You've probably heard marketing terms being tossed around. Brand, USP, insight, resonance, takeaway, etc. I was trying to sum this up for a client the other day and struck on something I kind of like, which is as follows:
In the beginning, there was story.
The primitive man told stories around the campfire. You tell stories around the water cooler. For whatever reason, stories are the way complex ideas resonate in our minds. This is why, even when only one thing is important to communicate, websites, TV commercials and radio spots don't usually hit you over the head by repeating that one thing over and over. Our brains don't work that way. We crave context and characters. We insist on finding our own meaning.
Stories can be very simple. At their base, a story always includes a speaker, how they are speaking (smoke signals, sign language, interpretive dance, etc), what they are saying, and in what order. A marketing story should transform the listener into someone who does something you want them to do - call you, buy something, donate something, complete an online form, like you more, etc.
In marketing, the speaker is the "brand", how they are speaking is the "medium", and what the speaker is saying is called the "message."
In traditional advertising, the story is always:
<I> encountered <medium> that looked like <first impression of brand> and it said <message> so my takeaway was <meaning #1>, which now makes me think of the brand as <evolved impression of brand> and myself as <evolved understanding of myself>.
Now repeat this cycle with a new iteration your evolving understanding of the brand. Something like...
Next, <evolved I> saw that <evolved impression of brand> said <message #2> so my takeaway was <meaning #2>, which now makes me think they are <evolved impression of the brand> and I am <evolved understanding of myself>.
On my website, hopefully, that would be:
I, person who is seeking a website, encountered a website that looked attractive, professional, and local and it said that this company could build nice looking websites, so my takeaway was they probably could build nice looking websites and are in Austin, which now makes me think they are professional, local, and concerned about aesthetics and I am intrigued.
Next, I, person who is seeking a website and is intrigued, saw from this attractive, professional, and local company that is concerned about aesthetics that this company also tries to keep costs down, so my takeaway was they probably could build nice looking websites in my budget, which now makes me think they are professional, local, concerned about aesthetics, and in my budget and I am more intrigued and will call them.
Let's apply this formula to some websites you might be familiar with.
I, person who wants to do a web search, encountered a website that looked very simple and mostly just had a search field and it said "web search", so my takeaway was they were primarily focused on helping me search, and knew I didn't want a bunch of distractions, which is thoughtful of them, which now makes me think they are nice and easy to use for search and I am going to come back here next time I want to search.
I, person who is seeking to buy something, saw from this busy but professional looking website that seemed to have a ton of stuff on their home page that this company seemed to have a ton of stuff, so my takeaway was they might have what I want, which now makes me think they are a large online retailer with loads of selection and I am going to remember them next time I need to buy something online, since they probably have it.