In today’s digital, always-on world, words are an increasingly powerful currency for brands to create real-time value and demonstrate relevance.
But finding the right words—and using them effectively—requires rigor and structure. Deploying a thoughtful verbal branding strategy (sometimes called a verbal identity) can help bridge your brand strategy to in-market execution through content, communications and experiences.
From finding the right voice, to building equity in key messages, to creating a methodical approach to portfolio naming, a clear verbal strategy can empower writers, marketers and sales teams with centralized ways to create cohesive, connected communications. Which, when done right, have the power to influence opinion, shift perceptions and ultimately help drive business growth.
Defining Your Verbal Branding Strategy
Simply put, names are one of the quickest ways for brands to tell their stories. A great name provides a glimpse into what a brand stands for and gives audiences a preview of the experience to come. And while good names can come from anywhere, the best ones are just as strategic as they are creative. Taking an art and science approach to naming ensures names not only signal a compelling story, but also connect back to their strategy.
Before ideating names, it’s important to get strategically grounded by thinking through questions like:
- What should my new name communicate about my business or product?
- What should it signal for the future?
- How will my audiences interact with the name? And where?
- How can I avoid naming trends to create an enduring, evergreen name?
- How can my name help me stand out in my category?
And because naming is inherently an emotional, subjective process, it’s key to align on these questions at the outset with all relevant stakeholders and decision makers, and bring them along for what will surely be an iterative process.
But while most organizations aren’t naming or re-naming their company or hero product every day, almost all organizations are tasked with managing product, service or feature naming.
This is particularly true in today’s world of mergers, acquisitions and rapid innovation, where portfolios across categories have become complex and inconsistent, ultimately creating a confusing customer experience.
Nomenclature, also known as Naming Systems or Naming Architecture, allows brands to create order and hierarchy across their portfolios to provide internal clarity around offerings and how they work together as a whole. This creates a more simplified way for customers to better navigate a brand’s breadth of offerings, ultimately driving choice.
At Prophet, we take a considered, strategic approach to nomenclature that ensures existing portfolio names are optimized and streamlined, while also providing clear systems and constructs for creating new names. This creates efficiencies in naming and managing names internally, while providing a system for growing and evolving portfolio names in the future.
Just like people, brands also have unique personalities, styles and quirks that define their behaviors and relationships. Brand voice is the art of conveying that personality through how its people write and speak.
By using a distinct voice consistently across touchpoints, brands are able to make connections, strengthen relationships and build loyalty and affinity over time. Brand voice can also help you stand out and grab attention in a crowded or commoditized category. But creating a voice isn’t just a creative exercise—it’s also a strategic one. To be truly successful, your voice should be rooted in your brand strategy and organizational DNA, optimized for your industry, and reflective of your customers’ needs and attitudes.
But while your voice is a hardworking asset, simplicity and utility are key to successful execution. We recommend avoiding “attribute soup” and boiling your voice down to just 2-3 core components. If you were tasked with writing, say, a piece that must be Trusted, Friendly, Insightful, Bold, and Engaging—would you know where to start? Instead, try to identify the main hallmarks of your voice, and distill them into a persona and 2-3 directive principles that give your writers a clearer understanding of what “right” sounds like.
Now, onto messaging. First things first, messaging themes aren’t copy—they guide copy. As high-level communications points, they can be dialed up and down across communications and adapted for different audiences—ensuring a flexible, cohesive expression, rather than a static, repetitive one.
Because messaging should help convey your strategy, your positioning or value proposition should be your starting point for developing your messages. If you don’t have that in place, you can still derive messages by thinking about the intersection between what your brand wants to say, and what your audience wants to hear—leaving room for how you’ll grow and evolve in the near future.
By prioritizing those ideas down to a focused set, you can bolster them with proof points, key words or phrases that help writers and marketers bring them to life.
It can be easy to see how voice and messaging come to life in high-impact touchpoints like advertising or your website, but it’s equally, if not more important, to use these tools in more functional touchpoints, like customer service call center scripts and chatbots, so that on-strategy voice and messaging becomes an integral part of the entire customer experience.
Finally, don’t forget employee touchpoints. A compelling approach to voice and messaging can go a long way towards shaping internal communications and experiences that keep employees feeling engaged, informed, and inspired to live the brand more fully.
Defining your verbal branding strategy is a critical step in creating your brand expression. Once these assets are defined, make sure to bring them to life through steps like training and global adaptation. Because when done right and put in the hands of your marketers, your verbal branding strategy is a critical asset, connecting the dots between your strategy and expression, and shaping how your audiences perceive, engage with, and choose your brand going forward.
Learn more about using verbal branding to express your brand and business strategy.