Brand expression

Language and design are two powerful ways of expressing what a brand stands for. In this section, we will look at how language and design are regulated by brand owners. Because of the need to create a consistent impression for a brand, to “harmonize” its communications as Van Riel (1995: 26) puts it, Cornelissen (2008: 5-6) points out that communications management is likely to be a complex process. It will require an integrated approach that “transcends the specialties of individual communication practitioners (e.g., branding, media relations, investor relations, public affairs, internal communication, etc.) and crosses these specialist boundaries to harness the strategic interests of the organization at large”. This makes the important point that creating brand communications is not the job of a sole author, but of many interacting stakeholders, with collaborations that continue over months.

Corporate language

What is corporate language?

Corporate language is the language companies use to communicate with their audiences, internal (such as staff) and external (customers, clients, other companies, professional regulators, media, shareholders, government). Most companies who seek to control their brand identity in the outside world will have put some thought into this, and may seek to train their copywriters regarding the “tone” and/or “style” that are thought to best communicate what the brand stands for. These copywriters may be in-house or, perhaps more frequently, belong to branding or writing agencies that the company uses. By corporate language, then, I mean a language style that has been influenced by, or that seeks to communicate a brand - so I use the term interchangeably with brand Tone of Voice and branded (or brand) language. Typically, brand or corporate language has at least several of the characteristics mentioned below.

  • - It may be controlled centrally by a department of the company concerned, such as branding or marketing.
  • - It often has guidelines and/or house style standards applied to it.
  • - It rarely controls spoken language, although there may be other standards and guidelines that do, such as descriptions of the voice types preferred for advertising, or scripts and pointers for call centre staff to follow.
  • - The resulting communications may have more or less rigorous control applied to them, for example, the necessity to have communications approved by the brand team before they are released, or checklists and formulae of a more formal nature for evaluation.

In a multilingual context, companies may additionally be concerned with expressing the “same” messages across communications in different languages, and in controlling terminology to ensure comprehension as well as in improving the accuracy of translations. This helps companies not only to ensure understanding cross-linguistically, but also to control the communication of their brand identity and, crucially, ensure legal compliance, for example, by ensuring that product descriptions are accurate and instructions are correct.

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