#TOV – Mind your language! Wednesday 20th October

by Stratton Craig

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On Wednesday, along with our Further friends, we managed to gather top communicators from the likes of Virgin, Barclays and Macmillan Cancer Support together in one room to discuss brand language.

Led by James Beveridge (Further), Stephen Fitzmaurice (Clifford Chance), Michael Wolff (founding partner of Wolff Olins) and Alastair Herbert (Linguabrand), the discussion inevitably generated some fascinating thoughts.

Alastair kicked off with an overview as to what forms brand language and how it can be measured. Exploring the notion of ‘words as assets’ he spoke about the importance of verbal identity rather than just concentrating on the visual.

Stephen went on to discuss the challenge of controlling the use of language in a corporate context – expressing his firm belief that content is the value proposition.

Michael Wolff then rounded everything off with his concerns as to how anything about a brand can be controlled when brands are defined by the perceptions of the people that come into contact with them.

When the discussion was opened up to the floor, some interesting questions were raised. Here are some of the nuggets of wisdom we picked up throughout:

• Verbal identity is where visual identity was 40 years ago – we’re not using it effectively
• The game change for language is undoubtedly the digital world
• Don’t rely too heavily on the style guide – sharing best practice and educational programmes are necessary too. If the individuals in the company are brand ambassadors, they’ll do a good job of expressing your brand
• Very few companies ask themselves ‘what is the point?’ Rather than asking companies what they do, ask them ‘what are you for?’ And if companies know what they are for, the potential for language to flow will be there
• The inspiration for brand language is actually listening to people… listening to your customers
• There has been a fundamental shift from brand messages to conversation
• Think of your multiple audiences around a dinner table – the thing that keeps the conversation going is you… and you have to be yourself

If you’d like to be sent a link to a video of the conference please email Harriette Hobbs ([email protected]).

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