The language of a brand is really decided by two things: where you are looking to position your brand in the marketplace; and the personality that you choose to adopt.
Disclaimers are everywhere. From the websites we visit to the products we buy and the ads we watch, the terms under which consumers read and receive are carefully wrapped in legal bubble-wrap to protect brands from liability. In an age of transparency, such disclosures seem prudent and very much in keeping with the demands of today. You know where you stand. The terms for what you are getting are laid out in explicit detail. Or are they?
Marketers are under enormous pressure to get cut-through. Thing is – where’s the cut off point? How do you decide whether the claims you’re making are justified and how do you know you have pushed the boat out too far? Putting aside the legal considerations (not my space), here are four simple ways to filter what you should and shouldn’t say:
In a market filled with possibilities, there is power and focus in constraint. I pressed this point home recently in a discussion on why brands can’t just continue to add to their visual language. The argument I was getting – we need an extended palette to show the diversity of what we do and to prevent our brand looking monochromatic. My view – that adding layer upon layer of visual language to a brand doesn’t free up anything. On the contrary, it adds complexity that make no sense to buyers and that end up looking confused in the shopping aisle.
At a time when communication is increasingly hailed as shorter and more visual, the way brands choose and use language (the verbal brand) continues to hugely influence a plethora of channels, from social media to search engines to advertising, public relations, website content, direct marketing and more.
1. Promote a refreshing viewpoint. 2. Start a different conversation. 3. Shift away from the standard imagery of the industry.
Language is one of the most important definers of any organisational culture. The language you choose, the language you don’t choose and the language you choose to replace are a reflection, and in some senses, a definition of your priorities. As the American writer Rita Mae Brown once observed, “Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.”
This is a guest post by Mark Blackham. It’s a huge pleasure to have Mark as my first ever guest blogger at Upheavals. I first met Mark many years ago, and he has been a regular commenter here on reputational and branding issues. I hope you enjoy his perspectives as much as I do. The more I learn about how humans receive information and conceive ideas, the more simplistic most marketing looks. We’re beginning to understand from brain research that a million different experiences, predispositions and feelings go into each human decision. Behavioural economist Daniel Kahneman talks about a ‘remembering self’ that selects the experiences we use to create and define ourselves. Each one of us has this complex bundle of self-selected memories that influence our decisions. Yet marketing is often based on one insight thought to be common across all target customers. When you consider the variance of attitudes possible across individuals, that insight has to be a generality to be accurate. And if it’s a generality, it’s likely to be irrelevant to the …
I’m a huge believer in stress-testing the expression limits of brands. And as a general rule, I’ve learnt that you can push language a long way – often further than you imagined – providing you demonstrate humanity, insight, humility and fun, and you connect in ways that people identify with and find refreshing. People can be very scared of showing humanity, candour or opinion. But brands with character hook people in and make them loyal as hell. Rohit Bhargava has written an excellent book on the business case for authenticity, Personality Not Included. It’s a great read, and there are some telling case studies. Here are my five best tips on how to nudge your language to the borderline: 1. Look at how your competitors speak – if they’re all talking foo-foo, don’t add your brand to that clamour. Instead, find a way of relating to people that makes you the most interesting voice in the marketplace. 2. Stay on brand – your voice should reflect who you are. If you’re a fun brand, be …
Linguists will tell you that language is constantly evolving and that a number of factors drive the speed and extent of those changes. Language changes as it is passed on; it adapts to movements in society and technology; it reflects shifts in social attitudes as a result of social, economic and political pressures. In the shorter term, words are volatile. New words are invented to describe new technologies, industries, products and experiences. Changes in the ways that individuals speak also fuel language change. And of course words themselves change meaning – but more importantly they change significance over time. Ideas that once carried weight and urgency have been lost in translation or have been diluted to the point where they no longer command the respect they once had. Equally, words that once sat in the relative back-blocks have been elevated to new levels of relevance and importance. Because of all these factors, words shift in value through useage, through adoption and through being redefined. And these changes are critical to understanding how people will engage …