When you interact with a brand, it’s easy to learn about it through the tone used to talk about featured products or services. As a copywriter, one of my key goals is to enable this kind of learning by representing our clients’ brands appropriately in writing. Each brand has its own unique personality, which strongly influences the language used in association with that brand. Learning to speak these “brand languages” can be intimidating as well as exciting, but I have found some reliable ways to make the process quicker and more effective.
- Learn the brand’s personality.
One way to learn about a brand is to read existing material like the company’s website, emails, print and digital ads, brochures, or other promotional materials. How does the company speak to its audiences on different platforms and convey its brand’s personality? Is the language persuasive, casual, formal, quirky, or clever? How does it make you feel as a reader? Read as much as you can, and take note of things that set this brand apart.
- Learn industry buzzwords.
If a company is part of an industry you’re not familiar with, that can actually be a good thing. In addition to the chance to learn something new, you’ll be able to spot buzzwords, technical terms, and other quirks of language unique to that industry. For example, before joining LMG, I didn’t know anything about lift trucks. In working with Crown, I’ve taken a deep dive into the industry and learned about logistics and material handling in general, as well as what makes Crown lift trucks unique. Once you identify buzzwords, learn what they mean, and understand how they’re used, you can better represent a brand in writing to audiences.
- Learn the brand’s values.
Beyond discovering the brand’s personality and how it speaks to customers, you can dig deeper and identify what the brand cares about. For example, is the company’s top priority quality, customer service, value, convenience, or safety? By working with Éban’s Bakehouse, I know the company’s founders are passionate about healthy, responsibly sourced ingredients. When you know what’s important to a brand and its customers, you can elevate these values in your writing.
- Learn the brand’s style.
This is where grammar fanatics may start—and everyone else may lose all interest. It’s important not to overemphasize the mechanics of language, but elements like grammar and punctuation do matter. Does the company use the oxford comma? Do headlines use title or sentence case? Is copy heavy on parentheses and em dashes? Is addressing the audience directly (using second-person verbs and point of view) required, allowed, or forbidden? Minor details like these can make a big difference in creating consistent content.
- Remember it’s the brand’s voice, not yours.
As you read a company’s copy, you may think, “I would never use this word to describe that product,” or “this doesn’t sound like the way I would normally talk.” These may be legitimate concerns, if you happen to speak in that brand’s voice. However, it’s more likely that the content isn’t meant to represent you—it’s meant to represent the brand. Respect the brand and all of its nuances, even when you wouldn’t choose to write that way.
- Talk to the account manager.
Unless you’re doing solo freelance work, you likely have colleagues who know the client or brand. In an agency setting, the account manager or client services rep assigned to that brand likely has a good sense of what it’s all about. They’ve talked to the clients, learned their goals, and often have a strong, big-picture view of the brand. Tap into these resources and take advantage of the advice and insights they have to offer.
- Get to know the clients.
Your client contact is another great resource to learn about the brand. These are the people “behind the brand,” who spend all of their working hours engaged with it in some way. For marketing projects, clients are often especially close to the brand, and may even be tasked with maintaining or strengthening it. What are their individual goals, and their strategic objectives for the company? Is there anything you can do to make their job easier? Learn who they are and what they want to accomplish, and help them advance along with the brand.
After research, this is the most important aspect of learning a brand. You can read all day, but it will only get you so far. Try your hand at a company’s quirky tone, learn a few new words you’ve never heard before, and really taste the flavor of the brand. The more you practice, the more you will identify with the brand and be able to represent it successfully!