Verbal Identity’s Friday guest blogger: Tracy Mitchell.

tracy mitchell verbal identity copywriterTracy Mitchell, guest blogging for Verbal Identity (during a light cross breeze)

It’s that moment when you need to try out as many different possible narratives and for the brand. A new verbal identity will spring from each.

But how do you find an authentic voice, one that says what’s on offer – in an appealing way?

For me, I have to know exactly what ingredients there are to work with. It’s an almost unending series of questions.

What’s in this product?

How it’s made?

Why’s it different?

What exactly does it do?

What’s in its past?

What are the ambitions for its future?

And there are about a hundred more I ask.

My best piece of advice in the questioning phase is, pay attention to the stakeholders’ hunches. Miss out someone’s pet theory now, and you’ll only have to develop it later.

(I remember a very clever, but very blokey, client on a skincare project. He was convinced that the metaphor of a sagging sofa was a great way to talk to women about the benefits of a new firming and lifting treatment. I squirmed.

I gently suggested that it was maybe a touch brutal, not very aspirational.

He insisted. I wrote it. Women hated it.

But at least that settled it once and for all.)

Then, the fun begins. I try and build as many discrete, coherent stories as possible. Each must have its own internal logic and credibility, and be true to a particular personality. This is my chance to play with language and plant ideas, words and phrases that can come to define a product’s unique identity.

I always say create as wide a spectrum of positionings as possible.

Wander off into the absurd. Dig around in the sublime. Adopt multiple personalities.

One tip for when you’re stuck: starting with well-known personalities and then pretending they are the product can help: is this the Jamie or the Heston or the Nigella of coffee?

There are two principles I maintain throughout all this.

  1. Suspend judgement. Do the best job for each option and only then see how they play out.
  2. Try not to get swept up in internal priorities.  I always keep asking; “What exactly is the benefit here?

At the end of the day (or halfway round Tesco’s at ten to eleven on a rainy night after a rubbish day at work and with two children snivelling at home and a husband calling up to ask you what trousers he should wear tomorrow) the voice of the product has to cut through.

It has to say what consumers want to hear. It must meet a need and express a truth.

All with a distinct, singular and unconfused personality that they can warm to.


Tracy Mitchell is a freelance copywriter with a strong strategic bent, who started her career in advertising then jumped sideways into brand consultancy. She works on all manner of innovation, positioning and communications challenges.