Over the past couple of years, I’ve seen a significant spike in branding projects. Increasingly clients are coming to me with an understanding of how critical it is to establish their verbal identities – and how language significantly impacts the ways in which their targeted audiences perceive and engage with them. Never before have brands been so cognizant of the impact words and voice have. And this makes sense. With communication as varied and accessible as it is today, creating an authentic, believable, and engaging expression of your brand is practical and essential.
It would seem that with something as critical as verbal branding all business stakeholders would have a firm grasp on what it is. Yet it appears to be an elusive topic with different labels, sometimes it’s referred to as verbal identity and in other instances brand language. A rose by any other name…
What IS verbal branding, anyway?
There are those who think of it as simply naming a business or product, pulling together a tagline, and using a selection of buzzwords, end of story. Yeah…not quite. At its core, verbal branding is about using thoughtful language and strategic messaging to communicate who you are and what you do. It shows off your style while relaying your character. It dictates how and what you say, and when and where you say it. When it comes to voice, the choices are endless. You can be creative, daring, warm, reserved, confident, edgy, playful, or matter-of-fact. It all depends on who your audience is, what reaction or emotion you want to elicit, and the communication medium or platform. As an example, the language, style, and tone used in a proposal or on a website is likely to be more buttoned-up than a social post or email (this is mostly true for consumer brands, but some B2B companies are having fun on social, too). A thing to note: verbal branding can and should evolve over time as a business grows and learns more about what works and doesn’t work with its audience/s.
What does verbal branding encompass?
Obviously the name of your company, product or service is the starting point (there’s a lot that goes into naming a business, but that’s a topic for another post…Stay tuned!). Then there’s your tagline. Done yet? Nope.
A key component is the messaging matrix, a set of interrelated corporate statements that convey a business’ culture, reason for being, market niche, benefits, proof points, etc. They are usually externally facing (to audience/market/consumer), but some are for internal use. While each is wholly unique and should work independently, it’s important that they also maintain a uniformity in language, style, and tone.
Here is a sample of what you might find in a standard messaging matrix:
- Tagline/Brand Promise – This is the essence of what your business is and does. It should be “sticky” and target 7-9 words. Less is definitely more.
- Mission Statement – Defines the company’s big-picture purpose and focus. Your reason for being. What gets your brand to hop out of bed in the morning!
- Value Proposition – This is the feel-good message that tells your customers what benefit they get out of your product or service, while communicating why they can’t live without you.
- Positioning Statement – In one to two sentences, it clearly communicates what you do, who you do it for, and all the ways you’re more awesome than the competition.
- Core Values – These words or statements explain your brand’s character, how it behaves, acts, and works. They’re inspirational, humanizing, and can touch on topics like sustainability, people over profits, work environments, etc.
Verbal Branding: So what?
When you’re building a brand for your business, there are a myriad of elements that require your attention. Often though, it’s the visual that gets primary attention. Sigh…But verbal identity is imperative to establish early on so everyone in your company is reading from the same page, communicating with consistent language and voice, and exuding what your company stands for.
Most of the calls I receive from potential clients indicate they have a solid idea of what they want to communicate about their brand, but they are at a loss when it comes to the creative execution. And that is where a writer skilled in verbal branding comes in (ahem). If your business needs help with developing a distinct and relevant verbal identity, be in touch. Our team is experienced and kind of fun to work with.