Mind your language

Ever since Cait and Jake came into our life, my wife and I had to constantly watch our language, especially if they’re in the car with me during peak hours. It’s not just the french but I have the habit of rambling in Singlish (not that there is anything wrong with it). I’ve discovered that their English has also taken on many hues of my colourful linguistic flavour that the schools do not look well upon.

Languages form the basis of who we are, what we are and where we belong. It can connect people and also conversely disassociate them. It can build bridges but also spark wars. Because of this, it is imperative that marketing and brand professionals scrutinize their brand language to build brand equity. When I talk about brand language, it does not refer narrowly to the primary language for communication, be it English or Chinese or French. As the brand is an intangible asset, the voice of the brand takes on the following forms:

  1. Primary Language – The primary language is usually determined by the market in which the brand resides. When in Vietnam, you need to communicate in Vietnamese, when in Malaysia, Bahasa Melayu, when in Singapore, predominantly English with a little of everything else too. However, the chosen primary language should not be determined only by such external factors but by the inherent values of the brand. This directly affects the perceived value as well as the positioning of the brand in the operating market. For example, Japanese food products in most country hold a high premium over other local products. Despite having only Japanese on the packaging, most products are easily understood and well received. In fact, having it only in Japanese gives reassurance to consumers that it is product that’s imported directly from Japan and thus giving it a higher positioning than what it might have enjoyed back in their native market.
  2. Content – What you say tells a lot about what you stand for and who you are. Brands and marketers need to look beyond product, features and benefits to develop content that communicates the character of t brand. If communication is always based on price off, discounts and special offers, it only tell consumers to look out for the next offer before they make their next purchase. Likewise if the brand only talks about the features and benefits, it forces consumer to compare your product to your competitors to find the best value. The brand should be knowledgeable in areas that are of high relevance to their target markets and segment. A good example is Dell when they talk to small business owners about the power of social media on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/dellsocialmedia).
  3. Medium – Whether it is through TV, radio, newsprint, magazines, online, PR, or other mediums, the medium through which you speak affects the brand. Too often, many marketers let their budget make the decision of which medium to employ. In designing the communication architecture, marketers should have in-depth understanding of the lifestyles of their customers and speak through mediums that most effectively delivers the brand message to the right people and at the same time add value to brand equity. For example, when Audi talks about the design of their luxury models, they used the fashion festival as a voice(http://www.audifashionfestival.com/). Through the event, the brand has associated itself to values like style, high fashion, luxury, exclusiveness thus enhancing their brand equity.
  4. Vocabulary – Every notice how IT or medical or investment professionals use their own lingo whenever they talk shop? Every community has their own distinct vocabulary that sets them apart from others but at the same time, binds them together in a common fraternity. As Singaporeans, we have our own unique version of English – Singlish, that an Englishman might find as foreign as Mandarin. The language might be common but the choice and use of words distinguishes us. Whenever I’m travelling, I can always tell Singaporeans from a crowd when they start speaking. Just as much, brands need to develop their brand vocabulary, a set of high usage words that gives the brand personality and flavour.
  5. Community – Knowing your audience is key to effective communications, choosing the correct communities to address affects brand equity. Finding the right communities to speak and saying the right things not only lend credibility to the brand but might also benefit lead generation. For example, many IT companies conduct seminars and forums specifically for business consultants of different areas of speciality. In doing so, consumers would perceive these products and services offered by the IT company specially cater to their specific needs.

Brand language is one of the 3 pillars of Brandcore’s brand methodology. Brand image and brand experience form the other 2 legs of the stool. We’ll be talking more on the other 2 pillars in the days to come. For more information, please contact me at jurn.chan@brandcore.sg