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If there is one thing brands have to do in this day and age, it is to make themselves unique and, above all, recognisable. Most of the time, this is attempted primarily through design. Too often, language is forgotten in the process. Yet it is one of the most important and versatile design tools in brand management. A clearly defined and good brand language should therefore be a “must” for brands.

By Gina Block, GMK Markenberatung.

Why do brands need a brand language?

Brand language can – sometimes even more than visual design – shape and form the brand and anchor it in the minds of consumers. It helps to determine how a brand is perceived. Language directly conveys characteristics and emotions. Through strong verbal communication, companies can express their brand values clearly and precisely, take a stand and position themselves. Certain sentences or even individual words can become a trademark. The main focus here is that the brand language is stringently developed from the brand positioning. Only then does it interact organically with the other brand disciplines and the brand succeeds in a consistent and holistic appearance. Ideally, the brand language and the corporate design work hand in hand – and thus increase the uniqueness of the brand presence.

Instagram screenshot © the.nu.company

This is especially true for digital channels. Content marketing in the form of blogs or social media channels is usually part of the standard repertoire for brands today. Anyone who uses standard language here will be lost in the social media stream. With a concise choice of words and a narrative that fits the brand, the brand is given its own voice at this point. An excellent example of this is “The Nu Company”. Through a clearly defined and bold tonality as well as the choice of short and concise statements, the brand has made a name for itself on social media – because the Nu Company has found “its” voice.

In addition to the right choice of words and a concise narrative, there is another important topic that should not be ignored in any brand language: search engine optimisation (SEO). The most beautiful and brand-typical text will not be read if it is not found. In addition to words that are important for the brand, attention should also be paid to which keywords make sense. How texts can be prepared in a readable, search engine-relevant and SEO-compliant manner with all the brand optimisation. This requires a little skill, but can certainly be reconciled.

Smart Speaker as the audible voice of the brand

A central medium of digitalisation and at the same time one of brand language is the smart speaker. From Alexa to Google to Amazon – with a clearly defined brand language, companies themselves decide how their brand appears in consumers’ living rooms. Instead of the standard Alexa voice with standard phrases, brand values can be placed organically in the everyday life of end users and the personal voice of the brand remains in people’s minds.

Not all brand language is the same

But what makes a good brand language? Just having one is not enough. It must emphasise the brand values, support the character of the brand and appeal to the target group. First and foremost, a strong brand language needs a strong claim. If we say, for example, “Just do it” (Nike) or “think different” (Apple), almost everyone knows who we are talking about – without having heard the brand name. According to a study by Endmark and YouGov (available in German), 90 per cent of the respondents also stated that the claims for the brands basically convey a positive message for them – a claim can therefore make users feel positive about a brand.

In addition to claim and tonality, keywords can shape the brand language and also offer versatile application possibilities. Milka, for example, has defined the term “tender” (“zart”) as a keyword and uses this word with high frequency and in a wide variety of messages:

Harte Beats mit zarter Botschaft: Milka kooperiert mit Nimo
Hard beats with a tender message: Milka cooperates with rapper Nimo. Image: Mondelez Deutschland
Egal, was du magst - Hauptsache zart!
Milka celebrates the diversity of its chocolate. Image: Mondelez Deutschland

What makes for good brand language?

Good brand language is not something you just do. It should be well thought out, fulfil certain parameters and function in the long term. A good brand language includes …

  • … to focus on a central theme or the central core messages in communication.
  • … develop a unique and memorable claim.
  • … choose selected key words which, through their frequent use, will eventually become part of the brand.
  • … pursue a tonality that is typical of the brand.
  • … use language to trigger emotions in the end users and work with them.

A brand language is a win-win for everyone

Brand language is an asset for brands in every respect. It strengthens the brand from within, supports its own copywriters with clear definitions and paints a clear linguistic picture to the outside world. It can also be used to brief agencies, freelancers or the press much better and steer them in the right direction. It is important that the brand language is trained in the company and that all employees know how the brand speaks and sounds.

The fact that many brands still do not pay enough attention to brand language is a missed opportunity. Those who seize this opportunity now and position themselves with a well thought-out, unique and functioning brand language can stand out from the competition, win loyal end users and communicate their own brand values unambiguously.

The German Brand Awards 2022

Outstanding brand work deserves to be recognised. Companies, agencies, service providers and marketers from all industries worldwide can apply for the German Brand Award 2022. Presented by the German Design Council and the German Brand Institute, the award honours the most innovative brands and best strategies for consistent brand management and sustainable brand communication.

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