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Why Words Matter for Brands

On the 7th of September we were luckily enough to attend West of England Design Forum’s most recent event – and it left us at Fiasco Design feeling very inspired and even more in love with words than we were before.

This is without a doubt the most intimidating post that we’re going to do. Non-copywriters trying to be as succinct, interesting and to the point as the accomplished writers that managed to convince us, not that we needed convincing, that words do matter, and that words are important.

Tom – Channel 4, for being the characterful shepherds of TV land. No one is doing what they’re doing. Their brand is original, bold and courageous. Whether it’s logic defying scenes or beautiful bespoke typefaces, I’m always excited to see their creative output.

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Event recap

Four articulate speakers – Lindsay Camp, Mike Reed, Clare Howdle and Kendra Futcher – took us on a journey of reason as to why words matter. Lindsay Camp defined them as being ‘…the best, most powerful, most versatile, most beautiful means we have of forming, maintaining and building relationships’. The four speakers proceeded to dispel myths such as being able to start a sentence with ‘And’ – I’ve always wondered – and even re-introduced us to the emotive Google Chrome advert ‘Dear Sophie’ – which took many of us on a journey of happy nostalgia. The notion behind being shown this corresponds directly with what Maya Angelou once said “…people don’t always remember what you say…but they always remember how you made them feel”.

Jacob – Passenger clothing. As a brand they are just simple. They know what they want and they inspire. They know how things should feel and look and they’re young, independent and committed to making sustainable stuff. There’s a sense of home about them which I feel is extremely important for any lifestyle brand.

Something that Kendra touched upon in her talk is that ‘…in the absence of a human voice, brands must create their own’. A great way to sum up the power of the voice behind a brand is that a ‘brand is what others say about you when you’re not in the room’. It’s more interesting when you explore this from a copywriting point of view rather than just design/aesthetics – something that maybe us creatives forget from time to time – because you start to realise how truly powerful words are and how they help to shape a brand. 

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The importance of words

Ben – Right now, Tesla (I’ve been reading Musks book!). I love that they’ve taken on the automotive industry, which hasn’t changed since the Henry Ford days and have engineered something truly innovative, that’s disrupted the industry. They’ve taken a start-up mindset and work ethos and taken on the big boys.

Some, and I really hope none, might question the hierarchy towards the importance of words in the world of design and advertising, but let’s not forget that a brand isn’t just about how good it looks, but more about what it says (its message) and how it says it (its tone). This helps to express who they are, how they do things and will in turn influence what people think and feel about them (thank you, Kendra). In this way, a clear voice behind a brand will work towards complementing the visual identity which will in turn make them more memorable, familiar and distinctive.

As Philip Kotler points out, “…the art of marketing is the art of brand building. If you are not a brand you are a commodity. Then price is everything and the low cost producer is the only winner.” Thus further bolstering the notion that it’s not just about what the brand does, but who they are.

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Tom M – Patagonia. I trust their design to be impeccable, because their standards are so high. I enjoy the assurance of quality.

The much needed emotional response

Some brands really struggle to define what it is they actually do – what their added value is, what their goals are and why they are better than their competitors. For most brands this messaging will filter through to the strapline, brand proposition and mission statement – a collection of words designed to capture the essence of the brand. But these can’t be started if a brand is unsure of themselves – which in itself can of course be a challenging process. Everyone is constantly striving to be the next Nike with ‘Just do it’ or Apple with ‘Think Different’. But it’s worth remembering that it’s incredibly hard to create an emotional response to a concept/idea in just a couple of words – that eureka moment would have been a part of a really long journey. A few of our other favourite, iconic, straplines are as follows:

  • Levis – ‘Quality never goes out of style’
  • Adidas – ‘Impossible is nothing’
  • L’oreal – ‘Because you’re worth it’
  • Dove – ‘Real Beauty’

As cliche as it sounds my favourite brand would be Nike. I buy into their brand, quite literally, because they make me feel strong and empowered. When I put my trainers on, I know that I can just do that 10km. They give me the confidence to push myself.

This talk was a great opportunity to listen to creative copywriters discuss with us the fundamentals of their techniques – bringing in humour, expertise, knowledge, inspiration and recognition of a truly wonderful craft that brings us so much joy on a daily basis.

Don’t forget; it’s all about being aware of the difference between knowing your shit and knowing you’re shit. And as always – keep it simple, stupid.

What brands do you feel are nailing their messaging at the moment? We’ve shared some of the teams above but it would be great to hear your thoughts on Twitter & Facebook.

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