A brand is much more than just the impression people have of your company, products or services. It’s the personality of your business and, therefore, should be reflected in everything your company does. Research has shown that humans think about brands as if brands are human, so we need to express this personality using all available resources.
One of the tools in our brand-building toolbox is language. In the digital age, language is often the first expression of your brand that your customers see – through a social post or in search content.
Language can significantly strengthen a brand’s identity and can elevate it from being a bland brand to being a superstar brand that stands out in a crowded marketplace. Great brands build an emotional connection with their customers and use many tools to communicate their brand, including developing a strong brand voice. In our experience, however, developing a strong and unique brand voice is often overlooked and can very much be an afterthought. Despite it being a relatively cost-effective way to enhance your brand’s personality, brands don’t embrace language as a tool, or it’s poorly or inconsistently executed across the marketing channels and, more broadly, across the business.
Grounded in research, insight, and a strategic approach, your verbal identity can be a powerful lever in building and maintaining a strong brand. Its power depends on finding something that’s authentic, relevant and unique to your brand.
“Verbal identity is the secret sauce that sets your brand apart”, Sunny Bonnell, CEO, Motto
This insight considers why language is so important in developing a brand, why it’s often under-utilised as a marketing tactic, and some ways to overcome these challenges.
The importance of language
Communication – whether written, spoken or heard, and sometimes even felt – is the essence of what it means to be human. It’s how we connect, relate to one another and make sense of the world. Human beings are wired to connect and make meaning – and language, tone of voice and storytelling are fundamental tools that brands can use to do just that. Language moves people and can be used alongside other branding strategies to create powerful brand identities.
Many strong brands even create their own language that holds special meaning for their loyal customer base. Apple is a great example of this. Headphones are AirPods, laptops are Macs and smartphones are iPhones. When you share files, you airdrop. Their minimalist tone of voice goes hand in hand with their minimalist approach to product design and echoes their brand personality through language. When you use Apple’s language you connect with a community of brand advocates and loyal followers. Other brands known for having a strong tone of voice are Innocent Drinks and Pret A Manger – we’re all familiar with their stylistic tones and unique use of language that resonate and help them stand out.
Why is building a brand voice so often overlooked or poorly executed and how can we overcome these obstacles?
1. Many brands put their marketing efforts into building a visually strong brand and overlook their brand voice. The phrase ‘a picture is worth of thousand words’ springs to mind, with brands competing for their customers’ attention with brand imagery. However, brands that pay attention to other aspects of their brand and ensure how they talk and what they have to say is aligned with their brand personality will outperform those who focus solely on imagery.
“It’s nearly impossible to convey depth and emotion via a two-dimensional image so the right words are integral to telling a story,” Rob Gaitt, Fred Perry
2. Businesses communicate across many different touchpoints via different departments (sales, finance, order fulfilment, customer service, etc.) and the brand voice needs to be embraced by all and not just the marketing department. Many companies struggle with developing a consistent approach, so the brand voice gets watered down or lost. A brand can be damaged if the brand personality and the brand experiences do not live up to our expectations. Developing a robust implementation and training plan to roll out your brand voice across the whole business is fundamental to ensuring this doesn’t happen.
3. Some brand values are quite generic so their brand voice can be quite bland and formulaic. Brands can be fearful of being too distinctive within their category and worried about alienating their audience. They may well have tone of voice guidelines but not many have a memorable tone of voice. It’s critical to identify who you want to appeal to and who you don’t. You can’t be something to everyone as you end up not appealing to anyone. Be bold, drill down on your values, find what it is that makes you unique, and translate that into your brand personality and brand voice.
So now you understand the importance of developing your own brand voice and why many struggle to do it. The last thing to say is that a brand voice isn’t created overnight and takes hard work, a consistent and strategic approach, and one that should be grounded in research and insight, so you truly reflect who you are and what you stand for.
Speak to Mobas today if you need help finding your brand voice. Explore how language, tone of voice and storytelling can connect with your target audience to make them feel something and connect with your brand. “Products are made in a factory, but brands are created in the mind.” Walter Landor, Landor & Fitch