Download: MP3 (15 MB)

Communication is everything for a brand. It’s how you deliver information to your audience, it’s how you invite them into your story, and it’s the way we connect and develop relationally.

There will always be people at varying levels of relationship to your brand, all the way from being first introduced to your industry to being someone who’s been around longer than you. You have to learn how to communicate in a way that reaches as many people in your audience as possible.

This is possible by understanding the four tiers of brand language: introductory, basic, advanced, and fluent. Knowing the different levels will help improve your writing and bring clarity to your messaging.

Today’s episode is a little shorter, but packed with information on the four tiers of brand language and how you can connect better with your audience with clearer communication.

Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
  • Not everyone who interacts with your brand is going to be at the same level of understanding.
  • Introductory readers are just now becoming familiar with your brand and your niche.
  • Basic readers can read through your content at a consistent pace with general comprehension.
  • Advanced readers are experienced enough to read your content without hesitation and may already be in your industry.
  • Fluent readers have a full comprehension of the words, terms, and concepts that you write about.
  • Tailor your message to speak to the right people.
  • Begin creating your content by writing to your fluent readers.
  • Read through what you’ve written and simplify the more complex words or ideas, and then read through it again.
  • Ask someone from each tier to read through what you’ve written.
  • Communicate clearly to your audience for them to grasp what you’re trying to say.
  • Writing with basic level comprehension provides a happy medium that your target audience will be able to process well.
  • Use simple language but don’t water down your message to communicate to your target audience.
Show Notes
  • 01:06 Cory: I want to help you communicate better by tailoring your brand message and your content. It’s important to understand what your messaging is saying and who you’re trying to communicate with because a lot of people can assume that anyone knows exactly what they’re talking about. As I create a business or a brand, it would be easy for me to get lost in my own lingo, thinking that everyone understands the slang and the various words.

Not everyone who interacts with your brand is going to be at the same level of understanding.

  • 01:47 With that in mind, as you move forward, there are some keys you can think about and implement when it comes to tailoring your brand messaging. For instance, back in October, my brother sent me a text message asking me where he could go to listen to the podcast. I directed him to the website, BehindtheBrand.com, and I didn’t hear back from him for a few hours. I assumed he had listened to a few shows. He called me on the phone and said, “Great show! I have no idea what you guys were talking about, but it sounded great.”
  • 02:21 At the time, I thought that was pretty funny, but it got me thinking about communication and brand language. Whether you’re marketing, producing content, or promoting your brand or product, you’re using various forms of communication to do so. You may be producing several thousand words in the form of an article, or perhaps it’s a 15 second video on Instagram, or possibly even a gallery on your website that displays your latest work. All of this is communication, verbal and nonverbal. Human beings are based on communication—it’s how we interact with each other, how we deliver and receive information. It’s all communication.
  • 03:04 One of the hardest parts of communicating to your target audience is knowing exactly who you’re speaking to. Are you writing to people who are just becoming familiar with your brand, or are you writing to your peers, other experts in your field? Do all of your readers know all of the terms you’re using? Communication can be very tricky. The hard part is that you don’t always know who is going to be interacting with your brand. It could be someone who is just finding you for the very first time, and it could be someone that has been involved in your brand since you got started.
  • 03:43 The truth is, communication can be tricky. I can’t tell you how many articles or books I’ve read where I had to hop on Google and do a search or check the dictionary to figure out exactly what they were saying, because I didn’t understand the concept and I didn’t know the words. It’s not that I wasn’t in their target audience. In most cases, I was their target, but I was at a different level of understanding. That’s where the four tiers of brand language come in.

The Four Tiers of Brand Language

  • 04:17 You have to tailor your message to fit your target audience’s needs, and you start by understanding the four tiers. The four tiers are:
    1. Introductory
    2. Basic
    3. Advanced
    4. Fluent

The four tiers of brand language will help you determine how you should write.

  • 04:29 These are terms I’ve created to help myself, but also to help you. These are not psychological terms or official brand marketing guru terms, but they are terms I’ve created that I use that can be helpful for people creating their brand messaging. I want to go through each of those tiers and talk about those a little bit. I’m not going to spend a lot of time doing that, but it’s helpful to know that there are different levels of understanding as people interact with your brand.
  • 05:04 First is introductory. Introductory readers are just now becoming familiar with your brand and your niche. Even though they’re interested, they’re not yet committed. They understand some of your terminology, but in most cases, they’ll research definitions, Google terms, or they’ll dig deeper into the context to understand what you’re saying. Oftentimes, they’ll take a few passes at your articles and your content, and while they’re interested, some of the advanced language is going to be lost on them. Introductory readers are typically not in your industry yet, even if they are interested.
  • 05:40 Introductory readers can be in your target audience. They may not even know that. They might just be getting started. Think about this as if you were learning another language. Let’s say you were learning French. You knew a couple of words, that it comes from France, and that it’s the primary language there and a couple of other countries. Because you don’t know conversational French, you’re not going to get very far. You’re going to have to Google some definitions. You’re going to have to learn how things are spelled. It’s the same way with brand language. Introductory readers are just getting started and hopping in, and they want to get more involved and learn more, but they’re still in the earliest stage.
  • 06:32 Basic is the next tier of language. Basic readers have a general understanding of your brand, and they can read through your content at a consistent pace with generic comprehension. They’re doing well. They’ll say, “I can gather that. I could maybe have a conversation about it.” In the same way, with the example of learning French, they can ask a couple of questions they can understand. They can have a little bit of a conversation. They can ask where the bathroom is. They can do simple things. If something is very new and foreign to them, they stop and look into it, but they don’t have a lot of issue with the reading process.
  • 07:13 It’s a step past introductory. They’re getting involved. They understand how to say certain things. They understand what various words might mean in regards to your brand, and they can get it. The next tier is Advanced. They’re not quite fluent, but they’ve been around this “scene” longer.

Advanced readers are experienced enough to read your content without hesitation and may already be in your industry.

  • 07:48 They can read your content and say, “Yes, I understand. I grasp this.” They may not have been in that industry as long as you have, but they can grasp the concepts. They can get things not only on a foundational level, but at a conceptual level, where you’re just throwing out ideas. They can get a lot of that content, those phrases, and that jargon. They’re not yet fluent, but a lot of it has to do with time spent in that industry reading that language. Finally, we have the Fluent tier. Fluent readers have a full comprehension of the words, terms, and concepts that you write about. They might even correct terms or definitions in their minds, and they associate bigger ideas as they read.
  • 08:42 These readers are comfortable with your brand, they’re comfortable with this category, and they’re very familiar with the language you use. In most cases, they literally speak it. They do speak it, because they’re fluent. They’ve been using the same language for years, and they have an exceptional understanding of what you’re communicating. They don’t need to stop and Google anything. They don’t need to take pause as they’re reading, because everything makes sense as they go.

Steps to Reaching Your Target Audience

  • 09:15 You can have a single target audience that contains readers in all four of these tiers. Don’t be afraid that using more experienced words will chase away the introductory readers. Anybody who’s going to be invested in what you have to say will be more than happy to work on understanding what you’re saying.

Tailoring your message is key to speaking to the right people.

  • 09:39 If you find yourself struggling to communicate clearly or you feel like your message is getting watered down because you want to reach more people, there is a really simple method you can use to make sure you’re reaching as many levels as possible. This is accomplished by working backwards. Step one: begin creating your content by writing to your fluent readers. Don’t hold back. Be specific with your words, and don’t feel like you have to define everything. Your first pass is for people who get it and will have no problems understanding what you’re trying to get across. So, first off, write to your fluent readers.
  • 10:17 Step two: read through what you’ve written and see if you can simplify any of the more complex words or ideas. Fluent readers are still going to understand, and they even associate the original word. If it’s possible to retain the meaning while maintaining the words, make some adjustments. Make up definitions for Fluent level words and terms, and maybe have those in a parenthesis or in an aside. Ultimately, you want to be teaching. With everything you write, you’re communicating something. You are teaching as you’re doing this.
  • 10:59 Step three: once you’re finished with your adjustments, read through your content again. Always read it again. Be careful not to remove every complex word, because the early level readers will need to learn them at some point. Who better to learn from than you? Spend time thinking about what your reader might be thinking as they read through your content, and then add or subtract words or ideas to make your message stand out even stronger. Step four: if at all possible, ask someone from each tier to read through what you’ve written.

Prioritize Clarity

  • 11:32 If you only have people from one or two tiers, that’s okay. It’s always helpful to get input from people at different levels who are still within the same brand or niche category. Seek out feedback from those you trust who can help you proof your words or provide an outside perspective on what you’ve written. Here’s the point. All of this is about communicating clearly.

You have to communicate clearly to your audience in order for them to grasp what you’re trying to say.

  • 12:02 If they don’t understand what you’re trying to say, you can’t bring them further down the funnel. If you’re trying to sell a product and you can’t even communicate what that product is, there’s no way they’re going to move from introductory to fluent. There’s no way they’ll move from casual browser to customer if you don’t have a clear message. Also, keep in mind, the more content you produce, the easier it will be to write to more language tiers without even thinking about it. Your fluent readers can comprehend the simplest language. They get those beginner and introductory ideas, while the introductory readers will have very little idea what the fluent language means.
  • 12:43 They’re not quite there yet. Invite the audience members who might not be as fluent in higher tier language. Don’t leave them out in the cold. Let them learn, let them grow. I find that writing for fluent level with basic level comprehension provides a happy medium that your target audience will be able to process well. Try and explain the high-level concept to someone with a basic level comprehension. The advanced and fluent people are going to be able to get that. They’ll understand everything on the basic level, because they’ve already been at that tier. You can always teach a lower tier reader new ideas, concepts, and words to help them rise to the next level. You want to make them fluent readers.

You don’t need to water down your message to communicate to your target audience, but you might be surprised at how effective you can be with simple language.

  • 13:32 I see this all the time with brands, websites, and retail stores. Everyone wants to be really catchy, with a catchy tagline or a really cool website. You need to be clear. If all you’re doing is trying to come up with cool, catchy, trendy phrases, but you’re losing people because you’re not clear, ask yourself what’s more important: having simple language on your website that is clear and allows people to get what you’re about in seconds, or having something hip and trendy but not making any sales?
  • 14:30 Do you want to convert browsers and push people through to engage deeper with your brand? You have to decide what’s more important. I urge you to consider clarity as the most important in regards to your messaging. Tailoring your brand content and message is very important, and you readers will thank you for helping them learn and become better.