The words we choose

Written by Justin Morgan

Tags: Brand


A recent white paper by Tom Sepanski in The Hub Magazine explores how a brand's choice of words is an important element in how it is perceived.

People are consuming brandspeak on more platforms than ever before. Today’s brands must produce words not only for print, radio, and television, but also for websites, social media, apps, YouTube videos, banner ads, and more. Every word attached to a brand - whether it’s a product name, a strategic message or a tweet - is part of its identity and contributes to the customer's perception of the brand.

Brands must have a strong sense of self to differentiate themselves from their competitors and give their audiences something authentic to relate to - a sense of humanity. This requires an investment of time, resources and budget but it’s an investment brands need to make as the rules of engagement with audiences continue to evolve. The rise of social media has magnified the damaging effects of the wrong word in the wrong place at the wrong time. There is even a popular Twitter account that reports on 'companies speaking like teenagers', @BrandsSayingBae. Consider Toshiba's jarring tone when it tweets things such as: Twerk as you work!. Or IHOP's tweet: Pancakes. Errybody got time fo' dat. This kind of cringeworthy disconnect is a frequent and visible blunder for brands. A brand needs to know who it is and the role it plays in people’s lives, and then it needs to make the verbal choices that are true to that persona.

Here’s an example of a piece of copy for Life Insurance: 'Life insurance can help you make sure your family is provided for, your child’s educational needs are taken care of, and that your children won’t have to worry about their future.' Compare it with this more emotional appeal: 'You don’t want life insurance like you want a BMW. You need life insurance like you need the passenger-side airbag.' One tells you the facts you already know. The other is a punch of personality, inspiring you to take action.

The choice of messages and words are all part of how customers perceive a brand. Every piece of copy carries two messages: the topic itself and the unspoken things verbal choices say about the brand’s values.

The full article is available here: Say What?