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Your verbal brand needs some love

The website says one thing. The salespeople say another. And the internal communications land somewhere in between. This personality disorder is not as uncommon as you might think in organizations.

As you can imagine, this lack of continuity can dilute the power of a brand, leaving the people you hope to engage feeling unsure of what the brand stands for. Worse yet, the dissonance it creates causes many of them to just give up on trying to figure out why they should care.

What’s interesting is that this doesn’t just happen with amateur branders. I see it with organizations that are consistent with their use of use of the logo, colors, images, etc. They look like they have their act together. That is until you hear them talk about themselves.

Your brand has two sides: the visual and the verbal. The visual side tends to get more attention when it comes to continuity. Most of the brand guidelines I see prove this out. They specify logo use, identify the accepted typefaces, and set the brand colors. These are the visual guidelines. Few go on to include verbal guidance for a brand.

While we can’t deny the impact of communicating visually, there is still a ton of communicating done using our words. When we ignore the verbal side of our brand, we end up with organizations that look pretty consistent but sound contradictory and confusing.

The trouble with the verbal brand is that it’s tougher to lock down. With the visual side, you can get pretty prescriptive with what you can and cannot do visually (not that it stopped one sales manager I worked with whose wannabe-designer tendencies had him putting a starburst around the logo so it would “pop” more.) Not everyone designs. But everyone writes and speaks. That creates more opportunities for the brand voice to become garbled. To protect against this, we should set out guidelines to help our verbal brand. These can include things like personality and tone. As well as recommendations on jargon, slang, and more. But guidelines are just the price to play.

Guidelines create the guardrails for your team members to stay consistent with the verbal brand. But let’s face it, guidelines do little to inspire. And if we want to take full advantage of the potential of the verbal brand, then we must go beyond just being consistent to inspiring our team members, and showing them how to use the verbal brand to inspire everyone they engage.

I work with organizations to clarify their purpose — or Big Audacious Meaning. This statement becomes the centerpiece of the Thrust Story Framework — a structure that demonstrates how the verbal brand comes to life in order to captivate and motivate those we hope to serve.

Using this process to set the verbal brand is powerful because it goes beyond simply providing guidelines. It fires up your team members. The brand becomes more than something they have to comply with. It becomes a story that ignites a passion in everyone who hears it. As you can imagine, that becomes something that team members eagerly embrace. They become evangelists who want to spread the story of our purpose.

That’s the kind of clarity, consistency, and passion that every brand aspires to. We can make it happen. We just need to give the verbal brand some love.

Dan is an expert brand strategist and author of the book Big Audacious Meaning — Unleashing Your Purpose-Driven Story. He is a founder at Will & Grail — a brand innovation company, helping organizations find their unique, undeniable and unshakable sense of purpose and create innovative experiences that bring it to life.

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Dan is an expert brand strategist and author of the book Big Audacious Meaning — Unleashing Your Purpose-Driven Story. He is a founder at Will & Grail.

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