The Power of Words in Brand Storytelling

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The Power of Words in Brand Storytelling

Spark Joy.

Be Less Busy.

Belong Anywhere.

Do any of these phrases resonate with you?

Invoke a feeling or inspire action?

Do any specific brands to mind?

Language is powerful in brand storytelling.

The most successful brands don’t use words as a way to package their end product. Instead, they use their consumer’s transformation story as what their striving to achieve. They use words to communicate and convey value that resonates with their ideal customer. Words have the power to inspire action. Words have the power to propel a brand forward. It’s words, not fancy websites that sell products.


Strategic Messaging. Not Marketing Fluff.

Who are you really targeting?

Brand voice is defined as the personality and emotion infused into a company’s communications. It encompasses the words, language, personality and image your marketing invokes.

But, in reality, brands struggle with this the most. Their why becomes tangled in a web of different voices, tones and personas. Brands tend to use a string of buzzwords with little meaning to entice their ideal customer. As a result, they come off sounding too salesy, corporate, or artificial to be relatable.

Brand voice extends beyond a string of buzzwords or a catchy slogan to human psychology. If your audience viewed your content without your logo would they still recognize it as your brand?

Brands must find their ideal customer (or buyer persona) and craft messaging with that one individual in mind. Take the time to research and build the profile of that one person. Understand their needs, fears, struggles, likes, dislikes, vocabulary and psychology. Understanding your ideal customer will transform meaningless words into powerful phrases that attract and inspire your customer to take action.


The Starbucks Way 

When you walk into a Starbucks you’re served by Starbucks partners (not baristas) who call you by name. You can customize any drink to your exact specifications. You don’t just order a coffee you order a venti vanilla latte.

Starbucks doesn’t sell a caffeinated beverage, they sell a premium coffee experience. The founder of Starbucks saw the sense of community Italian coffee shops had and aspired to recreate that in America.

Starbucks created a whole new coffee experience- where a small is a tall, coffee is a pyke, seasonal drinks were always something to look forward to, and VIP rewards members get free drinks.

They saw there was an opportunity for a premium coffee experience and people would pay a lot more for the feeling of giving yourself a reward in the form of hip, caffeinated beverages.

Starbucks knew their ideal customer and crafted everything from the cafe interiors, beverage menu, rewards program and price points around this individual. Now, these rather small novelties has cultivated a brand community of raving fans.


Exploit the Power of Language

Imagine reading a piece of poetry. How does it make you feel? What impression are you left with? One strong feeling or a mix of emotions?

Poetry strings together words to communicate ideas, feelings, gestures, signs, sounds and symbols. It’s nothing more than feelings sculpted together through words to convey meaning. But, there’s a reason why reading poetry feels different than any other piece of text. The same principle can be true about a company’s messaging.

The strongest marketing and branding is in the poetic function of language, says language expert, Kevin Moch. He advises brands on how to use the poetic function of language to craft creative brand concepts. He says:

“It has to do with the subterranean connections between words, ideas and things that connect little parts of language that we don’t think about actively, but that make things interesting to listen to.”

It’s not enough to just string together some words that sound “right” or “nice.” The most memorable brands craft their language style and vocabulary around their consumer’s thoughts, feelings and emotions.


A Deeper way to Connect

Any organization can use connotation and denotation to craft creative brand concepts. Use your customer’s “why” to develop key messaging. Incorporate the deeper meaning of words into your message and you will better connect with your ideal customer.


Denotation is the literal meaning of that word. For example, the denotation of house is a structure that you live in.  


Connotation refers to the “wider web of association” people have when they hear a certain word. That one word will have a different connotation depending on the person. Let’s revisit “house.”

One’s connotation could be status- a thing they buy with their wealth. They may think about living in an upscale condo, a house with large lot, or a certain square footage. Whereas one’s connotation is a necessity- a sturdy, safe structure that protects their family. These images have nothing to do with the physical object itself and vary greatly.

This function of language is valuable when discussing real-world brands and their messaging. Knowing your ideal customer you know how certain words make them feel. What words excite, scare, motivate and inspire them. You can then use the power of these words to make them care.


Make Them Care using Language

You only have 50 milliseconds to make a good first impression. In that time your messaging must engage, inspire or awe your ideal customer. You have 50 milliseconds to make them care about your product.

So how do you make them care?

You use the power of words to sell them something they can’t refuse.


Sell a New Way of Thinking

What makes Mari Kondo, Slack and Airbnb so successful?

What do these 3 brands all have in common?

They sell a new way of thinking, doing or seeing something. They sell innovation. They don’t force their product or services. They sell the underlying shift in the market. They sell more than a product. They sell a movement that you want to be apart of.

They use their ideal customer’s transformation story as the basis of why what their selling matters. They use words that speak to their ideal customer’s needs, emotions and behaviours. Whether it be joy, fear, trust, or comfort  – they use the power of words to invoke a feeling and inspire action.


Spark Joy.

Mari Kondo runs a successful home organization business. Her tidying method is a simple. She helps her clients focus on what they want to keep rather than throw away by changing their mindset about what’s important. She asks her clients a simple question: “Does it spark joy?”

Spark Joy stems from the multi-step process she takes with her clients. The KonMari method is to only keep items that spark joy. “You can define things that spark joy as things that make you happy,” Marie Kondo explains in her book. The book that sold over  8 million copies in 40 languages.

But “Spark Joy” is a tagline turned movement. Mari Kondo started an organization revolution sweeping first Japan, then the world. Spark Joy is not about home organization. It’s about finding and keeping joy in your home, your life and your heart. It’s with this simple idea that she inspired thousands to declutter their home and their life.


Be Less Busy.

Slack is a project management tool where teams and organizations of all sizes communicate and collaborate. But, it’s not just another workplace collaboration tool. It’s the fastest growing enterprise app 


If you take a closer look at the service there’s a user psychology behind the company’s success. Teams often use multiple programs throughout the workday to complete tasks. This clutters the work day and negatively impacts focus and productivity.

Slack did not attempt to change the behaviour of professionals or teams. Instead, they made existing behaviours easier and more efficient. They understood professionals working in teams are:

  1. Easily distracted and
  2. Need a streamlined workflow.

Be Less Busy is a centralized hub for communication. They provide a shelter from the storm. A solution to the multi-tasking nightmare. Slack acts as a protective shield focusing user’s attention on what’s important by reducing irrelevant triggers. It helps you to be less busy.


Belong Anywhere.

For so long people thought Airbnb was about renting houses. In the beginning it was.

“But in reality, it’s about home. A house is just a space, but a home is where you belong.” The success of Airbnb stems from this message.

Customers are attracted to brands they feel they share values with. Airbnb possesses an essence of humanity and has created strong emotional brand associations. Users can find a place where they “belong” anywhere in the world. They can also plan their trip using “places” and experiences” by finding unique things to do abroad.

They make people feel at home wherever they are. No matter where you are in the world, everyone wants to feel like they belong. We all have the same concerns when booking accommodation abroad: Comfort, safety and the feeling of belonging.

With only two words, Airbnb has created a diverse and inclusive global community. Such a succinct and powerful statement has strengthened their brand identity. Airbnb now has 4 million listings in 191 countries. It tops the total number of listings held by the top five international hotel brands combined.


Build a Brand Using Words

Building a memorable brand is more than just a fancy website and punchy buzzwords. It takes research, strategic thinking, creativity and a deep understanding of your ideal customer’s pain points. Crafting memorable messaging doesn’t happen overnight. But brands who tap into the poetic function of language can use the power of words to deliver compelling messaging that your ideal customer can’t refuse.

When thinking about your message, take Slack, Airbnb and Mari Kondo has examples- who is your customer? What do they struggle with? How can you help them reach their goals? Use your customer’s transformation story as the driver when crafting your own messaging. Dive into their problems and use their emotions as a guiding force to create memorable messaging that attracts, inspires and resonates with your ideal customer.

It’s the power of words that win customers.

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