Language is ubiquitous in communication – yet rarely used for brand communication. Many people only see language as a vehicle to dispense information: attributes, benefits, special product and service features, maybe a little bit of the brand mindset. But this is precisely where it starts. It’s practically impossible to convey a mindset or attitude through the meanings of words. Instead, it is reflected in the inflexion, style and nuances.
If a brand describes itself as »approachable« but describes its offerings in a distanced, technical tone, the »approachable« brand value isn’t brought to life. Rather than being believable, it remains a mere allegation.
Based on the brand values
This is where the brand language – or, as it’s commonly called, the tone of voice – comes into play. What is so special about it? We develop language principles that are semantically derived from the brand core. This is necessary because the brand values themselves rarely indicate the direction that the language should take.
Let’s look at »future-oriented«, for example. What does this mean for language? There are a number of different ways that we could express »future-oriented«, such as »modern«, »uncomplicated«, »flexible«, »young«, »web-ready«, »straightforward«, etc. This cluster of terms is then summarised to become a language principle in line with the overall brand concept.
As you see, there is not a universal formula for »translating« the brand values into language. It’s essential that the brand language be developed in line with the actual communication – and in close collaboration with the professionals who work with it on a daily basis. Otherwise, it seems artificially imposed and empty.
This is why we analyse all available channels in detail and conduct a kind of linguistic diagnosis. The status quo always provides us with the starting point for a new or updated brand language. Thus, there aren’t any pre‑defined instructions for language. Universal guidelines such as »short, clear sentences« or »avoid using the subjunctive« may apply in practically every case but are not sufficient when defining a truly customised brand language.
an effective companion
The brand language is a practical set of guidelines that gives people who work with the brand important points on how it should come across and feel in communication. It should include specific, easy‑to‑understand examples from real‑life applications: sample copy and carefully researched Don’ts, specifications for different fields such as press releases and social media, naming conventions, glossaries and an appendix containing best practices.
It should be a fairly compact document to ensure that people actually read it – but also to ensure that it effectively reflects the spirit of the brand. Most importantly: The brand language guidelines should be written using the corresponding tone of voice.
When working on a brand language, a welcome side effect often emerges: In addition to defining the tone of voice, it is immediately applied in pending projects and media – whether it’s a flyer, website copy, an image campaign or an overarching headline concept. We implement the brand language or support other agencies in its execution. As a result, best practices are created in specific, purposeful media where communication is needed – not in a vacuum.
A carefully constructed brand language expresses the brand in every piece of information.
Two examples from
brand language guidelines
Cooperative communication takes place
at eye level. It is personal and friendly,
yet clear, uninhibited and unobtrusive.
This means seeking a dialogue and
aligning your content with each
situation and the audience’s interests.
Inspired communication is always in-
spiring language that moves people.
It is vibrant, modern and full of variety,
never artificial or stereotypical. Inspired
language is clear and specific, but
always opens up new perspectives.
Vague expressions and generalisations
are the opposite.
Bold communication is open, direct,
self-confident and even unconventional.
It’s never evasive or noncommittal, but
also not arrogant or boastful. Bold
communication is based on strong
facts and arguments and sounds like an
Speaking personally means
saying something that really
means something to others.
Try to put yourself in the
customer’s shoes and be
approachable. Think about
what interests them and
how they benefit from our
»XXXXXXX has been in the business for
30 years and has extensive international
> This information does not resonate with the reader
»We have many years of international
experience, which make us the ideal
partner to source fuel for your airline.«