‘Propositional messaging’ is a term you’ve probably heard before. But what does it actually mean? It’s a phrase used interchangeably with other terms, so it’s fair to say that its definition is a little misunderstood. The truth is that there are deeper links between your brand values and positioning to be considered. That’s where propositional messaging sits.

Let’s explore this further…

Describing what you do is easy. Defining why someone should choose you over the competition and the values your brand represents is the challenging bit.

Getting that definition right though… it engages your audience more effectively but will also convert more users into paying customers and enhance the lifetime value of those customers too.

There are four key elements involved when connecting with audiences. these are:

  1. Brand
  2. Proposition
  3. Messaging
  4. Positioning

Everything starts with your brand

An iPhone showing a blue screen with the words 'Insert your design here'.
Just imagine that this person is looking at your brand.

We could start by stating that your brand and proposition are intrinsically linked. This is true, in part. As we know, a brand is far more than just a logo and some guidelines. It’s the culmination of your values, beliefs, identity, and proposition.

It should be visually appealing, succinct and memorable. Obviously.

Getting your proposition right defines your brand, and your brand is centric to the values of your proposition.

The art of a creating a great brand is how it’s communicated to your audience. Connecting them with your values.

Here’s a couple of tips to help when creating a brand:

1. Find a concise brand name

Finding a brand name that is short concise, memorable, trademark- and URL-free without spending crazy money can be tricky. However, don’t get too bogged down by the name. Yes, there are considerations such as SEO benefits and memorability to consider. But more important than anything is defining your proposition. Focus on this and the name will come.

2. Identity is more than look and feel.

Think about how you communicate with the audience: what sort of tone is your brand? How does your audience prefer to be engaged? What sort of language resonates with them? Again, this links back to the values and proposition – let’s keep exploring this.

3. Value Proposition

Value proposition goes deeper than just what your brand is saying. The value proposition specifically focusses on the key features outside of the core product – i.e. culture, style, corporate social responsibility, charitable status and family orientation.

So rather unsurprisingly, a value proposition must gift ‘value’ to the customer in some form or another But is must more than just the ‘utility’ of the product.

A simple, well-worn example is ‘Don’t talk about the drill, talk about the hole in the wall’.

Now, I must add here that this should not be the lead to your core proposition and marketing communications. However, it’s important to understand how value proposition impacts the tone of what your brand is telling its audience.

Defining the Proposition

What is your proposition then? Think about your business, follow this template and fill in the blanks. This should help you:

To <customer>,

<Your company> is a <your product> provider.

<Your product> solves <Customer pain point>, because <features>.

This delivers <results>.

We are different from competitors due to <proof points>.

Note that the proposition statement aims to answer the following key questions:

  • Who are you talking to
  • What your product is
  • The problem you’re solving
  • The features and results gained
  • What differentiates your product within the marketplace?

Take Uber for example. In the below three statements available on their homepage they define key reasons ‘why use Uber?’.

Propositional messaging of Uber on their website

Additionally, the propositional messaging includes details of how the service works, ‘Enter your destination for easy pick-ups and effortless drop-offs’.

As for differentiating themselves; ‘we’ll show you the estimated price before you ride. No surprises’.

The imagery used shows users with a phone, so prospects know that it’s an app-based solution.

These three simple statements clearly articulate ‘why prospects should engage with the brand’ – this is the core question your propositional messaging should answer.

How to create compelling propositional messaging

Type messaging on a typewriter
How do you get your message out?

Now we know what your proposition is, let’s move on to defining your messaging.

Your messaging is how you describe your proposition to prospects. It’s the central message that your campaign and brand hangs everything on. It’s what you say on social media, include in paid search and TV adverts.

Your messaging it needs to be compelling, emotive and more persuasive than your proposition. It should focus on core strengths of your business and is typically backed up by a sales message or call to action.

A good propositional message should be simple, focused and able to define what truly makes your product unique to the consumer. Think of messaging as the core route to define your position in the market.

To create a great propositional messaging let’s break it down into three key areas:

1. Core Messaging:

Core messaging serves as the foundation of your content. It’s similar to a slogan – it should be clear, concise and targeted, and should connect to a call-to-action.

2. Storylines:

Your storyline is the theme of the story you want to tell. You can create multiple types of content based on a single storyline and should be formed from your core messaging.

3. Hooks:

All good stories have a hook: something that draws the reader in. A hook is a critical component of your storyline. Dependant on the channels you intend to use your hook can be customised as appropriate.

Positioning the brand

Finally, the combination of your brand, proposition and messaging should all point to your positioning in the marketplace. Positioning ensures that your messaging is highly targeted to your core audiences.

Positioning is:

  • Tailored to the needs and mindset of your audience
  • Able to clearly differentiate the brand from its competitors
  • Highlighting only the most relevant benefits, unlike the wider reach of the value proposition

Positioning is an integral part of persona-based marketing, especially as you formulate your content strategy and messaging; it defines your brand and encapsulates your sentiment. For example, if animal welfare is a key part of your brand and you donate company profits to charity – is this relevant messaging for your audience?

Always test propositional messaging

At its heart, propositional messaging communicates the values of your brand. But it’s a defined mix of  USPs and hooks to attract your target audience. Creating a great core propositional message is crucial when positioning your brand in the market place.

Following this recipe is a good start for creating a compelling propositional message to help your audeince get hooked. Then, you can get them to flow through your website and complete the conversion funnel (See more on Hooks, Flows and Funnels).

To really get the best out of your messaging, we’d advise testing two to three variations of a single message. Tell different kinds of stories to your customers and test them to see which messages convert more users into prospects. You can even test different messages at different stages of the journey.

So think ‘validate not speculate’. Don’t sling together a sales message without first testing it on a sample audience. i.e. via paid search or via a panel of user testers. Then, you can roll out propositional messaging and start converting with confidence.

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