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Watch Your Brand Mouth: Is Your Verbal Brand Behaving?

The development of a company's visual icons are usually one the first elements that come to mind when thinking about brand identity. Logos, campaign imagery, a tagline; the basics. But what about the brand voice? To truly build out the essence of a brand; more emphasis needs to be placed on strategic building, positioning, and monitoring the auditory portion of the brand.

Passive engagement is over. Brands are now finding themselves in a 2-way dialogue with their audience. Verbal identity, tone, and presentation are all critical factors that determine how your company relates, connects and engages with it's customers.

Some factors to consider:

Choose words, visual graphics, and overall presentation elements with intent. Too many voices across too many platforms can create inconsistency and chaos. Be mindful of delivery and tone. Is your brand speaking in a way that is authentic to your positioning? Is your brand behaving in the way that will gain trust and respect? To build trust, brands require a solid sense of identity and "self". Nothing kills credibility faster than trying to be something you are not.

Know how the brand responds in a wide range of situations. The old adage of "it is not "what" you say, but "how" you say it" rings true for both humans and brands. HOW brands choose to respond (whether spoken, written, or non-verbal responses); and the tone it uses to present the message speak volumes about the brand itself.

How does the brand handle a controversy? What language does the brand use to celebrate? How does it handle a complaints or unhappy customer in emails? Does your internal brand culture reinforce the external brand presentation? How is your brands response different from how your competitor would respond?

Now ask yourself if all of the people responsible for your executing the brand message know how to respond the way the brand would (or should). How you choose to speak in every situation essentially drives the brand personality, tone, environment, and the ultimate experience.

Conduct Brand Forensics Exercises. Look at the totality of the creative presentation. While different audience demographics may require a unique creative approach; the foundation of the messaging and brand essence needs to remain consistent. Individually, the executions may work; but as a brand, the totality of the messages are critically important.

Create consistency; provide guardrails. From agency copywriters, to internal marketing executives, to social media interns; different creatives are touching and presenting the brand across thousands of executions. With so many elements in motion at the same time, it is essential for the brand vernacular and visual presentation to be consistent and clear. A Brand Discovery exercise to get to a strategic Brand Brief is essential before creative briefs or executions begin. These documents should be provided to internal and external creatives who interact with the brand. Brands need to remain relevant and evolve over time; rollout of the new message or positioning should be consistent and simultaneous.

Develop your Brand Voice and Celebrate Competitive Distinctions. Does your brand walk and talk like the competition? If so, ask yourself WHY. If you can replace your logo with your competitors logo and the piece still works; you don't own it, and it doesn't work. Know who you are and OWN IT.

Lorey Zlotnick is an award-winning brand marketing veteran, speaker, and start-up launch specialist. As the SVP of Marketing, she has strategically launched, built, re-branded, and managed global iconic sports, entertainment, media, and tech brands for the NFL, FOX, Disney, SONY, Los Angeles Times, eCompanies, and NewsCorp.

Zlotnick is currently the CMO + Brand Architect of Zequity Marketing where she guides companies, start-ups, production companies, and creative agencies through all phases of strategic branding and culture.

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