Just because we can quickly Tweet or blog today, doesn’t mean that we should be less careful or less strategic about how we share our value.
In 1999, Google did not have the worldwide brand recognition that it has today. “Google Search Engine” was the name it went by, and the explanation of its name on the site was as follows:
“10^100 (a gigantic number) is a googol, but we liked the spelling ‘Google’ better. We picked the name ‘Google’ because our goal is to make huge quantities of information available to everyone. And it sounds cool and has only six letters.”
At the time, the site needed to also articulate its value quickly to potential users. Reasons to use the search engine included how Google returns “right results first” and how Google “understands that location is important.”
Years later, Google does not need to tell us why to choose them!
In fact, the category of search (as in search engines) needs little explanation today. Competitors are now the ones who have to provide a compelling case to get people to change their current behaviors in the category.
Every word matters when it comes to how a company identifies itself.
An additional challenge is added when brands have created an entirely new category or offering. In this case, they also must educate the audience to change perceptions as to why something should matter to them, or why they should change their current beliefs/behaviors.
Messaging and design can educate, inform, build brand associations, or just concisely show your brand’s (or the category’s) benefit to consumers. Of course marketing can also establish so-called “reasons to believe” in your value proposition.
How do players in rapidly-changing industries, or entirely new categories, best articulate where the company is going?
When Jack Dorsey refers to Twitter and Square, he’s called them utilities.
In 2007, a time when there were only 30 million users as compared to 1.11 Billion today, Mark Zuckerberg frequently called Facebook a social utility.
He explained this choice of words:
“I think there’s confusion around what the point of social networks is. A lot of different companies characterized as social networks have different goals…What we’re trying to do is just make it really efficient for people to communicate, get information and share information. We always try to emphasize the utility component.”
By using the word “utility,” we can infer a great deal about the state of the marketplace these companies are competing in. It’s as if they are trying to assert it’s a kind of framework and vehicle that is almost necessary for us as a society. At least, this is their vision, so it is reflected in their messaging.
Since going public, Google has consistently identified itself as a global technology leader and strategically cites its innovation as what propels the brand to stay as one of the most recognizable in the world. “Our mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful…” the company says.
So where do you start when it comes to telling the marketplace whatever you strive to be?
Start with your purpose.
In its investor relations documents, Amazon says: “We seek to be Earth’s most customer-centric company for four primary customer sets: consumers, sellers, enterprises, and content creators…”
This language is appropriate because it can be found in the investor portal; describing who they want to serve—the 4 customer sets—in this context, is extremely valuable and relevant to the audience.
If the language a company uses internally greatly differs from what the audience uses, you must consider a different way to tell your story.
That’s not the same as sacrificing authenticity—that’s acknowledging the market where it’s at today.
That doesn’t mean you aren’t being authentic; it simply means you recognize the right language or right way to share your message. One of the common ways we do this in ads or marketing messages is to re-consider the metrics we use to make sure they are valuable and tangible to people. I’ve seen internal marketing, including stages of software product development, that includes writing an “internal press release” to imagine how a product would be introduced to the marketplace. The idea is to be aware of how the marketplace views your product or service.
Guy Kawasaki has called these “salient points,” ones that can best resonate with your customers.
“This iPod holds 60 GB” does not mean the same thing to an everyday consumer as “This iPod holds nearly 8,000 of my songs.” Or another: “this donut has 25 grams of fat” is less impactful than “this donut will require me to run on a treadmill for an hour to burn off.”
We can still be authentic, and true to our brand, by translating our messaging in a way that best represents the current mindset of our customer, or in a framework that’s easier for them to digest.
Then once you educate or persuade them, over time, that messaging can (and should!) evolve.
Today, Google actually shares a lot more information with people. It is no longer sufficient to tell us that they will help us find the “right results first.” Instead, we’re a more educated (and more engaged and sophisticated) audience.
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Kim Sykes is a marketer and content creator at Edoc Service, Inc., a total virtual company.