Developing your brand? Talk to your copywriter.
There’s a phrase I use quite a bit - ‘Everything starts with the words’. Because everything actually does start with the words. Even the most visual idea you can imagine will have a word - the seed idea - at its core in some shape or form. And while the word ‘branding’ will conjure up images of Nike or Coca-Cola logos, those designs will also have their origins in a word somebody once came up with to start the branding ball rolling. The reason I’m getting into all this is the fact that - over the years - some clients were always reluctant to ask copywriters about branding at all. Whether they were launching something new, or revamping an old brand, they always believed that a copywriter would have no part in the whole branding/design bit. But good copywriters always have had the ability to think both visually and rationally. And for that reason alone they should be integral to the entire branding process. This is especially true today, when a brand is more than the name on the bottle, or the box, or the car - the brand is the essence of your business, running through it from the actual product itself to the words you use on Twitter and Facebook, and the language that populates your Website; it’s also what informs your images on Insta and your wackiness, or maybe lack of it, on Tik-Tok. Nowadays, most clients recognise this - the fact that a logo alone is not enough to drive your brand or describe your values and beliefs. We’ve also seen the rise of the brand manifesto - the poetic iteration of your vision, mission, values, commitments and the place of your business in the world. And while some of those manifestos are vastly overblown - and, ahem, somewhat ‘up themselves’ - many of them are important to driving the spirit of your brand and of making your identity line up with that of your target audience. Famous adman David Ogilvy once said that a brand is “the intangible sum of a product’s attributes.” And branding expert Walter Landor said: “A product is made in a factory. But a brand is made in the mind.” That’s why modern branding is a lot more than choosing a colour palette and a logo. It’s about the image you project when you use copy on all your social media posts, blogs, or even the 404 message on your website. But it’s also more than just saying your tone of voice should be wacky, sympathetic, friendly, or punchy. It’s about investing time in making your voice as unique as possible and true to your values. One of the best-regarded champions of Tone of Voice is the drinks company Innocent. You’ll probably know their copywriting style: simple, pithy, a little wacky. So good in fact that tons of businesses tried to copy them - and came across as pretenders or also-rans because it was evident that they were copying a voice that wasn’t truly theirs. They would have been better off delving more deeply into their own brand to unearth a distinct voice of their own. And that’s when copywriters come into their own in the branding process. They are so used to delving into products and processes while looking for a Unique Selling Point, that they are almost automatically best placed to find the brand nugget that can genuinely serve as an authentic platform for the brand voice and persona. When all is said and done about branding - and that day is a long way off - it will never again be just about writing a snappy strapline to sit beneath the snazzy new logo. Brand copywriting - storytelling as it’s often called - is increasingly a fundamental part of the whole process and will only increase with the rise of more and more social media outlets. Branding is an exciting journey for any business. As a copywriter working alongside an art director, it’s a journey full of possibilities - as long as you don’t veer into ‘copycat’ territory. That’s where your branding journey will fall foul of lazy thinking. If you are thinking of branding or rebranding, in Belfast or anywhere in Northern Ireland, maybe it’s time to rethink the typical approach. Call your friendly neighbourhood copywriter - they’ll know how to shape your brand story. Because, well, copywriters are just brilliant.