How a brand’s verbal identity creates its future.

It was 2am and my roller-coasting chocolate and caffeine levels had finally leveled out. I’d entered a trance-like state and the pitch document was going well.

I needed to express our higher ambitions for what a brand’s verbal identity can do.   I wanted to explain why a brand’s verbal identity means more than just getting the words right for the external audience. What did it do for the internal audience?
I looked at the screen. The following words appeared,
“A verbal identity creates a vision of the future that once stated and often repeated becomes truth.” 

It sounded great and I intuitively knew it to be true. But why? How?

The next day, I  sent off the pitch document, then called on my great new friend Emmet O Briain from Quiddity in Ireland. Emmet is a socio-linguist and we had a great dialogue, sharing our knowledge and constructing some answers.

We’ve written up the dialogue as a Powerpoint to be shared with the world on Slideshare. But if you’d like to download a copy in pdf format, it’s here: the verbal identity of shared meaning

In four steps, here’s the How and the Why:
We use language to express our thoughts to each other.
But we choose our words for their subtle attachments of meaning and so the words we use reflect our world view.
In a group, the group reuses certain words to affirm the group’s sense of identity – and purpose.
If we change the words a group uses, we can change how it identifies itself – and how it sees its purpose.

The police are the obvious group who use language to construct a shared view of the world.
Doctors do it.
I’m sure birds and bees do it.

I think this is the single most powerful statement of why a verbal identity is essential for a brand.
When the verbal identity of  a brand captures the truth of both the brand’s purpose and the world it lives in, it conjures a vision of the future.
If the verbal identity is also persuasively written, that vision of the future is shared often and soon becomes the inevitable truth.

Of course, there’s nothing new and once I’d discussed it with Emmet, I remembered my time at Saatchi’s. There, the story behind BA’s slogan “The World’s Favourite Airline” was that British Airways certainly wasn’t the World’s Favourite at the start of the campaign, but the line gave everyone something to create together. And sure enough, it was the World’s Favourite by the end of the campaign.

There’s more from the wonderful Emmet at his website, here Quiddity

I’d  love to continue the dialogue around the roles of the verbal identity. What are your thoughts?

Chris