Verbal Identity

The Opportunus team read an article that discussed the importance of strap-lines and how some of the world’s most valuable brands no longer have them as a part of their verbal identity.


The author highlighted that Google, Microsoft and Facebook are just some of the few Forbes top listed brands that have decided to forgo the strap line and that even brands whose straplines have helped propel them to greatness no longer see its relevance. Famous straplines like Nike’s, ‘Just Do It’ and Apple’s ‘Think Different’ have seemingly faded into disuse.


It got us thinking about the relevance and importance of ‘straplines’ in our modern world of communication. First of all, we have always thought the term ‘strapline’ devalues their importance and makes them sound like a gimmick rather than the important articulation of brand strategy that they are. While we don’t want to get bogged down with terminology, the function of a ‘strapline’ has and always will fulfil a very important role; it’s a quick and effective way to articulate a brand’s statement, ethos, proposition and differentiation. If created with enough thought, consideration and strategic vision, in just a few words, it serves as a brand’s promise to consumers, creates differentiation from the competition and even inspires internal teams to a cohesive vision while also allowing customers to understand what you stand for and how they can utilise your business.


However, in our ever-changing world of marketing, there is a school of thought that the strapline is a marketing tool of a bygone era.


Limited real estate in digital channels


One reason could be that the mobile device has become the key real estate for today’s marketers. On digital channels, adverts and copy have been forced to become smaller and shorter. With character limits and image constraints, straplines seem to just consume space, which would diffuse the campaign message.


Furthermore, it could be considered that it crowds and clutters an already fragmented, chaotic advertising or branding space, plus the challenge of holding the brief attention span of today’s consumers. Perhaps in today’s hyper-social world, strap lines have been replaced by the hashtag as a quick, trendy way to sum up the campaign’s message.


While we agree with certain elements of this argument we think on a campaign level brands can use messaging to be specific to that activity. However, by utilising the purpose that a brand message gives, brands can ensure that all campaign activity is relevant to their overall positioning, verbal identity and strategic direction rather than delivered in isolation and results in dilution of the brand.


Show, don’t tell


We live in a world where culture has created a substantial shift in power from company to consumer. The way companies communicate their identity is being dictated to, and ordered by, the consumer. In the words of Nike’s vice president of digital sport, Stefan Olander, “Nike’s relationship with its customers has transformed to the point where they are demanding Nike not to state, ‘Just do it’, but rather ‘Help me just do it’.” Consumers expect companies to walk the talk, rather than fling around a catchy strapline – ‘Show us, don’t tell us.’ Consumers are driving brands to dig deep and ensure that a genuine and valued brand promise is being delivered.


Again, we accept this argument on one level, but don’t agree that brand messages limit how businesses engage with consumers. An effective message will, in itself, provide a flexible mechanism for increasing engagement by allowing customers to quickly understand how they can utilise your business. This is where consideration of that message has its most importance.


Use it where it matters


It appears that when it comes to straplines no specific protocol can be called upon for reference or good practice. Straplines have evolved from a steadfast brand statement and consumer guarantee that were used on every piece of advertising and design lock-up, to something more genuine and subtle. When it is needed, it should be used. It is an asset that should be utilised sparingly and effectively, perhaps as a hashtag, or a rounding-off message; a simple reminder of the brand purpose or a cover photo on social media, but not something that is pushed onto consumers at every given opportunity.


What’s more, straplines alone are not enough to command the marketing stage anymore, so its nature has to change. Brand diversification and a strapline used cleverly will help a brand remain top-of-mind to deliver on an emotional and unique brand promise. Our world continues to evolve at a rapid rate and to ensure you keep ahead, you must too. What you say and how you say it can be a huge influence in the success of your brand and therefore your business.


Perhaps it’s time to review what your business is saying and how it is saying it to make sure you don’t get left behind? If you would like to explore your verbal identity, get in touch.


+44 (0)1925 228000

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