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BRANDING LETTERS

Branding is at the very core of all communications and marketing efforts. This we all know. Companies and organizations of all sizes spend considerable effort and money in ensuring their branding sets them apart from the competition. They will most often enlist the help of specialized marketing and design firms to assist and guide them in this process, very often with remarkable results.

Their visual identity has a distinct personality, says something about who they are, what they stand for and what their core values are. This is indeed excellent.

Their advertising and promotional efforts very often reflect the core identity they wish and need to convey to their customer base. This is also quite excellent when well done.

Over the years as a design, advertising and brand strategist, I have helped clients from all walks of life with this. It’s actually quite easy to make a client understand the importance of showcasing its unique personality, selling proposition and DNA. After all, what could be more convincing for a client than to see for himself that his overall imagery is different than the others. It’s the very basis of what marketing is all about. To stand out in a very often overly-crowded field of similar offers.

While this all looks wonderful and terrific, one aspect is too often left by the wayside, words.

Words not only help convey a message but can, and should also be an integral part of a company’s arsenal to communicate its overall brand message.

The 26 letters that make our alphabet, when combined in proper fashion, have the power to move us, to touch us on an emotional level imagery alone cannot achieve. Words can make us react angrily, weep sadly and challenge our precepts on any given brand.

Words can give a whole new set of wings to a brand.

ON HONORING WORDSMITHS

Words simply need to be at the very heart of all branding and marketing efforts. It’s easy to recognize the language of brand X over that of brand Y. The great Bill Bernbach put that in practice back in the 50’s when he revolutionized automotive advertising with its still iconic “Think Small” and “Lemon” ads for the Volkswagen Beetle. The ad copy was informal, somewhat irreverent, to the point and touched people on an emotional level. He realized that selling features was just not enough and that the emotional aspect of a brand was equally as important as its visual and informational aspects. Volkswagen had developed its brand imagery, combining the power of words and imagery. The words gave it tone, structure, manner and heart.

Other greats are IKEA which, for decades has offset its “cheap furniture” perception by counterplaying it with humour and off the wall propositions. Just think back to its hilarious “Lamp Ad”, the “Tidy-Up” ad where a young child plays with his mom’s vibrator to showcase the importance of proper storage furniture. Those Swedes understood that the tone and manner in which they express their brand is as important as their look and offering. If not more. And what about that quintessential “Start the car” ad for its yearly sale. IKEA’s branding reflects its offering. Simplicity, fun and whimsy. Just like the simplicity of its logo and its furniture.

And of course, the master of it all, the great Steve Jobs and the way words were quintessentially important to express what Apple was all about. Just think back to its 1984 launch ad. And later, the iconic “Think Different” set the tone and personality of that rebel brand and guided it through decades to make it the most progressive and innovative brands ever. At least until the demise of Mr. Jobs. He understood that emotions are the trigger to any successful marketing. And that imagery alone cannot do the job.

Words say something about you and your brand, who you are, what you stand for, what you do, what you hope for, what you fear, what makes you better than the other. And so on. And combined with the proper imagery to reflect that, well, you have a brand that people can love, adhere to and follow wholeheartedly.

Words matter. Words touch. Words tell a story. Your brand story.

So when doing, revamping or updating your branding, make sure your agency or consulting firm understands the importance and the absolute necessity of the words you put out there.

Develop a tone and a voice that is unique to you. Based on who you are, and not on what the competition is doing. Based on what your customers want and need to hear from you, not on what you want them to hear. Your words should be yours only.

Thank you for reading this and should you wish to discuss this topic further, please feel free to comment or get in touch with me at your leisure.

Pier Lalonde is a seasoned advertising creative with over forty years’ experience. As founder of consultancy and micro-agency Pixel & Cie, he acts as a branding and communications expert for a variety of clients. Over the years, he has worked on such brands as Coca-Cola, Corby Distilleries, Cominar, Industrielle Alliance, the Canadian Sports Centre Network, GM Canada, Bell, BTB REIT and many more. His work has won over 400 national and international awards.

He also teaches advertising and marketing at Laval University, coaches university teams in pan-Canadian marketing competitions and has been on the board of directors of Quebec City’s advertising association, the SOCOM.

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