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  • Writer's pictureDan White

What is (and isn't) verbal identity?

We’ve talked about what tone of voice is. Now it’s time to turn our attention to verbal identity; what it is and why it’s important. Here’s our definition:

Verbal identity is: If tone of voice is your colour pallete, then verbal identity is your full brand guidelines, showing you how your tone of voice adapts and weaves across different channels, different touchpoints to different audiences.


But why is verbal identity so important?

Verbal identity comes into its own for bigger brands - or pretty much anyone intent on worldwide success. Three reasons why:

1. VERBAL IDENTITY SORTS OUT UP-FRONT HOW THAT TONE OF VOICE OF YOURS SHOULD ADAPT TO EACH AND EVERY CUSTOMER TOUCHPOINT.

From your billboard copy to your email unsubscribe message your voice will bend to where your customer sits in their ‘journey’ with you. Like the proverbial chameleon it changes its colour, but still remains the same creature underneath. However, the bigger the business the more touchpoints there are to handle.


2. VERBAL IDENTITY KEEPS YOUR COMMS TEAMS ON BRAND AND ON MESSAGE.


With big brands working with so many different copywriters, creatives and customer support reps (both inside and outside the company) you can’t keep tabs on how they’re all communicating. While a tone of voice gives them the idea; an inspired insight for how they perhaps could represent your brand, verbal identity gets down and dirty into the granular detail of exactly how your brand’s messages should be communicated.


3. VERBAL IDENTITY ADAPTS TO YOUR AUDIENCES.

As much as your tone of voice will adapt according to different customer touchpoints, the same is true when it comes to communicating with other audiences. The languages spoken, cultural attitudes and purchasing habits of peoples around the world is going to vary and what works for one location may not work for another. While figuring messaging out is no easy undertaking a verbal identity shows how a brand can adapt their their core tone of voice to tap into different markets and territories.


Give me some verbal identity examples.

Here you go. Our collection of the best tone of voice guides we’ve found (so far) is the best place to start. While they’re all good, we’d point your attention towards Mailchimp and Skype in particular that go that step further from a defined tone of voice to a first rate verbal identity.


What’s the essential ingredients of a good verbal identity?

If we were working on a verbal idtentiy we’d be work through the following areas with each one of them forming a chapter in a verbal identity doc:

  • Understanding the brand - your ambitions, challenges and purpose, strengths, challenges and ambitions

  • Understanding the audiences - and how they alter at different stages of the sales cycle

  • Establish key hooks and messages (aka your tone of voice)- that everything else can hang from

  • Building a messaging hierarchy - how your key hooks and messages adapt at different touchpoints and audiences

  • Constructing a style guide - for the do’s and don’ts of writing great copy

 

If you want to dig deeper into the world of all things verbal identity and tone of voice our other posts are a fine place to begin. We delve into the importance of tone of voice and to keep that inspiration coming there’s 5 rather friendly tone of voice examples to learn from here.




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