Chris showcases what a well-developed brand voice can achieve for a business.
In dynamic growth businesses, marketing is happening in more channels at a greater velocity than ever before. How do you ensure your communication remains consistently on-brand but flexes to suit these different moments and channels? Chris West says the key is to develop your brand voice and use strong language to get your message heard.
He joined the What’s Possible Community to highlight how brands should have complete control over their brand voice, no matter the channel they are speaking to their customers through.
“If you do get the brand voice right, you’ve got this huge opportunity to outperform and outthink your competition without trying to outspend them,” Chris said.
Chris is the Founding Partner of Verbal Identity, a strategy agency specialising in the power of language. He has also authored the book on developing brand voice: Strong Language: The Fastest, Smartest, Cheapest Marketing Tool You’re Not Using.
Chris suggests brands can use their strong voices to affect change, which customers will reward. He pointed to the case study of Rude Health and Oatly. Both are oat milk brands hoping to attract health-conscious customers. However, the former’s business achieved a valuation of £70 million, whereas the latter was valued at $13 billion.
Chris says the language Oatly used to confront the dairy industry, and its impact on climate change won them far more customers. With such a strong voice and positioning, they could win customers who felt the same way.
“Language added that value. It was the thinking behind the language. The language on the package was calling out the dairy industry. Language is great at breaking a category open; it’s a secret weapon,” Chris explained.
He says that language can make all the difference; language becomes a brand asset. And it can be beneficial for marketers who are working on modest budgets.
There are more media channels than ever before. There is more competition in the market. And customers expect a dialogue with brands on societal issues they find important.
Chris says brands that fail to hold positions on things like Black Lives Matter or climate change will suffer against those who do.
“If a brand doesn’t have a voice. It can’t speak up,” Chris says. “There is a sense that a brand must be always-on. You can’t turn off communications”.
Chris estimates that the marketing lead, CMO, or brand director of a midsize business will have to produce more words tomorrow than the editor of the Guardian will have to put in tomorrow’s newspaper.
Chris maintains that developing your brand voice to be flexible and knowing what language to turn up or turn down on specific channels and in different situations is also essential. Building a framework for an entire business’s language is imperative to ensure everyone is singing off the same hymn sheet in a company.
Chris says brand owners can measure how strong their brand voice is by conducting an experiment. He suggests providing teams with copy the business has written, covering up the logo, and asking the team: “Who wrote that?”
“And if it’s not obviously you, then you’re spending time, you’re spending money, you’re using up people’s days, creating a brand voice which isn’t doing its job,” Chris explains.
The best brand voices grab attention and make an impact quickly. Chris recommends writing as if the readers/customers are walking away.
“Most of us don’t have time. We’re thinking of twenty things. If an email comes in now, who’s got time to read it? Write like they’re walking away. If you’ve got something powerful to say, say it upfront,” Chris said.
In his newsletters and blogs, Chris takes a magnifying glass to some of the best and worst uses of language in the world today. He recently commented on the passive-aggressive language Jacob Rees-Mogg used in the notes he left in the office for members of the civil service who were working from home. Read his blog about it by clicking here.