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The Power of Words: How Language Shapes Your Brand Identity

You know how you immediately pick up on someone's mood just from the way they text "okay"? From the excited okie-dokie and neutral ok all the way down to the dreaded K (bonus anger points if followed by a full stop), the language people choose instantly reveals more than the word itself.

The same goes for business. While the logo and brand colors you choose play a huge part in how your brand is perceived, design is not all there is to it. When it comes to brand identity, language has the ability to convey meaning, create connections, and inspire action.

The words you choose have the power to either captivate or alienate your audience. And if you don't choose those words wisely, there's no design in the world that can save you.

How brand language impacts your brand identity

Brand language refers to the unique voice, tone, and messaging style that a brand uses to communicate with its audience. It is an essential aspect of branding because it helps to define and distinguish a brand's identity in the market. In simpler terms, language is what gives your brand a personality and shapes how your target audience perveices your brand.

What makes up brand language?

Brand language is made up from three components, all of which are equally important. These are the voice, tone, and messaging style.

Your brand voice refers to the personality and style you use to communicate with your audience. This includes everything from word choice, sentence structure, and even punctuation. Voice is a part of your brand language that gets developed over time. It needs to stay consistent, otherwise you risk confusing your audience (and your marketing team).

For example, a brand whose target audience are athletes would have a completely different voice than a luxury product company. Where the first one would choose short, punchy sentence structure, the second would choose to get more descriptive to convey exclusivity and sophistication.

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The second, but no less important component of brand language is the tone. Tone refers to the emotional quality or attitude conveyed through words. It's what sets the mood for how a message is delivered and received. As opposed to voice, your tone will vary depending on the platform you're using, the target audience, and the outcome you're hoping for.

Take, for example, different communication channels you use to interact with your audience. Your tone might be more informal in social media posts and more authoritative and professional in customer service interactions.

Last, but not least, there's your messaging style. Messaging style includes not only what you say, but also how you say it. Whether it's informative, persuasive, or emotional, your messaging style should align with your overall branding strategy and target audience preferences.

Choosing the right words for your brand

Besides communicating your message and values, brand language can set you apart from competitors. That's why choosing the right words to represent your brand starts with defining your brand's personality.

The easiest way to do this is to think of your brand as a human. If it were a person, which traits, characteristics, and qualities would it have? How would other people perceive its personality? Most importantly, how do you want your target audience to perceive it?

For example, if you are a fun and playful brand targeting millennials, your language should be informal and witty. On the other hand, if you are a luxury brand catering to high-end clients, your language should be sophisticated and refined.

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Once you've got your brand's personality down, you can start choosing the words to represent it. Start by brainstorming a list of adjectives that describe your brand's personality - and the ones that your brand is definitely not. Then, think about how these traits can be reflected in the language you use.

Do you want to sound professional or casual? Serious or humorous? The tone of voice should align with both your target audience and overall strategy.

Applying your brand language to your messaging

Now that you've got your brand language defined, it's time for the hard part: using it in all communication with your audience. This includes everything from social media, marketing communications, and customer service, all the way down to internal communications.

If that sounds like a lot of consistency that needs to be nailed down, that's because it is. To make sure your entire team is on the same page, you'll need to set a standard everyone should aim for.

Start by introducing guidelines

Showing is always better than telling, so start by documenting your brand language guidelines. That list of adjectives your brand is and definitely is not? Include it. For good measure, describe what you mean in a sentence or two to eliminate potential confusion.

Your stance on using informal language, industry jargon, or humor  and to which degree? Include that as well. How do you address controversial topics, if at all? What's your view on using sarcasm? Are there phrases or words you want to avoid altogether?

Taking the time to really think about your brand language pays off in the long run. It helps you establish boundaries on the type of content that's (un)acceptable under your brand name.

Be picky

Grammar is like a tooth - you don't notice it until it's bad. And just as a neglected tooth can ruin your day, poor grammar can take attention away from your message and undermine your credibility.

Once you've set communication and language standards, documented them, and made everyone aware, you have to stick to them. Be a perfectionist, be picky, and insist on flawless execution of your brand language guidelines. There's no excuse for typos, spelling mistakes, and poor grammar.

Adapt to different platforms

Maintaining consistency in brand language doesn't mean you should throw all flexibility out the window. The trick is in adapting to each platform while still maintaining the integrity of your brand language.

For example, social media platforms are inherently casual places where people expect informal, conversational content. You can use this to your advantage by making your brand language more casual and playful.

That said, posting a meme on Instagram and putting one into the hero section of your website are two very different things. Your marketing materials might require a more professional tone. Sometimes, you'll have to use industry jargon to establish yourself as a great partner for your clients.

Just as the language you use every day, brand language needs to be flexible and consistent at the same time. You have to take context, place, and time into account. Otherwise, you risk coming off either as too formal or not serious enough.

Brand language examples you'll want to copy

Well, maybe not copy, but at least get inspired by. Since the best way of explaining language is seeing it in action, here are a few examples of brands that know how to make an impression.

1. Nike

Nike has been using their iconic tagline "Just Do It" since 1988, and it has become synonymous with their brand. This simple phrase encapsulates Nike's brand message perfectly – pushing boundaries, overcoming obstacles, and achieving greatness. By using their slogan to speak to the customer directly, they've created a personal connection that inspires customers to take action towards their goals.

nike brand messaging

2. Apple

Apple's famous slogan "Think Different" reflects the company's values of innovation and creativity. With this simple two-word phrase, they've positioned themselves as an innovative and unconventional brand.

By using positive connotations associated with the words they've used, Apple is appealing to customers' desire for individuality. Paired with the clean and simple design of their website, they've successfully used language to convey their brand's personality.

apple brand language

3. Surreal

Surreal is a UK cereal company that took the concept of not taking yourself too seriously, ran full circle with it, and then kept running. Their social media, website copy, and print ads are definitely going to catch your attention.

From the seemingly zero effort LinkedIn bio, fake celebrities ad campaign, and the social media team who "make the pictures, not the decisions", their brand language is instantly recognizable. Why? Because it's not what people are used to hearing from a company. 

Whether you get the joke or not, it doesn't matter - next time you see one of their ads, you'll know it's them immediately. Brand awareness? Check. Mission of making every day a little bit more playful? Check. Wanting to try the cereal just because they've made your day? Also check.

surreal social media brand language screenshot

Your brand has a voice, it's up to you to use it

Your brand is more than just a logo or a product – it's an entity with its own distinctive voice. This voice has the power to shape your brand identity and leave a lasting impression on your audience. But it's up to you to find the right tone, language, and messaging.

Words have the power to evoke emotions, create associations, and establish credibility. The way you communicate can make or break how people perceive your brand.

The language you use can set you apart from competitors or make you just another business out there. So, before you set goals of conquering the world with your amazing product or service, figure out the language part first.

Psst! Want to know all the secrets to writing winning proposals?

Take our interactive quiz and level up your proposal writing game. Real-time feedback and tips included!

Patricija Šobak's profile image
Patricija Šobak puts her talent in spotting questionable grammar and shady syntax to good use by writing about various business-related topics. Besides advocating the use of the Oxford comma, she also likes coffee, dogs, and video games. People find her ability to name classic rock songs only from the intro both shocking and impressive.