Can You Convey a Brand in 140 Characters?

May 27, 2011

It’s not rare for me to get into a nerd conversation or two. Especially late at night. Nighttime on the Internet is when the only people stirring are other social media pros and bloggers. Google Chat has become the hub for me during this time to bounce ideas off of people while I prepare for a speaking engagement, big presentation, or am simply catching up on my never-ending email box. One such night, a message came through that read:

“Do you think a brand message can be conveyed in 140 characters?”

This was a prep question poised for a joint panel held by PRSA Detroit and Social Media Club Detroit. Initially, my gut told me to scream, “YES, YES, A THOUSAND TIMES, YES! Your brand message should be so clear and concise that 140 characters is plenty! Of course! What a ridiculous question!”

Luckily, I don’t let my gut do all of the talking. Especially when my gut and I have been up for hours working on prep for two speaking engagements and a big client pitch. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that my gut did not have the right idea.

My actual response began with, “Yes and no.”


140 characters feel much roomier to me now than they had in the past. I can share information, plug a brand or person, and add a hashtag without breaking a sweat or thinking too hard. I’ve also noticed a change in the way that my brain takes in and processes information since I’ve joined Twitter. I write in more concise statements. Fluff and filler words seem to have been ejected from my vocabulary, and when someone dares to send out a tweet that is longer than 140 characters, I simply refuse to click the link to read the post in its entirety. It’s become too much work for my “all killer, no filler” brain.

140 characters should be enough to give an effective statement. It should be enough to inform and educate. It can demonstrate what you’d like your brand to be known for and hit all of the important bullet points that you hope come to mind when people think of you. For example, I can effectively tell you about the most important points of my employer in 140 characters:


This is where the ambiguity of the word “brand” comes into play. For some, a brand is something that lives in the design world. It’s a pleasing color palette, a sharp logo, or a font choice. To others, a brand is something that lives in its customer service. It’s a mint on the pillow, remembering your favorite coffee, or making the process of returning an unwanted product into a painless experience. It is the tone of your blog posts and outgoing voicemail messages. It’s the lighting of your waiting room. You pick your favorite brand touchpoint, and many will choose to point to that as their “brand.”

To me, a brand is something that is living and breathing. It’s a mindset internally, that relays to employee actions, which drive your customer experience, and ultimately lives in the minds of your client base (realized and potential).  You can do your best to craft the perception of your brand, but it will always only be as strong or effective as others perceive it. This is why consistency is so important. No matter the channel, no matter the media, and no matter the location, your message must be the same. Nothing kills brand loyalty quicker than broken promises and conflicting messages.

This cannot be captured in 140 characters.

What does it all mean?

140 characters are enough to state the objective that you strive for. 140 characters are enough to support that objective. 140 characters are not enough to give justice to the detailed, nuanced, living, breathing being that IS your brand.

Still Looking For Answers? We Can Help!

Photo Credit