Chapter 3 - Brand Identity II: Brand Elements

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3.2 Verbal Identity

Gone are the days where people are impressed by brands communicating in a realistically human tone. Verbal identity, like visual identity, should be a direct reflection of brand personality.

👄 Language & Tone of Voice

The tone of voice in communications should be authentic to your brand - based on your core attributes and also appealing to your audience. Perhaps your brand's verbal identity is indistinguishable from your own tone of voice. That's completely fine, if it's a conscious decision you're making to communicate effectively with your audience.
“Through its choice of language, a brand indicates who it’s for and, just as important, who it’s not for... A cookware brand that’s targeting cooking enthusiasts may talk about blanching or sous vide without providing definitions.” - Red Antler cofounder Emily Heyward in her book Obsessed
A brand's choice of language reveals its audience. A low-cost brand may use catchy phrases and short exclamations to encourage mass adoption and draw attention to discounts while a higher-end brand prefers descriptive phrases to evoke particular imagery. It's true that a business targeting globally-conscious foodies would list lesser-known food items without descriptions, and occasionally a niche Japanese restaurant will only have a Japanese menu, but Heyward's example shouldn't be applied too literally in the food industry as food - as a category - is for everyone. When in doubt, be more as opposed to less inclusive with your language.
Crafting compelling communications with a distinct tone of voice takes practice, but having a clear verbal identity improves audience perception of authenticity and overall brand consistency. It also promotes brand recognition and recall in an increasingly saturated content landscape.
Here are two Instagram captions for different London-based restaurants-slash-bakeries (Flor and St. John's Restaurant) as examples:

🖊️ Sitting alongside our Lyles loaf made with flours from Cann Mill, Gilchesters and Hodmedods is today’s bakers choice. Made with two wheats from @gothelneyfarmer, April Bearded milled at Cann Mill and Holdfast milled here with the added sweetness of some April Bearded sprouts through the dough. Beautiful work in the field by Fred Price and beautiful work in the bakery by @helenefleur26 #swgrainnetwork #knowyourfarmer #knowyourmiller

Caption taken from the Instagram account
🖊️ Squash, Lentils and Goat’s Curd. When Fergus coined the phrase nose-to-tail all those years ago he meant it to encapsulate more than offal, indeed more than meat - it is about a holistic approach, “a way of being in the world.” It is about tuning into the seasons and using all things - vegetables and animals alike - at the brief moment of their peak. At this particular moment squash is in its perfect prime and delivered to our kitchens by our delightful and trusted supplier, Pumpkin Greg. On the menu at this lunchtime. An autumnal and appetite-arousing dish (and excellent with a glass of the Vincent Ricard Le Petiot 2019).
Caption taken from the Instagram account

Both brands share a deep passion for food and an appreciation for their ingredients. Both clearly value community. But their verbal identities are distinguished enough that familiar readers would immediately recognize each of them and be able to distinguish between the two.
Upon viewing additional posts, readers will get the impression that Flor's brand is hyper-local and community-minded, and based on the content and style of their posts (for example, shouting out fellow businesses and producers). Flor's audience is also probably as obsessed with bread as they are.

🖊️ Our bread enjoying the Shoreditch sunshine @lyleslondon where it gets cycled up daily for service. Today’s lylesloaf contains YQ wheat, milled in house, grown by @farminggeorge in Essex. Some of the most local grain we buy. George also grows the buckwheat you’ll find in our desserts. 🌱🌾🧇🥞🧁 #knowyourfarmer
🖊️ Barley porridge loaves heading over to @neals_yard_dairy in @boroughmarket and @lyleslondon heading up to @pfranco_e5. We’re really excited to see our bread and pastries supplied to like minded, producer driven businesses! 🥐🥖🧀🍷🙌🙌

St. John's brand is also apparent after looking at posts of and this . They also value the local community, but their personality is different; the inclusion of detailed recipes and flowery, evocative descriptions of food imbues the brand with expertise and whimsy.

Dos and Don'ts

This quick exercise is an easy way to start defining your verbal identity. Simply list three tone-of-voice guidelines or verbal best-practices that your brand should employ in communications, and corresponding practices your brand does not want to be caught doing. Head's up - the don'ts tend to be more difficult than the dos.
✏️ Do




✏️ Don't




✏️ Do for Flor could be:

1. Express appreciation for members in our community
2. Convey passion in every post
3. [Can you think of one more?]

✏️ Do for St. John could be:

1. Tell stories and paint pictures
2. Make our audience feel included
3. [Can you think of one more?]

✏️ Don'ts for Flor could be:

1. Forget to tag staff/producers
2. Use complex language (unless it's grain-related)
3. [Can you think of one more?]
✏️ Don'ts for St. John could be:

1. Be boring
2. Blatantly self-promote
3. [Can you think of one more?]

💻 The Website

Why is the website is in verbal identity section? Because while it should be aesthetically appealing, your priority is to ensure all essential information is easily accessible and understandable. For almost all food businesses, this would include location, list of offerings or menu, operating hours, contact information, links to relevant social media, online ordering options (if applicable), and reservation options (if applicable). There should also be a section for your story.
If you want to structure content so that it has a better chance of being discovered organically through search, is a useful tool. It displays recent terms people are searching related to a specific term of interest. You can use it for search engine optimization (SEO), to see which keywords to integrate into your content creation.
Last but not least, ensure coherence with

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