E37: Brand Distillery Part 4 - Crafting a Great One-liner

Imagine being able to convey your unique market position with clarity, brevity and meaningfulness — all in one sentence. Garrett and Michael will talk about how you can revolutionize your landing page and networking with a really great one-liner.

Michael Reynolds Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us today. It is Michael Reynolds without Allison Gibbs today. She is out for one more week, still working on her theatre production of Cat in the Hat, which my almost-3-year-old loved.

Garrett Curry Little plug there.

MR Yeah. Well, it's actually over now, so I can't plug it anymore. The last day, I think, was yesterday. We went last Saturday and had a great time. If you're in the Indy area, definitely check it out next year. Garrett is with us again today for Brand Distillery Part 4. It's episode 37 of the podcast, but it's Part 4 of our Brand Distillery series. I was telling Garrett earlier that watching our metrics and listeners in the podcast, it's going up and up and people are really resonating with this particular series. If I do say so myself, it was a great idea, I think. [laughs] I timed that right as you were taking a drink so you can spit it all over the microphone.

GC [laughs] It's like you're looking for me to take a drink and saying something and looking at me.

MR There you go. [laughs] We've had a great series so far with the first three parts. We've explored escaping the jargon of the financial industry. Part 2 was appealing to the story of the customer. Part 3 was designing your brand perceptions. And today is the culmination of those three segments into creating a great one-liner. Those who've been following along with the worksheets, you've probably been seeing the clouds part and your eyes open to what's possible in creating brand messaging here as you're doing this DIY experience. Today we're going to talk about how it all comes together to create a one-liner. So Garrett, where do you want to start?

GC Well, I want to start with the fact that we've gone over so much content so far. We've covered a lot of area, there's been a lot of words spoken, and there's been, also, some really good homework and people composing some of the messaging exercises that we've assigned them to do. With all that content, with all those subjects, all that conversation, the challenge is -- you said, "the culmination." How do you turn this into one sentence that's real useful? How do you pack everything in to one powerful sentence that brings even more clarity and more of a compelling argument of why people should be working with you, for people to understand you with clarity? It is really hard. Let me give you a comparison. If you were to come to me -- let's say we're at a conference and you're like, "Hey, Garrett, the conference speaker, he's sick, and he had an hour-and-a-half presentation to do. Can you just do that for us?" Give me three minutes; I can do it. I can come up with something and talk about it for an hour and a half. But if you were to come to me and say, "Yeah. Our speaker cancelled, and they were going to do a three-minute presentation. Do you think you can do that?" No. I need three months.

MR I think it's a little harder.

GC I need three months to work on three minutes. I need three years to work on 30 seconds. I need a whole lifetime to work on my epitaph. Think about it. How do you distill everything down to this one phrase, this one idea, with some sort of poetic justice with clarity and inspiration? Coming up with a one-liner for your bank or credit union is really difficult. And what I mean by -- let me define "one-liner." This is a single sentence that makes it very clear your value within your market. And it makes it very clear of what you are, who you're for, and how you help them. When you go to a networking event, when you're shaking hands with people and someone asks you, "Oh, well, tell us about yourself," what comes out of your mouth? Normally in those networking events, it's 20 minutes of kind of garbage. [laughs] Not that it's not valuable, it just isn't valuable to the person, necessarily, that you're talking to. As you're talking to them about what you do, about your company and your clients, you see their eyes start look to your left ear and your right ear, meaning they're trying to look for someone else, maybe, to talk to and they're very bored --

MR Looking for the escape.

GC Exactly. Where's the escape hatch? They start looking at their watch. I mean, you see them glaze over. It's so funny. When we see people glaze over, what do we do, Michael? We keep talking.

MR Well, it depends on who you are. For me, I try to be sensitive to that and say, "Well, all right. We're good. I'm going to go get a drink, so have fun." [laughs]

GC [laughs] Wait, wait, wait. That was your version of sensitive?

MR I just call it out and say, "Well, it looks like -- I don't want to keep you from other networking, so feel free to part ways."

GC I'm out. [laughs]

MR Luckily, I'm so engaging that never happens to me. [laughs]

GC Think about it -- yeah, that's very good. But think about it. When you're in a networking situation, are you really there to make a presentation? No. You're there to have a conversation.

MR Right.

GC Right. So you want to play catch. So when you throw the ball, you want them to throw the ball back. When you share something, you really want someone to respond. And it could be with oh, yeah, I know what you're talking about. And they kind of contribute to it. Or they could ask a question.

MR Well, I'm the same way when -- you might be the same way when you present as well. When I speak in front of an audience, I -- the last thing I want to do is drone on for 50 or 60 minutes. I always look for interaction. I ask questions. I kind of thrive on the interaction, as well, even in a presentation.

GC It's like when you're a kid and your mom's like, "Hey. We're going to run some errands. It's going to be fun." Okay. You hop in the car and you put your seatbelt on. "Where are we going first, Mom?" "We're going to the department store." No. And then you're there for like 3 hours. That's kind of the response people will have in moments when they start talking to -- when they hear you talk and they hear you present about your company or your business or your job. In 30 seconds, they're like, "Oh, no. I'm stuck for 8 minutes talking to this person. This is not going to be great."

MR We've all been there.

GC So you got to have that one-liner. You have to have that initial impression that is going to offer some clarity, that is going to offer some relevance and some interest. Something that where people really do respond to you in such a way that they're taking you seriously -- where it's obvious that you've thought this through -- you're prepared, you're professional. How about that you're speaking on human terms that people will actually respond to, and you're going to do it in such a way, with such brevity, that they actually respond to you and it becomes a conversation back and forth. That's what you want to see happen in a networking event. That's what you want to see happening on your website. That's what you want to see happening in all of your marketing efforts.

Let me start from the beginning of where I feel like some historic errors have been made on what we talk about or how we talk about ourselves. Let's just say our website, for instance. There are two questions that people are answering -- I'm sorry -- that people are asking and answering all the time. And you find this on About pages on websites all the time. When someone is asked to talk about their company, they usually are saying two things: who we are; what we do. And I, personally, think those are the wrong questions. So let me explain. And sorry to make everyone cry, but no one cares who you are. No one.

MR We may have mentioned that in a previous segment, actually.

GC Who we are. And they start going into since 1960, whatever, and it just goes on and on.

MR A historical timeline of all the board presidents and everything.

GC And their milestones. And well so-and-so and so-and-so had a conversation over a martini in 1953 and that became our bank, or whatever it may be. And not saying those are unimportant, but those are so not important first thing. So talking about "who we are" is not as important as people think. But when you are in those board meetings, you're having those leadership meetings, you're having those marketing meetings, you're having these conversations about planning out a website; we need to really talk about who we are. And it's just not as important. The second -- and, by the way, go to a website, across a lot of industries, look at the menus, you will literally see a section that says Who We Are, and they're expecting people to click on that and for that to be compelling and, in reality, it maybe isn't. And so the second question that I think is, maybe, a wrong question is "what we do." You'll literally see that on a website as well. Who We Are. What We Do. When you are talking about what you do -- though it is important for people to understand what you do -- when you say that, you're probably talking about what, Michael? When you say "what we do," what are banks and credit unions usually going to --

MR Products.

GC Products, products, products.

MR Checking accounts, loans, mortgages --

GC So when you say -- when you start sharing what you do, that is when you're in danger of being relegated to a commodity, because there's a lot of people that do what you do. Those two questions are not really necessarily going to help you win. They're just questions that we're used to answering even when we're not even being asked those questions, necessarily. So here's The Matrix moment. Are you ready --

MR I'm ready.

GC -- for the -- is it the red pill? Is it the red pill that --

MR The red or blue.

GC What'd he take? It's the red pill. Okay. Cautionary color. Okay. Here's the red pill. When people are asking you, "Oh, so what do you do?" You know what they're really asking? What can you do for me? Unfortunately, when people do ask, "What do you do?" we answer that question. Here's what we do; it turns into products. But what if someone -- what if you heard in your ear "What can you do for me?" Wouldn't you answer that differently?

MR Completely.

GC So let's go ahead and assume when anyone ever is asking What do you do? They're actually asking What can you do for me? Answer it that way. So those are the questions that I really desperately try to chase people away from answering within their networking conversations, within how they introduce their company or bank or credit union, or how they're introducing their web content.

Here are three, what I'm going to call, "better" questions. It's very simple. And if you want to follow along, this is actually in our worksheet for -- let's see -- it's actually entitled one-liner -- Composing a One-liner. The three questions are this: What are you? Who are you for? and How do you help them? Those are the three questions I think are really, really important. And if you were to answer those questions, you can actually compose that into a single sentence -- in just one sentence. So imagine going to a networking event and someone asks, "Oh. So tell us about yourself." And, literally, in 20 seconds, you're able to answer those three questions: what you are, who you're for and how you help them. First of all, you're going to be providing absolute clarity out of the gate. Secondly, you're also speaking on a level that's very relevant and gives people a chance to actually respond to you and ask questions if they're the kind of person that you're actually trying to target. There's room for responsiveness there. So what I want to do, Michael, is I want to go through each of those questions and what it takes to answer those, because some of them are really easy and some of them are really hard.

I want to talk about "what we are." In the world of financial institutions, what are the two main answers to that question, Michael?

MR In the world of financial institutions, what are the -- what are you and --

GC In answering the question "what are you?" what are the two main responses?

MR Well, people usually say we're a bank or a credit union, and just kind of --

GC Hey, you know what? Good job, Michael. That was really good. Actually --

MR [laughs] That's what most people say, right?

GC Exactly.

MR Did I pass? Did I pass?

GC Yes, you did. That's great. Because you didn't have to be cute, you just needed to be clear, and you needed to speak a language that's really familiar with people. The whole question of "what are you?" is not the most important question, it's just the first. And we need to get past it as quickly as possible, so being ultra-clear and speaking a language everyone knows, allows them to pass through that entryway and get to the really good stuff, which are the next questions.

MR Okay. So it's okay not to overthink the first part of this?

GC Right.

MR A lot of people, I think, probably do overthink it by saying, "Oh I've got to come up with this fancy way of describing what we are or who we are," and that's not the point, really.

GC Don't sound different on the "what."

MR Okay.

GC Never sound different on the "what."

MR Oh, okay.

GC In fact, let's say a software as a service -- like SAAS, like an app you would download -- every single one of those companies that have those products, when they're asked, "What is this?" they need to always start with, "Well, we're an app." They always need to start with that. I need to understand that this is going to be on a device --

MR You've got to have some kind of grounding there.

GC Exactly. So don't get cute, don't get cryptic. Be clear. That's the first question. I've tried to work around that with clients. There might be, I would say, some qualifiers maybe. Some words you can put before bank or before credit union. Like, you may want to say "community bank." That might mean something.

MR Or federal credit union.

GC Or federal credit union. There's little things you can --

MR I've got Afena's open here, so, yeah.

GC Right, so you can probably say something before that to add a word in there that might qualify it a little more, but it doesn't confuse. Adding anything should never add to confusion. It should add to clarity every time. Hopefully that's pretty easy for people.

The second question, however, is where it gets a little more dicey. The second question is this: Who are we for? That is a question that really requires a lot of soul-searching. We've explored some of this stuff before. What is your demographic? Who are you really going for? You can't be for everyone. Because if you're for everyone, you're really for no one; you're diluting your brand. You need to identify certain demographics that you are made to work with. And I think that that's going to be unique between really bank and any credit union. And I know that they're a service for all, but if you don't start narrowing that down and speaking the language of that customer, no one's going to respond.

So here's a very good concept -- I don't know if I -- lean in on this one. Write this one down. Really good branding is like a dog whistle. It is designed, if done well, to be ignored by most and very compelling to a few. If you're going to talk about who you're for -- when you start talking about who you're for, the people that you are for, their ears will perk up. Those that you probably really aren't for and you're okay with that, they will ignore you. Good. Thin the herd. That's narrowing down your marketing. So who are you really for? In the case of Afena Federal Credit Union in Marion, Indiana, we identified that they are for the hard-working people of Grant County, where Marion is located. And that was a very important demographic because they weren't necessarily -- they're not necessarily going for the high-dollar all the time. They're going for a large population that tends to economically struggle, good people that work really hard. And so that's how we characterize them. Who are you for? You're for the hard-working people of Grant County. There's a lot baked into that. They kind of focused on geographics, obviously, because they're kind of a smaller town bank -- or credit union. But we also narrowed down to a certain type of person there that's probably going to be a little more blue collar. "Hard-working" seemed to kind of match that. It doesn't mean they're not for everyone else, but right now we're speaking the language that is going to connect with those we're trying to target.

MR One thing to clarify here is we were doing this -- our last Brand Distillery workshop that we did live, we had some good conversation around this topic and clarified for some of our attendees that demographic doesn’t mean age or type of -- "demographic" in the classic sense of what you would think. Demographic can also mean someone has a certain perspective. In this case, it's not an either/or, it's the hard-working people of Grant County, that's -- okay that is both a geographic demographic and a perspective and a type of attitude and a type of philosophy. A demographic, in this case, can mean -- yes, it can mean a literal data-driven demographic, but it can also mean someone who thinks a certain way or who has a certain life experience or who has a certain thing about them that is common to other people that have that same thing about them that you want to serve. So don't feel pigeonholed into data about a person in the classic demographic sense. Think of what types of people you serve and how your best at serving them, and it can be a number of different kind of criteria that you can look for in people.

GC I think that's a great clarification. And understand when you are targeting a certain group or persona or demographic, it's your middle lane. It doesn't mean that's all you're limited to, but this is primarily who you're talking to and how -- where you need to be throwing your resources. It doesn't mean that you're going to not bring in the periphery markets. That's fine. But decide your middle lane. In this case, it's hard working people of Grant County, and that's going to attract other people too. You may have a bank who is for superheroes who are afraid of heights, you know? Who is this? You are for senior citizens that are obsessed with iPads. Or single moms who --

MR That's very niche.

GC Very niche. You're for single moms who collect Chia Pets. Bring some language to it and have some fun with it. It's usually a good idea to identify, probably, about three personas or demographics and get as specific as you possibly can. It's a very fun conversation.

MR It could be young families in a particular area. It could be --

GC New families in a particular area.

MR New families. It could be business owners. It could be a combination of those things.

GC Yep. And you know what? That can change. Since you have banks and credit unions who have multiple sites, there might be a bank in a place that's going through urban sprawl. They are for new families. That's who they're for. And to accommodate people assuming that they don't even really know the area and to offer hospitality even behind that and welcoming them to that community, that changes everything. I think that that kind of positioning can change from bank to bank, from location to location.

MR I want to throw something out and see what you think. You may -- tell me if it's a terrible idea, because you're the brand expert. But in my mind, I'm thinking what if you asked the question "We are for people who are fed up with fill in the blank?"

GC Oh, heck yeah.

MR What could you do with that? And what's interesting is you could figure out how to really juxtapose the goal of your financial institution and align it with something you wouldn't otherwise think. For example, what if you were for people who were fed up with debt? Well, banks make a lot of money on debt. So how can you coexist that idea with how you actually grow your financial institution. Maybe there's a way.

GC Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

MR So I love the idea of "we're for people who are fed up with something," because that really strikes a chord and is an emotional response. If someone's fed up with something, they're on fire. They're going to pay attention. What can you do with that?

GC Yeah, I think that's great. And you also really simplified the language. What you did there, Michael, is you took language that is common in conversation but uncommon within marketing. And that's where we need to bridge things. People are fed up. People are frustrated. People have very specific thoughts and feelings, and what if you started using that sort of language. Now, how you want to reconcile that with how a bank makes revenue...

MR Maybe it's not debt. Maybe it's something else.

GC Right. It might be something else. Or how about this? They're fed up with how it feels to pay interest. [laughs]

MR To interact with financial products in general.

GC [indiscernible] what to do there. When you're at a networking event, especially, and you're being really casual introducing yourself, not only does that strike an emotional chord with nearly everyone, but that, clearly, you are taking a different position. You are escaping the white noise by talking like that and people notice that. So that's a really good exercise to go through, I think, with your leadership, with your team, with your marketing and sales group: who are you really for. Identify about two to three demographics. It's a lot of fun.

So the third question is "how you help them." Now, this gets all existential and philosophical. It's getting in -- empathetically, you have to enter the mind of your customer or member. What is it you are really giving them? It's -- here's a hint. It's not products and services. Those products and services, or your customer service, is giving them something else. What is that? In the case of Afena -- and I love going to the same case study all the time because I think it's important for our listeners to get to know this one case study and see the continuity here. For them, especially based on their demographic, they really wanted to help people overcome their challenges and build an enduring legacy. With the demographic they were trying to target, they started really thinking, "what's really at stake for them, and how can we come along and help them achieve their objectives?" These people are just trying to get over some obstacles in their lives financially or within their lifestyle. Not only that, they're trying to build a future that they can rely upon, they're thinking about retirement, they're thinking about their children. What are all those things? Legacy. So what are they really doing for their people? They're empowering them to overcome their challenges and to build an enduring legacy. When you talk like that, when you've connected to what's really at stake for your demographic, you are speaking their language and they're going to notice that. Because most financial institutions aren't necessarily talking about that. We're going to give you a good experience. You're going to love your checking account. It's going to go into those --

MR Great customer service.

GC -- the outcomes of the utility of a product or service. But what about my life? What about my objectives? Are you helping me do that? Answering that question how you really help them is really, really important. And I think that could be different from bank to bank, from credit union to credit union, even branch to branch. What are your thoughts, Michael? Do you have any thoughts about what -- enlighten us. What is that you feel like banks and credit unions are doing for people just to add to that conversation?

MR Well, I'm a financial nerd, in general, as you know, so I'm sure you softballed this to me. But in general, money -- we've talked about this before -- money touches every part of your life. From young to old, in every phase of your life, money is the foundation that can determine your quality of life, how you help others, how you structure your career, your family; it's all foundational to your life. And so you've got this undercurrent of financial wellness under everything people do, and so there's this massive opportunity to tap into that and to tap into what it means to people. When you are struggling with money, you've got stress, you've got other challenges, you've got all sorts of issues that are symptoms of this problem. When you are in a financially secure -- in a financially stable position, you have a different outlook on life. You have lower stress, you have more freedom, you have more choices in life. So by managing and organizing your money differently, you open up and unlock a whole world of different choices and opportunities for you. It's just huge. It's so foundational. There are so many things on that time line of life and phases and that undercurrent that you can tap into.

GC And you're right. I think the potential is limitless on what people can talk about and how they can talk about the kind of value they're really bringing to people. How are they really helping people? I think most financial institutions, and businesses for that matter, are stuck in their jargon. We've talked about that in weeks past. If we could just break away from the common speak of marketing language and start speaking to the humanity of our customers and our members, I think it leads to a completely different language. Michael, I think that we market -- we tend to market the way we've been marketed to our whole lives. Where we're kind of yelled out, harassed, everything's in bring red and yellow with an exclamation mark at the end.

MR I'm just imaging that in my head. Yes, you're right.

GC It's just awful. And people don't talk like that. What are -- I think people are wired to automatically be searching for a human language, and when they hear it, they pay attention to it. So I think this is a very important step.

Okay. There are -- let me give you an example of by answering these -- of how answering these questions can equate to a single line that introduces your bank or financial institution or credit union in a very meaningful way. I'll move to a different industry. Years ago, I actually got to brand a smart toy called Edwin the Duck. Really, really fun little toy that basically controls a cartoon character on an app through his world of game, songs, and stories. Very, very cool. I remember the maker of that company had a really hard time describing this product because Edwin the Duck did so many things. It's, essentially, a rubber duck that has a Bluetooth speaker, he has music coming out of him, he does lullabies, he's a night-light, he has a thermometer beneath him that you can put on your kid's head to tell their temperature. It goes on an on and on. It would take them 20 minutes to talk about this product. They were really losing people. It came out in their packaging, their website, in their presentations. People still would walk away from a 20-minute conversation not quite sure what this thing is or why it even matters. So I remember I -- they asked me to help them reimagine the language of this thing, so I came up with the one-liner for Edwin the Duck, and it's very simple. Edwin the Duck is an app-connected smart toy -- that's the what. And here's why that's important. They needed to understand -- everyone needed to understand that it's a toy. They also needed to understand that it's part of the internet of things, and a hip term at the time was a "smart toy," so we said smart toy. Not only that, we needed to know in a moment that this thing interacts with an app that you have to -- that this toy interacts with a device. So look how quickly we were able to say all of that. Edwin the Duck is an app-connected smart toy. Done.

MR Yeah. It sounds cool already.

GC I want to know more. So who are we for? Who's Edwin the Duck for? Edwin the Duck, by the way, is not for kids. Edwin the Duck is for parents. Here's why. Because the toy's actually designed to be interacted with for birth to 2. So if you have a toy that's from birth to 2, it's really for parents. So Edwin the Duck is an app-connected smart toy that helps parents soothe their babies and educate their toddlers. Very simple. Now, the extended version would be to educate their toddlers with his whole world of stories, songs, and games. But look at the clarity I was able to put there and how compelling that argument is. I appealed to a very specific demographic, and I was offering to help them in a very specific way.

MR And you're tapping into a powerful need.

GC Yes.

MR Soothe your infant equals I get more sleep --

GC Exactly. Educating my child --

MR -- or I get to rest for a minute while he's not crying. Educate your toddler taps into the need for I want my kid to excel and be successful and super smart, and so that's a powerful -- those are two very powerful needs you've tapped into.

GC So let's -- so that's the same formula. I answered all three of those questions, and I composed it into a single, very brief sentence. We did that with Afena too. It was a huge discovery process, a lot of composition, but we had to edit, edit, edit, distill, distill, distill down to Afena is a federal credit union that empowers the hardworking people of Marion -- or of Grant County to overcome their challenges and build an enduring legacy. That's a handshake and a one-line opener that people can actually understand and respond to. Very, very powerful stuff.

So here's your homework. You need to answer those three questions. Do it in a group -- with a group of people. Make it a meeting; make it a lunch; make it a grand conversation that you guys can, hopefully, playfully have a lot of fun with in answering those questions. Once those questions are answered, then you need to daisy-chain it and turn it into one sentence. Now, here's what's going to happen so you're not discouraged. It will be way too long. Your sentence will be so stupid long. Then it's just an editing process. Take your incredibly long -- impressively long sentence that's a run along sentence and reduce it by a third. Take a look at that one, reduce it by a third. Take a look at that one, reduce it by a third. Keep going until you have a sentence that has three things. Are you ready? Are you ready? Clarity, brevity, meaningfulness. That is the standard of a good, well-branded one-liner. And then here is the other hack -- here is the marketing hack on this: take that one-liner, put it at the top of your landing page. If you can put that at the top of your landing page --

MR On your home page?

GC I'm sorry. Yes. On your home page, yes. If you can put that on your home page -- when someone comes to your home page, if they're the person you're trying to target and the person you're trying to appeal to, when they see that line, here's what they're going to be saying to themselves: "Ah, I'm in the right place. You're for me." That's the point of a one-liner. There you go, Michael.

MR I love it. This is exciting because it's taking all the previous work and turning it into a very practical thing you can tangibly use and start executing right away. And speaking of execution, next week, our final segment, Part 5, is actually about what to do with it, right? You kind of alluded to that already, but specifically, we're talking about how do you launch it into the wild. How do you use the brand narrative as source material for other marketing content? So we'll talk about that next week. Work on that this week, and we'd love to see what you come up with.

GC Cool.

MR Thanks, Garrett.

GC You bet. This was fun.

MR Awesome. All right. Well, thanks, everybody, for joining us, again, for Part 4 of Brand Distillery. Part 5 is next week. We'll wrap it up there with what to do do launch your new brand narrative. Thanks, everybody. We will see you then.