Have you overlooked this key element in your marketing?

When it comes to your brand, your voice is just as important as your look.

When it comes to your brand, your voice is just as important as your look.

One day, while visiting a friend in a prominent NYC hospital, I noticed a brochure rack, and stopped to take a gander. One particular piece caught my eye.

It was stunning. Dark, with professionally taken, high-tech photos and gorgeous typography. The print quality was first rate. I was impressed, until I read it…

The Blah-Blah Center is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. It is under the direction of Dr. Whatchamacallit. Please do not eat 12 hours before coming to the center for your procedure. It is located on the second floor…

What happened here? An obvious mismatch between design and copy, but worse, a half-hearted representation of that organization’s prestigious brand.

Let’s break down the disconnect…

The design said: We’re incredibly advanced; an excellent choice for your treatment. You can feel confident here.

The copy said: We’re strict, cold, clinical and more concerned about rules and logistics than caring for you.

Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common ailment in branding… especially now in the perpetual explosion of social media. You have the visual aspects of a brand—logos, colors, type treatment and the like—that’s unwavering in its consistency. Then, you read the copy. The Facebook wall sounds like one person wrote it. The brochures sound like they came from an agency. The Tweets seem like they’re coming from the CEO’s nephew.

In this highly visual age, it’s easy (and important) to focus on visual elements. But many of us forget just how big a role copy plays in expressing our brands.

For a great example of brand-driven copy… take a look at direct merchant Land’s End. They offer a powerful lesson in how copy helps create an unshakable brand.

The next time you get a Land’s End catalog or poke around their site, give it a good read. Every bit of copy in those pages—headlines, descriptor copy, and even the occasional article—forwards the brand’s essence. That is: well made, reasonably priced, attractive merchandise. The tone is casual, informative, smart, and incredibly consistent.

Is your copy working that hard for you?

Now, ironically, I’d like to share a graphic with you about copy. It’s called a Copy Spectrum. It’s a quick visual guide that helps you choose where your brand’s voice needs to be. Check it out…

Copy spectrum

 

 

 

Our agency works with a lot of different types of companies. Some come to us to create their brands, others have one established and we help carry it out. Almost every brand standards book I’ve read has some sort of guideline on copy, but it usually goes like this…

Make sure copy is crisp and clear. Use only as many words as you need, nothing more. Always check for accuracy. The copy should be very readable and reader friendly.

REALLY? As opposed to “be muddy, acutely anti-reader and loaded with unsubstantiated claims”? This isn’t brand guidance; it’s writing 101. Something like this would be much more helpful…

At BRAND Company, we’re excited to bring our innovative products to people, and our words reflect that. We are refreshingly open, direct and enthusiastic—like someone telling a friend about a great product they’ve found for them. Our words and voice continually connect the benefits of our products to solving our audience’s issues. To achieve this, we use first and second person (I, we, us, you)…

See?

When it comes to your brand, a word is worth 1,000 pictures. When you’re reviewing copy, or writing it, dig deep into your brand. Get to the core of it, and let that guide you in finding the right words, phrases and tone to express it. Granted, it’s no easy task. But its dividends, especially over time, will pay off… as you create a distinctive voice in the market. Your voice.

– Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group.

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