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The Articulate Consultants Overview of

Key Messages


A few words matter, particularly in business, where the right few words can differentiate a company, product, or service from its competitors. In an era of information overload, concise, authentic, meaningful key messages matter more than ever.

“The future of the book is the blurb.” Marshall McLuhan states this in his 1965 book, The Medium Is The Massage. McLuhan foresaw communications technologies creating a global village where succinct, convenient communications would be favoured and bring people together.


Global village or not, we live in an era when many people have adopted automatic behaviours to shield against information overload. The same shielding protects us from messages that we would value if first we had a welcoming disposition.

The right key messages delivered appropriately can make those who stand behind them stand out and prosper. Indeed, when authentically harmonizing with the values and vocabulary of the ideal customer, a key message can be the most important few words any enterprise has to say.


key messages defined

A key message comprises a few words that convey the essence of something with a distinct identity and purpose. That could be:

  • a team
  • a company
  • another sort of enterprise.

  • a project
  • a product line
  • a discrete bundle of services.

  • a mission
  • a philosophy
  • a set of values.

A key message presents a brand in a few well-chosen words.

A key message could be:

  • a phrase

  • a single-word expression

  • a single-sentence declaration or call-to-action

  • the statement of a few brief, poignant sentences.


Key messages examples:

  • name

  • jingle

  • motto

  • slogan

  • nickname

  • elevator speech

  • vision statement

  • mission statement

  • statement of core values.


what key messages do

A key message concisely communicates identity and purpose, ideally in words that the right people accept intuitively, instantly.


what makes a key message key

Key messages unlock awareness and understanding of identity and purpose, creating clear understanding in a few words. Among other possibilities, key messages promote brands to target markets.


what makes a good key message good

In any context, a good key message clearly states the central idea and identifies the benefit it offers. In the context of marketing and managing a brand, a good key message meaningfully identifies the brand and concisely states what it means to the market ideally positioning it as irreplaceable.


what makes a bad key message bad

A bad key message identifies the brand or central idea in a flatly factual way, lacking a hook. It might state the purpose or intent in a way that lacks any special or unique quality. A bad key message could even repel the people meant to be attracted.


how long key messages last

Just as a sweet melody seems precious to the listener, so an on-target key message can gain supporters rapidly. A strong enough key message can gain self-appointed promoters who help its spread. In such cases, a key message can last an era and even seem to have a life of its own.

A key message that goes unnoticed because of its irrelevance, blandness, or mediocrity has minimal impact sometimes despite persistent promotion. When promotion stops, the key message could already be dead.

Just as a slap in the face is always memorable, so a remarkably ill-timed, improper, weak, or otherwise out-of-sync key message can leave a lasting impression even among those who push it away.


what difference a good key message makes

A good key message has a way of corresponding with the values or mood of the market so that it touches people as intuitively correct and validating or compelling. Whoever stands behind a good key message could be liked by and even find loyalty among those who respond well to it.

For example, consider how “Just do it” helped a sporting-goods company to harmonize with its market and increase loyalty and market share. The slogan has had significant equity value for years.


how to reduce reliance on luck

Sometimes, those who coin a key message that hits the target only succeed after a few lesser successes. Musicians, for example, can make good music for years before composing a true hit.

Informed trial, expert testing, and wise monitoring are second-best only to great luck. This is how a company seeking to stand out in its market and succeed can increase the probability of success by working with an expert in marketing who specializes in key messages. Since 1996, Articulate Consultants has provided such expertise for independent businesses in Canada and the USA.


- Glenn R Harrington, Articulate Consultants Inc.


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