilm, and Pixar was born.

Lisa was Apple’s last project before Jobs was let go in 1983. Apple announced Lisa in The New York Times with a nine-page ad; it was rich with geek talk only scientists read. Despite the best efforts, the computer failed.

After Apple acquired NeXT in 1997, Jobs returned as CEO. Apple was nearly bankrupt, but Jobs was a transformed person. After being surrounded by professional storytellers at Pixar, Jobs realized that story was everything. Thus, Apple became customer-centric, compelling, and transparent in its communication. Rather than nine pages in The New York Times, he used only two words on billboards throughout the country in his first campaign: Think Different.

As Apple began to filter its communications for simplicity and relevance, computers stopped being featured in most of its advertising. Instead, they tapped into the stories of their customers, who were treated as living, breathing heroes.

The Apple secret sauce:

  1. Identify customers’ wants (to be seen and heard).
  2. Define customers’ challenges (people didn’t recognize their talent).
  3. Provide customers with tools to express themselves (computers and smartphones).

These realizations are the pillars of ancient storytelling and are critical for connecting with customers. Apple’s time spent clarifying its role in its stories is a primary factor behind its growth.

It is worth noting the story of Apple isn’t about Apple; it’s about the customer. They are the heroes, and Apple is like Q in a James Bond movie, the go-to guy when customers need tools to help them succeed.

Is Apple the best in technology? It doesn’t matter. It’s not the best product that people buy; it’s the one they can understand the quickest. Apple has become a part of its customers’ stories unlike any other technology company; so it is not just the largest but in the Top 10.

What’s the takeaway? If we want our companies to grow, we must put out crystal-clear messages through storytelling. Our company is not the hero; the customer is.

Stories can grow your business

What did Steve Jobs learn at Pixar? He learned how to fit the story into a brand message. 

Things can be different when we clarify our message and communicate better. To grow our businesses we need to clarify our message by organizing our thinking and obliterating confusion.

We have only one weapon to combat noise, and that is a story. The right story that people are compelled to pay attention to it. Mastering this art makes you a marketing genius like Jobs and many others. 

It is essential to learn the seven plot points of a compelling story. We only need seven to understand and enter into our customers’ accounts, but if we’re writing a full screenplay, we’ll need more.

To know in details read my article on the 7 Elements of Storytelling.

Story in a Nutshell

Nearly every story has the same pattern: The main CHARACTER is pursuing something, but a PROBLEM blocks their path. A GUIDE steps in with a PLAN and CALL TO ACTION, and it helps the protagonist avoid FAILURE and taste SUCCESS.

It’s as simple as that.

If you diverge from these critical plot points, you are in danger of descending into noise.

The plot trajectory allows you to catch yourself in time if you veer off track in your brand storytelling.

It is no surprise storytellers of all stripes continue to use this formula even in the digital era because it is the apex of narrative communication. If we depart from these seven elements, audiences find it difficult to engage with the message. Some stories break this formula and succeed, but the narrative emphasizes triumph over challenge.

The Three Crucial Questions

So how do we make the story our company is telling clear? It’s important to remember that the greatest enemy our business faces is the same as the greatest enemy of good stories: noise.

The reader should never be unable to answer three questions while paused in the middle of a story:

  1. What does the hero want?
  2. Who or what is opposing the hero from getting what they want?
  3. What will the hero’s life look like if they do (or do not) get what they want?

In a story, if you’ve ever daydreamed, it was probably because you couldn’t answer one of these three questions, or worse, you didn’t care. This is the kicker: if the three questions cannot be answered reasonably early in a story, the story will fall flat.

It doesn’t matter how great your tagline is or how appealing the pictures on your website are; if they are not integral to the story, they are hindrances. Anything that doesn’t serve the plot must be removed.

Each line of copy we write either serves the customer’s story or descends into confusion; we either make music or make noise. When a company makes noise, nobody remembers it. 

You can make music with your brand stories or generate noise as a company; the choice is yours.

We can help you with developing brand story, brand message, brand storytelling, buyer persona development, building personalized marketing strategies, and strategic content creation. To learn more, visit our website.

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