The Language of Meaningful Brands

“Actions speak louder than words.” This adage is at the core of our beliefs about great branding. As we say, our most valuable contribution to a brand’s strategy is nothing but a set of words until the brand and its people act upon them.

Indeed, we believe success is only achieved when a brand’s behavior, driven by a purposeful promise, leads to new meaningful outcomes.

Of course, language is part of behavior. What brands and their people say is important for the creation of meaningful outcomes. As such, the move toward a more meaningful brand presence invariably calls for new language. In addition to a new, more human tone, new words and phrases become part of the brand’s vocabulary.

We encourage our clients to rewrite their sales and marketing content to incorporate more of the meaningful outcomes that flow from features and benefits. This blending of the emotional and rational helps lift the brand’s dialog with people to a higher and more differentiated level.

This new way of talking also helps the brand rise above the common and predictable business-speak of its industry. When it surrounds many of the actions that lead to meaningful outcomes, this new way of speaking plays a vital supporting role in the transformation of the brand.

The SEO dilemma

The rise of search engine optimization has confused many people as they consider new brand language. This is because SEO, while a valuable metric system, relies on the notion of “key words”. That is, it centers on the words people use when searching for specific topics (including brands).

SEO is clearly only linked to the internet, yet because of its growing strength in the business culture, many people on brand teams tend to inappropriately view the essential tools within the brand platform through the SEO lens.

The essential problem is that SEO is reactive in the sense that it analyzes and quantifies the past search behavior of people, and hence, their relationship to a brand category. Brand strategy, on the other hand, is proactive and strives to generate new levels of appeal and desirability for the brand, as well as to create strong, deep, and enduring relationships with people.

To differentiate on an emotionally meaningful basis, it is necessary for brands to connect through language that isn’t driven by the common, and highly rational, facts of Internet search. Yet, too often, brand advisors are asked to strip away emotional language and only focus on the brand’s SEO key words (which, by definition, are generic and often identical to those used by competing brands).

We accept that SEO is a powerful internet marketing tool. But we don’t accept that key words can be the only brand language. Indeed, the challenge is to strike a balance between the rational and the emotional. Surely this can also be achieved within the realm of internet marketing.

If you wear the “SEO” hat as part of a brand team, remember that there’s a difference between the words used to capture and convey a strategy, and the words that will be used on your website. The words of the strategy are there to inform a broader evolution of the brand, across many channels and people.

There’s no need to compromise on what you believe is needed online, but there’s also no need to compromise the success of the brand by imposing “key words” thinking on the brand’s strategy.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

Ultimately, brands need to get people to feel something unique and special. That singular feeling will flow from a combination of factors, including the language used. Emotive language reaches deep within people. It helps them make their own emotional connection to the meaning that’s present. When the right language is absent, little or no unique meaning is generated.

Brands need to serve many masters. But too much can be lost in the pure pursuit of “hits”. Let’s all work together to ensure brand success by using the language that works best, given the tool that’s being built.


To read more about meaningful brands and how to differentiate your brand : B2B Brands Desperately Need Ways to Differentiate Themselves

Emotive Brand is a brand strategy firm.

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