Brandspeak… how do you talk to your customers?


Brandspeak, or “tone of voice” is changing as fast as our language skills are deteriorating. Brands are trying to talk to us in ways they think are more meaningful. They are “opening dialogues” with their customers, not just “communicating”. Well, which brands are really doing a good job?

I was giving a creative workshop yesterday, and I asked the group of International, Masters Branding students, what “no dodgy claims” meant on the new PURE NZ packaging by Heinz. They didn’t have a clue, even the American and English students. So is Heinz really “talking” to its consumers in a meaningful way or is it just developing a persona?  The Pure NZ Packaging brandspeak is informative, it tells us about the local farms that the frozen vegetables come from and the fact that the bag is recyclable. It’s humorous too… “Peas, sweet, young and tender – weren’t we all once?” But that ‘no dodgy claims” part. Hasn’t that just become a “dodgy claim?”.

"No dodgy claims"... becomes a dodgy claim?

Your “tone of voice” is the ‘personality’ of your brand expressed through all of its’ communications. Your tone of voice governs what you say in writing, and how you say it, it should also inform your customer service style and verbal tone of voice – its just like when you meet someone for the first time… how you speak has an effect on how the overall relationship takes off and develops.

Nokia is a good example of how not to engage customers through its product naming strategy, whilst on the one hand we have competitors such as the Apple iphone, the Samsung Galaxy and the Android, with Nokia, we have the Nokia 5250 or the C3 or even the E7-00! what do they all mean to us simple folk who need lots of help in deciphering which phone is best for our needs? We might just choose it because it has a fab name, but no…”I think you’ll like the C6-01 madam”, just doesn’t do it for me!

The C6-01 just doesn't do it for me!

So who does takes brandspeak really seriously?

I think Innocent Smoothies has an original, distinctive, approach. For example when they prompt you to join their mailing list, here’s how they tempt you…

“Join Up. Feel the love”. Then,

“We were wondering if you would like to join the Innocent Family, don’t worry, it’s not some weird cult.”

“This is the bit where we get a few more details. You know, inside leg, favourite chewing gum flavour, whether you like your fish steamed or grilled?”

I like their approach, it’s fun, it’s family, it’s friendly. That’s what the Innocent brand is trying to do, get you to join their family, speak to them from the heart, tell them what you really think of them. It’s one BIG failing though, was to promote its ethical, ecological, one-of-the-family strategy and then sell out to McDonalds for distribution purposes. Even so, I think I could forgive Innocent because I like the way it talks to me.

And then there’s the knitting…Innocent also appeals to dear old grannies who like knitting, for the campaign it runs each year “The Big Knit” which raised around £200,000 last year to help old people with their winter fuel bills. So you see, Innocent appeals to all ages, from the “5-a-day” weary mums to your old gran!

Here's Betty, she loves knitting Innocent hats for the smoothie bottles. She feels like she's part of the Innocent family!

Engaging Your Customer

Brands that not only listen to what their customers are saying, but engage in conversation elevate their brands above their competitors. Contrary to what you see, social media without engagement is just spam.

While the pressure is on for all brands is to generate conversions, engaged consumers will always produce a level of loyalty that cannot be bought.

However, if you’re willing to invest your time in really “speaking” to your customers, then you have a better chance of changing perceptions and gaining new loyal fans.

The medical industry, for example, is renowned for trying to mystify all of us with lots of information in very small type on leaflets and not giving us clear instructions about how to take their products. This approach, therefore, from http://www.helpinneed.com is really refreshing… it’s point of sale says simply “What’s Wrong?” and then the response is on the package. Simple, meaningful, clear messages, take a look below.

"Help in Need" speaks in my language...
...and then gives me the answers I need.

Keep it Real!

I just came across this article about Gen Y’ers, and what they think about the way brands communicate with them…

“Ask any Gen Y’er what advice we would give a brand trying to reach us – and most often you will hear ‘just keep it real’. What does that mean? We want brands to be themselves – really reveal who they are at the core – and stick to that. We don’t want brands to over promise on something they can never deliver. We can smell deceit and dishonesty immediately.”

I think that sums it up for me. If you take the time and money to craft your brand “tone of voice” then “keep it real”, no false promises, no nasties, no dodgy claims oh, and interesting product names please!


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