Years ago, Avis took the idea of being second, but not second best, and turned it into “We’re number two so we try harder.” It was one of the most successful campaigns in the history of advertising because it was created from a core message. Other companies dream of such a fantastic tagline or motto – even throwing thousands of dollars away in the quest for that perfect saying – but without knowing the basic core messages of your company, you may as well feed that money into the nearest paper shredder.

So, what are core messages? First, ask yourself these questions:

  • How is product, book or service different than others?
  • How does it help others?
  • What are the main features or story lines around the product, book or service?
  • Who are the target customers?
  • Through what media (broadcast, magazines, newspapers, Internet, etc) will we be sending the message?

As you determine the precise answers to these types of questions, you discover the “essence” of your message,  which is what makes you unique and memorable. Understanding this basic message and delivering it clearly and succinctly will help you get more media coverage than you could ever imagine!

Determining Your Core Messages

How do you determine the precise core messages that add power to your marketing efforts? First, categorize your type of business, like manufacturing, internet sales, etc. Retail operations usually have shorter term messages, with a stronger call to action. Or, perhaps you are a grocery store and want to express your core message that you have the freshest product available.  Maybe your book has a revolutionary new idea that is central to its theme. Whatever it is, find it. In marketing we talk a lot about the “elevator pitch.” You need to be able to deliver that core message in 30 seconds or less. Any time you need to.

I once accidentally hit a man in the line at Starbucks with my oversized tote bag. We were at a conference for TV producers, and as I apologized profusely, I realized from his nametag this man was the head of NBC Universal, a huge production company. I had a pitch for a client ready to go. As we chatted in line, he gave me an opportunity to pitch him. Since I had that message ready to go, it went well and I got to call my contact at NBC Universal and tell him that my new friend suggested we meet. Needless to say I was thrilled!

Keep in mind that every business uses core messaging to touch customers and consumers in an emotional and personal way. Even big retail operations, like Target, spend millions on branding based on core messages. However, whether you are a small retail or service organization, or an author with an innovative new book, you still need to have core messages form collateral like advertising, press releases, catalogs, email, and direct mail. Not only does it draw more customers, it unifies your  brand, laying the groundwork for a strong sales.

Here are some examples of core messages, to help you get started. See how clear they are in expressing the person’s key mission, no matter what the industry? See also how they establish credibility for the person or product also!

“In LifeMoxie!® Ambition on a Mission, 9 Strategies for Taking Life by the Horns, Ann Tardy, former Silicon Valley attorney and founder of LifeMoxie!® Enterprises, takes readers on an exuberant path to more meaning, more fun, and ultimately more fulfillment.  LifeMoxie! Ambition on a Mission outlines an optimistic yet pragmatic approach to becoming truly empowered. “

“Barefoot Parties was created by Lisa Hammond in 2006 to provide an avenue for women to start their own businesses in an economical, fun way. Lisa wanted to inspire women to gather together and renew their spirits.”

“Enclosed is a copy of Sustainable Disruption, one of the most radical books on business transformation you’ll ever read.”

“Founded in 1998, Digineer provides strategic project management, business analysis and technology solutions to Fortune 1000 clients. The company offers a unique mix of strategy, management consulting, and technology services.”

“You need to be the rock star in your industry. Wax Marketing can make that happen.”

When you start boiling it down, your message becomes that much more powerful!

In our media-rich, sales-saturated society, it is impossible to bump up against a wall without hitting an advertisement or marketing strategy. Often, I will hear, “That ad looks like a ‘good deal’,” “This is the CEO’s favorite magazine, so she wants to be in it,” or “What should we do now that our competitor has been featured in this newspaper?”

My answer is always the same: what works for the kitten doesn’t work for the cat.

Developing an advertising or communications strategy takes smart maneuvering, not blind dart-throwing. Take the time to determine your core messages. Test it out on your friends and family to see if they think it packs a strong punch! Once you know your message is a good one,  only then is it time to develop a marketing strategy.