The difference between simple and engineered marketing messages

For many years, marketers have used simple messaging techniques in marketing messages. Essentially, the marketer would identify the key product features and benefits and then develop a series of supportive messages to communicate those features. For the most part, the messages were sound bytes, so to speak, about key product features.

While simple messaging is effective in communicating product features and benefits, it is not designed as well for answering questions, concerns, or doubts. Engineered messaging, on the other hand, is about creating logical and compelling stories. Vanderveer (2004) notes that engineered messaging is based on the “psychological mechanics of persuasion, which demonstrates that since people naturally put information together as stories, the optimal way to convince a person to change their behavior is to compose the elements of a particular argument into a coherent story”.

Engineered messaging includes the following sections:

  • Attention: Stop the customer and have them pay attention to the message.
  • Information: Provide key reasons to change behavior.
  • Corroboration: Provide supportive reasons to believe the presented information.
  • Inoculation: Address and quiet the customer’s concerns and doubts.
  • Direction: Describe the call to action.

The approach to creating engineered messaging includes three mapping stages:

  • Element map: This stage identifies all the potential product features and benefits.
  • Category map: This stage identifies key product features and benefits and moves them into the appropriate section categories, i.e. attention or information.
  • Story map: This stage lays out how the information in the category map will be structured into a story with a distinct beginning, middle, and end.

The approach yields a story which incorporates a persuasive psychological argument that motivates interest about the product. It is important to structure the stories so they are more complex, rich, and impactful than the sound bytes used in simple messaging.


Vanderveer, R. (2004). “Global messaging for global branding: new approaches to product positioning – globally integrated, locally tailored”. International Journal of Medical Marketing. 4 (4), pp. 329-337.


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