How something is said carries important cues to interpreting its true meaning. Words matter, of course, but so does style, tone, flavor. It’s almost always the case that strong brands have strong voices, from the brand name and tagline right down to the thank-you note printed on a customer receipt.
Names and Taglines
An organization’s name establishes its most overt identity. Beyond that, a strong name also provides excellent raw material for a strong graphic identity.
An average name won’t completely limit the prospects for an organization’s graphic identity, but working with a great name can solve half the problem. When paired with a clear graphic device, names that suggest something beyond their literal meanings create some of the most evocative identities. An organization with a great name is an obvious candidate for a word mark. It may make sense to show off the name, keeping any embellishment subordinate rather than layering in meaning with additional graphic elements. A clear, strong name and straightforward type treatment wield surprising power.
Increasingly, organizations are choosing to emphasize separate taglines to help carve out their identity and enhance their positioning. Successful taglines often play off the name, augmenting its meaning. Rebranding initiatives often employ a new tagline when reshaping an organization’s identity is the goal, but changing the name is not an option.
What do product and service names, taglines, headlines, body copy, captions, and sidebars have in common? If you hope to build a successful identity program, let’s hope you answered “editorial style.” Successful identity programs use a consistent editorial style that addresses their intended audience and remains cognizant of their brand positioning.
Just as a graphic identity sets a visual tone for identity programs, names and taglines set the tone for the program’s editorial style. A name that underscores an organization’s solid foundation of dependability might lead more naturally into an editorial style that echoes themes of tradition, stability, and trust. On the other hand, an irreverent name or tagline builds an expectation for fun and playfulness in the minds of readers, which should be played out in the editorial style.
Details strengthen identity programs, but programs too often fail to define and pursue an appropriate editorial style across all program literature. If a company could swap out its competitor’s website copy for its own without the audience noticing the change, that company has missed an opportunity to differentiate itself.
An organization’s name, tagline, and editorial style add up to an important reflection of its brand identity—its voice. As these elements are being developed, consider how the words would sound in the mouth of a brand spokesperson.
It’s an easy way to personalize the brand voice, and whether or not they use a spokesperson, successful brands have an acute awareness of their voice.
As with all other aspects of brand positioning, when developing a brand voice, look for a different path than the one followed by the competition. If the voice of a company’s top competitor sounds slick and technologically savvy, that company might want to consider adopting a friendlier, more approachable voice.