power of words

One of the biggest challenges brands face is determining how to speak in a way that is unique, relevant to their audiences, and expresses their core brand values. While we tend to experience a brand primarily through our eyes, a brand is more than a design system. This blog entry outlines five key success factors to help you create a strong brand language that is just as powerful as visual imagery.

Messaging – that which communicates the values and key differentiators of a brand – is an often-neglected side of branding, yet remains one of the most powerful tools of expression. How well do you know your own story? How well do you know your audience? A strong messaging strategy is the result of communicating the answers to these questions in a unique way.

It happens time and again: a company spends time and resources developing a strategic visual identity system, but no effort on how to communicate the brand to its audiences. Would Nike be Nike without the “Just Do It” slogan?

A lost opportunity occurs when messaging is left out of the equation. Because a brand is a collection of perceptions (all things visual and verbal), words should reflect the true nature of an organization and what makes the organization distinctive.

10,000 songs in your pocket

Take for example, Apple’s “10,000 songs in your pocket” campaign. This campaign used messaging focused on benefits versus product features. How likely would you be to remember the campaign if Apple had instead communicated the product feature as the main message: “4.86” tall by 2.31” wide, offering 32 GB of storage”?

While product information is relevant and important, messages that communicate customer benefits are much more likely to resonate with audiences, and offer a better platform to express your brand personality.

brand storytelling

Owning a brand voice, or the unique tone and style of a company’s communications, is an important part of brand development. Specialty grocer Trader Joe’s has succeeded with implementing a distinct brand voice. Trader Joe’s is often referred to as “a store of stories” because each one of its more than 4,000 SKUs has an interesting name and messaging concept, which allows the store to communicate with consumers in a playful way.

Trader Joe’s is one of the strongest brands in its category, partly due to the fact they have a strong brand voice and:

  • Know who they are: a neighborhood grocery store that offers high-quality and innovative foods with efficient prices;
  • Know whom they sell to: people who love efficient prices;
  • Know why they are different: combines low prices with healthy and innovative foods in high qualities, and creating unique and fun shopping experiences; and
  • Know their brand personality: Trader Joe’s is like a vacation, is friendly, and loves hanging out.

Because Trader Joe’s has a deep and consistent understanding of its customer culture and needs, it can easily position itself as different from competitors using unique messaging strategies. Trader Joe’s use both a verbal and visual branding to communicate its messages in a way that is playful, fun and unique.



01 Build from the brand
Your brand language should reflect who you are as an organization and work in harmony with your brand strategy.

02 Know what you sell
How are you different from your competitors? The key to creating meaningful content is being able to differentiate your brand from other companies in a way that is relevant to the needs of your audience.

03 Know why it matters
Why should people care? Focus on your target audience and develop messaging that solves a need. Don’t simply list product features. Think about why your customer should care about your brand from an emotional perspective – what void does your brand fill?

04 Know how to say it
To be successful, a brand voice must be ownable, consistent and credible. Therefore, the voice and tone of your brand should be carefully determined with your audience in mind. Being overly casual and playful may be suitable for some brands, but not for others.

05 Practice makes perfect
Crafting and curating meaningful content that is on-brand isn’t easy, and involves a bit of trial and error. Messaging guidelines, brand trainings, and brand toolkits are all tools that can aid you in delivering a message that is unique, relevant and differentiated.

Click here to read more and download the white paper.

We’d love to hear from you. What brands have great voices? What are other success factors for building brand language?


Molly Davis is a Communication Strategist at MetaDesign San Francisco.

About Molly Davis Lind

Just be.

6 Responses

  1. Great article. In regard to focus on benefits rather than features, as a consumer I totally agree that this strategy works (for me). Adobe comes to my mind. Every new release is packaged within gum watering new features as a selling point rather than software specs.

  2. Phil

    Businesses constantly underestimate how difficult it is to describe what they do and formulate a brand message – me included! Good stuff!

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