Since the dawn of modern civilisation, language and storytelling have shaped our societies. Yet, the creative industries have often been guilty of worshipping the image above all else, leaving copy as the poor relation – our industry’s Cinderella.
However, a brand’s verbal identity is increasingly recognised as being just as important, if not more so, than its visual identity.
Many people describe human media as the new marketing opportunity. But of course it’s always been there; a recommendation, a quiet word, a fireside chat. Words have the power to drive a brand’s fortune. From Gandhi and Martin Luther King to your favourite teacher, we all know that the right words have the power to change the world.
The image-driven status quo is being disrupted by the onslaught of new technology. Gone are the Mad Men days when agencies could lounge in leather chairs, plucking insights out of the air and then pushing their message out to the masses.
As media channels continue to evolve and multiply, the push focus is no longer effective. Consumers’ real-time interaction with brands has never been greater. Pull is the new push. And you have to make people care to make them share. Word-of-mouth, social media and peer-to-peer initiatives are all vital means of communication, yet they are often left to the intern.
In this rapid-fire online world, how brands deploy language is often overlooked. A brand needs a clear and compelling vocabulary; one that ‘pattern matches’ the psychology of its target audience. Only when you truly understand people – how they think, what they believe, why they do what they do – can you find the right words to motivate and inspire them.
Our increasingly mobile world has created a new tipping point where owned and earned media are now more important than paid media. To keep up, we must move the conversation from visual identity to verbal identity. From passive reception to active and meaningful engagement.
A one-on-one interaction in-store can be more impactful, both psychologically and behaviourally, than any form of traditional advertising. Just think of your recent Apple retail experience. But how often do we, as marketers, design and control the messaging for our human touchpoints to the same degree as our broadcast channels? The call centre script is, in reality, as important – if not more important – than the TV script.
So, how do you use psychology to harness the power of words? By deeply analysing your audience. By making applied psychology an essential part of the marketing mix. By fusing the science and the creativity. And by replacing “I think” and “I believe” with “I assess based on the evidence”.
The new global success stories will blur the line between data-driven insight and verbal communication. Amazon, eBay and Apple are just the start. Brands that convert information into usable intelligence will find new ways to drive conversations, relevance and resonance.
Product factories will become story factories. Touchpoints will become talkpoints. Employees will become amplifiers. This is not business as usual – it’s business unusual. And it’s time to get on board.
In the age of perfect knowledge and constant conversations, verbal branding is king.
It’s no longer about what success looks like; it’s about what it sounds like.
By Alex Van Gestel, CEO, Verbalisation