Did I get you with the “taking Coke” click bait? Well it was worth a try. That’s not the sort of Coke I mean. I’m talking Coca-Cola here.

I’ve learned a lot from Coca-Cola ads. I know it sounds silly. Most of the ads show people standing around smiling while holding a Coca-Cola. What could be learned from that?

In my line of work, plenty. Think of the Coca-Cola ads you’ve seen before. A winking woman poolside drinking from a Coca-Cola can in the sunshine. A couple sipping out of the same bottle with two straws sharing a coy grin. A man at a concert jumping for joy while holding his can of Coca-Cola. Even someone biking on the beach while holding that famous can.

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Each of these images have something in common: smiling. Everyone in the images is clearly living their lives to the fullest. That’s what Coca-Cola wants you to notice and remember. Everything’s great with Coke! You’ll do awesome things! You’ll feel amazing if you’re holding a Coke! Every time you see a Coca-Cola ad, you get the same message – they’re selling lifestyle not the product.

That’s exactly what you need to do with your products and services. You need to show your customer or a transformation. How your life will be transformed by using your product!

In advertising, this is called your brand message. It’s what you want to communicate to the world about what your product can and will do to enhance lives.

Your brand message may not be the same one that Coca-Cola has. Theirs is about excitement and joy. If you’re part of a restaurant that serves a quiet, intimate dinner, you will want to communicate your message quite differently. You will want to have images that use darker colours and emphasise peace and harmony instead of the big, bright party that we see in Coke ads.

Next time you plan a photoshoot, video, or written market piece for your product, think about your brand message. What do you want to communicate that your product will bring to the lives of your customers?

Having a brand message in mind before you begin creating your ad is important because your choice of words, colours, and lighting will all be impacted by the mood you have in mind. A summery ice cream shop may choose bright colours and pictures of kids running about to create a family-centric message, whereas an expensive steakhouse would not be served well by using those colours or images at all.

When you are ready to start putting together your brand message, start by picturing your ideal clients. What are they like? What is the ideal environment around them like while they enjoy your product? What do you want them to feel like when they use your product? What does it bring to their lives? Asking these questions will help you to create advertisements targeted to a specific ideal clientele.

If you’re concerned about whether or not your ads are sending the right brand message right now, don’t worry. A good photographer can help you cultivate the right message.

Set up a meeting with your photographer to talk about what you want your images to showcase, and they will be able to work with you to suggest ways to use props, images, and styling to send your message to customers.