A-Z of better brand language
by Rob Self-Pierson
More than any other ingredient, language has the power to transform an organisation.
The right words can start a business on a path to profitability, encourage teams to work smarter and more productively, and inspire consumers to shout about a brand to their friends.
Handled with deep care and respect, as you might a family heirloom or shiny new smart phone, a brand’s language can help an organisation to speak with great clarity, character and consistency – whether it’s a tiny charity or an enormous multinational.
For many years, my studio has supported brands around the world with language. We’ve named products, articulated purpose, and worded value propositions. We’ve developed tones of voice, told founders’ stories, produced websites and scripts and brochures and straplines and more. You name it, we’ve written it. From Gumtree to Moorlands College, we’ve seen countless times how words change brands. But we’ve also seen how learning to embrace language can change a person’s life.
We were reminded this recently by somebody we trained at Gumtree in 2015. The young woman, a business graduate at the time, emailed to say a piece of advice we’d shared in a tone of voice workshop – simply to remember that there is no B2B and B2C, only human to human – had gone on to influence a presentation she’d made to a business partner. The presentation had gone well. So well in fact she’d been offered the chance to join the other company. She told us, in language alive with delight, that she would soon be starting a new job and new life with her family on a continent far away.
Words matter. They can help us to connect with people, to grow relationships with them, and to reveal or create new opportunities, in business and in life. But how?
Curious to know what makes language effective – especially in the world of business and brand – we looked back at and analysed our most successful projects. We also reconnected with some of the many hundreds of people we’ve trained over the years. Staff at all levels of organisations we’ve sat with, taught writing techniques to, and supported to become more confident, happy and skilled writers. If they could pass on their own advice from a newfound love of working with words, what would that advice be?
The A-Z in your hands reveals the findings: things we noticed, and things we heard. It shines a light on those tools, beliefs and attitudes that affect how an organisation and its people use language, behave as a result, and are later perceived, both inside and outside the office.
Much of what we found surprised us. Instead of lots of tips on better craft, a great deal of the advice you’ll find here is about approach. Trade secrets on how to prepare for a language project, to win over doubters, to inspire colleagues, and to manage things towards success. Of course there’s also advice on how to improve your writing practice. What use an A-Z of better brand language without that?
This book’s for you if you work in a creative agency and write, or manage someone who does. Perhaps you’re a junior copywriter low on confidence, a graphic designer feeling out of their depth when asked to come up with copy, or a creative director looking to spark their team with new ideas. Equally, if you’re a small business owner curious to know how language can help your brand, or a chief exec at a global firm determined to improve your company’s most crucial messaging, we’re confident there’s plenty to inspire you too.
For each letter of the alphabet, we’ve also created a brand language exercise so you can put what you learn into practice straightaway. There’s no right or wrong response – just give them a go. We hope each stretches and rewards you.
Right, it’s time to join us in the wonderful world of brand language. Are you ready?
For fresh approaches, tips and language exercises to try today, treat yourself to the A-Z of better brand language. Right over here.