Does the Red Thread approach work with B2C marketing and sales messages? That was one of the questions you asked me when I invited you to ask me anything.
The answer? Yes, yes it does. To show you how, and to inspire you to think about your own B2C message, here are three examples from work with my clients. I’ll put each example into the Storyline template so you can see both the individual Red Thread Statements and how they work together.
Example #1: For a company that sells Hawaiian breadfruit
The audience here are “adventurous foodies,” people who pride themselves on experimentation.
We can all agree we want to know…[GOAL: how to add variety to our diets through the discovery of new and delicious foods]. While there are barriers to that goal we all know exist, the real problem is…[TWO-PART PROBLEM: We tend to seek variety in one category of food (different coffees, chocolates, etc.) more than in variety across categories (proteins, starches, etc.)]. Yet we can agree it’s true that…[TRUTH: There are more than 50,000 edible plants on Earth, yet most of us eat the same three staple starches at every meal]. Which means, to achieve our goal, we have to…[CHANGE: switch up our staples]. How? By…[ACTION: Trying ‘ulu, Hawaiian breadfruit, an ancient staple that civilizations have thrived on for millenia].
What you can use, too
The big takeaway here is that instead of setting up a “skip to the end” message— “Want to add variety? Try breadfruit!”—we had to come up with reasons why they needed to try something like breadfruit in the first place. Because we knew these were adventurous eaters who were actively seeking new foods to try, we needed to get them thinking about staple foods like the starches they eat first.
To do that, we had to gently raise the idea that we don’t usually think of variety in terms of new classes/categories, but variety exists there, too. Once we have people thinking about variety across categories (not just within), we could point out that most people don’t have that kind of variety…so switching up their staples is not only a way to do that, but breadfruit makes it easy to.
For your own B2C message, first make sure your argument doesn’t begin and end with “Want (product or service)? Buy mine!” Then, build a Red Thread to show how the different approach your product or service represents aligns with how your audience already sees themselves, just as switching up your staples with breadfruit aligns with adventurous foodies’ self-identity of “I’m someone who pursues variety.”
Example #2: For a company that sells customizable luxury clothing and accessories
The audience here is affluent women, often in creative and artistic fields.
We can all agree we want to know…[GOAL: where to find clothing and accessories that work for me, no matter who I am or where I go (mentally and physically!)]. While there are barriers to that goal we all know exist, the real problem is…[TWO-PART PROBLEM: available options often reflect the market’s current mindset more than your own]. Yet we can agree it’s true that…[TRUTH: The clothes that work best for you are those that work best with you—with your mood, with your destination, and with your surroundings, whatever they may be (or how often they change!)]. That’s why, to help you achieve your goal, we…[give you “keys to the design room” to create your own versatile pieces that can transform and perform again and again to reflect you, wherever you go and whoever you are].
Actions are eliminated here, as we were creating a core message that could serve as the starting point for a variety of content.
What you can use, too
As in the breadfruit example, skipping right to the clothes themselves, without a reason why the clothes are the way they are, would short-circuit any opportunity for your audience to identify with the worldview the clothes represent. This is one of the reasons why knowing—and stating—the Truth is so important: often it’s where you (subtly!) declare, “We’re for people who want [GOAL], and believe [TRUTH].”
A specific Goal—but one that still doesn’t project what you wish your audience wanted—tells your audience that you’re there to solve the problem they know they have right now. Similarly, a Truth that aligns with both your and their worldview helps them explain to themselves both why their Goal has escaped them so far as well as the kind of solution that would make the most sense to them.
So, for instance, if you’re starting a new career as a hyper-local florist, as the person who asked me this question is, you’re looking for a Goal that captures what your ideal customer wants right now. Maybe it’s something like, “I want to give flowers that express my emotion for the people I’m giving them to.” Sure, it’s possible people are looking for hyper-local flowers, but I’m guessing most people don’t know those exist yet.
That means the purpose of your message would be to get people to link what they want (“flowers express how I feel”) with the approach your products represent (hyperlocal flowers). That starts to give you a hint at what the problem might be: that if all the flowers people normally buy are sourced from the same place, they’re likely all going to look similar, and thus “express emotion” somewhat generically, too.
Maybe the Problem Pair is something like, “look / live,” which you could state as “we tend to choose flowers on how they look more than where those flowers live(d)—where they come from.” That gives you an opportunity to do a bit of education on why commercially available flowers are the ones they are – hardiness, ability to ship long distances without wilting, etc. From there, you can explain how that “sameness” can get in the way of the distinctiveness your audience is looking for.
Then, you’d want a Truth that links distinctiveness with hyperlocal. This would take a bit more work, but I’d probably start my brainstorming with a play on “variety is the spice of life,” since that’s the axiom that springs to mind first, as that includes both concepts (“variety” to distinctiveness, “life” to the “live” of the Problem Pair. Maybe something like, “Variety is the spice of life—and where you live is the best source of variety.” You’d need to explain that a bit probably (i.e., validate why that’s actually true), but that would get you to the Change of “that’s why buying flowers grown right where you live is the best way to match flowers to how you feel.”
That may not be a perfect message (yet!), but hopefully that helps you see the process for how to get there!
Example #3: An independent school
The audience here is families of prospective students.
We can all agree we want to know…[GOAL: how to decide on the ‘right’ school for their child — the school that provides everything their child needs to be successful]. While there are barriers to that goal we all know exist, the real problem is…[TWO-PART PROBLEM: people often focus more on the ‘compulsory’ aspects of education (academic requirements, school size, tuition, etc.) than on what’s compelling, to both student and teacher]. Yet we can agree it’s true that…[TRUTH: when you optimize how you learn, you optimize what you learn]. Which means, to achieve the goal, we: [CHANGE: make the compulsory compelling — in both what students learn, and how]. Not only does that achieve the goal it also: [GOAL REVISITED: gives students the content and skills they need to succeed in school, college, and life].
Specific Actions are dropped out here, for the same reasons we left them out above—which actions to include would depend on where the message is being used.
How you can do this, too
I don’t have too much to add on this one, as it’s doing the same things the other two are, as well, but I wanted to show how a non-profit that speaks directly to its audience could also use the Red Thread.
But notice how again how a solid Truth gives your audience what feels to them like the real reason they would go with your product or service. It’s not because that reason is a feature or a benefit, it’s because it surfaces why your approach aligns with how they see (or want to see) the world or themselves. It allows them to say, “Oh, I also believe that when you optimize how you learn, you optimize what you learn, so if this school is all about doing that for my child, then this is going to be the right school for us.”
No matter if your product or service is B2B, B2C, or nonprofit, your Red Thread helps your audience see (and agree!) that not only do they want what you do but also the way that you do it, as well.No matter if your product or service is B2B, B2C, or nonprofit, your Red Thread helps your audience see that not only do they want what you do but also the way you do it. Click To Tweet
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