How to perfect your brand language

The language a brand uses to describe its offer has a huge impact on whether consumers view them as the ‘best’ in their category.

Money Guru

Consumers are highly influenced by brand language and look to experts and recommendations rather than advertising on TV or social media when identifying the best brands to buy, according to new research.

The research of 2,000 UK and US consumers by agency Wunderman finds 85% of British consumers say there are only a handful of brands that set the standard for excellence across the market – a standard by which they judge all brands.

Eight in 10 say they prefer to buy from companies that are widely known as the ‘best’ brands. More than half of UK consumers prefer these brands because their products and services exceed expectations.

One of the ways brands can earn the right to be considered among the best, as well as differentiate themselves, is through ‘brand descriptors’, meaning the language they use has a vital impact on being viewed in this way.

For 67% of UK consumers, the phrase ‘tried and tested’ contributes greatly to a brand being seen as the best. This is followed by ‘consistent’ (59%) and ‘innovative’ (37%). Words such as ‘non-traditional’ (2%), ‘trendy’ (5%) and ‘ground breaking’ (7%) are less likely to make consumers think of a brand as the best.

the times hillary clinton

A focus and analysis on brand descriptors and the language used to communicate the brand to readers formed the basis of News UK’s campaign for The Times and The Sunday Times last year.

Working with behaviour change consultancy Verbalisation, the ‘Know Your Times’ campaign was based on an in-depth analysis of the language that resonated around the brand, specifically in times of political uncertainty.

We haven’t changed the paper, we haven’t become cheaper, we changed our creative and the way that we talk to our audience.

Catherine Newman, News UK

Despite readerships falling across much of news print media, the ‘Know Your Times’ campaign helped The Times buck industry trends by increasing yearly circulation by 43,000, an 11% boost, in November 2016.

“It was clear that [readers] see a difference in the kind of news available and associate a different value [with The Times and The Sunday Times],” says TImes Newspapers CMO Catherine Newman.The BBC keeps me informed but The Times and The Sunday Times keep me well informed.”

She adds: “We changed a lot of our language off the back of [the analysis]. With our subscriptions campaign we changed it to ‘Don’t Miss the Moments that Matter’, to follow the news agenda.”

This resulted in subscriptions going up 236% in this financial year versus last year. Newman says: “We haven’t changed the paper, we haven’t become cheaper, we changed our creative and the way that we talk to our audience.”

The way the product is described plays a huge part in the marketing strategy of challenger brand Falken Tyres – in 2016, it changed its strapline to ‘On The Pulse’ to inject more energy and show “a more human side” to the world of tyres.

The previous strapline, ‘Falken High Performance Tyres’, was used to tell people it was a tyre brand and set up the proposition but the company came to the decision to change the language in 2016 because of a stagnant European market.

The only way to grow is to take market share from competitors, so the brand aims to communicate the difference. Stephan Cimbal, head of marketing at Falken Tyre Europe, says: “Competitors are all communicating on quality, reliability and safety but for a challenger brand like Falken we don’t have 50 years to build a reputation.”

Cimbal says the brand identified “an area of communication that’s not used by competitors”. The brand wants to inject the feeling of excitement, experience, fun and emotion into its communications and aims to be “something like the Red Bull of the tyre industry: younger, dynamic, quicker and not so ‘business as usual’ like the others”.

Falken Tyres

He adds: “’On The Pulse’ leaves a lot of room for interpretation and gives us room to activate in different environments.” The brand takes part in Red Bull’s air race, is continuing its tie-up with motor sports, and is activating around football through LED boards, TV spots in games and sponsorship.

Consumers want to feel wanted

The Wunderman research also reveals that nearly one-in-three believe it is important for brands to show they care so that consumers feel more connected to the product or service – a quarter say it helps them justify their purchase.

“When a brand thinks about their marketing, they have to craft and understand the whole experience,” says Chris Daplyn, UK managing director at Wunderman. “We used to live in a traditional world of customer journeys but now there are multifaceted ways that consumers can engage with brands.”

Daplyn advises brands to use a more rounded data framework, taking into account cultural nuances, social mentions and primary research of how consumers feel and engage with the brand, to then craft an experience outside of just using behavioural data.

READ MORE: Behaviour versus demographics: Why the term ‘millennial’ is useless

He believes that the onus on language is about relevance. Daplyn says: “We talk about relevance, not just personalisation. It’s one thing to say, ‘Hi John’, but another thing to create a relevant experience on the consumers’ terms.”

For newly-launched comparison site MoneyGuru, the brand is centred on the tone of voice of ‘the G’ – the character featured in its ad campaign – and aims to appeal to and engage with a younger consumer in a way that will suit their needs.

The brand does not want to communicate too broadly and risk confusing the customer so much that they will not see the key message, according to group marketing director, Anthony Wong.

He says: “People think about finance as a negative and a lot of people struggle with money – the tone we want to give is to stay positive and enable people to make positive changes and feel happy about the decisions they make in their life.”

Wong adds: “We wanted to create this [character] and website that has a helpful tone of voice and that’s easy to understand. We want to make things simple and hassle-free. Forget about financial jargon: clear, concise and colloquial.”

It is not just what a brand communicates but how it does so that has a bearing on whether it is classed as a ‘best’ brand.

The analysis shows that TV advertising, ads in newspapers or magazines, and social media are a low priority for consumers when identifying the best brands. Instead, UK shoppers look to analyst or expert reviews, while US consumers rely most on recommendations from family and friends.

The UK statistics show that 46% rely on analyst or expert reviews, followed by online reviews (39%), word-of-mouth (37%) and Google searches (26%). This compares to advertising on TV (11%), a blog (11%), content on social media sites (5%) and advertising on social media (3%).

Consumers are also more likely to trust sources that are independent from the company providing the service or product.

Daplyn at Wunderman believes that brands know they need to move away from just advertising and that peer-to-peer marketing is as important.

He says: “Brands have always known it, now they’re having to do something about it. It is about creating the best experience that they can, realising that the onus is on them to create that experience.”

Daplyn adds: “It has always been accepted but now brands have the tools to act on it and craft an experience that is going to be best in class – brands have a role in the quality of those reviews.“