February 11, 2019

When we hear the phrase “the people’s car”, we often think about Volkswagen and their sizeable portfolio of affordable, reliable German engineered cars. Even though almost every brand offers cars in the economic segment, it had been Volkswagen that initially linked the simple but powerful phrase with their cars. To further bring home the point, the language and tone they set in their advertisements – such as “You get more folks, in a Volks” and “Think Small”- were straightforward and relevant to what they had wanted to convey. They delivered on their promises too; starting with the Beetle, they expanded and updated their lineup with more economic offerings for each demographic. Today, Volkswagen sits at the top of the global carmakers.

This is how brand language, a subtle-but-important aspect of branding, comes into play. People are attracted by stunning visuals but pay close attention to what it is that an advert is trying to tell them. From the point where the brand makes the first impression with a target individual to the point where the individual is transformed into a content (and loyal) customer, maintaining congruent and relevant brand language is important.  In today’s world where customers can choose from a long list of alternatives, helping them connect to your product personally can be the key to earning their loyalty for years to come.  

To further illustrate why it would be a good idea to refocus on Brand Language when it comes to building a relationship with your customers, we can look to some of the brands that did try and the results that they had garnered through this.


The Times & The Sunday Times

During a time where readership subscriptions were facing falling trends in the United Kingdom, The Times and The Sunday Times saw an increase in circulation of about 11% in 2016. The Company’s CMO, Catherine Newman attributed the noteworthy performance to the “Know Your Times” campaign that they had implemented after rigorous research into what their user base and the public in general wanted the most out of news sites. The advertisements are aimed at the viewers, notably adults, telling them to “cut through the noise to the stories that really matter”. They show the writers for times talking about the power of words, the English language and the quality of news that their readers expect from The Times.

The newspaper and the website have created news offerings that are filled with content that are free from unnecessary pieces and cut straight to the point. They even changed their subscription slogans to “Don’t Miss the Moments That Matter”. Just by conveying the message and using language in advertisements to instill a sense of relevance, the company has improved their standing. As Catherine Newman said, “We haven’t changed the paper, we haven’t become cheaper, we changed our creative and the way that we talk to our audience.”    


Netflix sits atop of a giant media empire encompassing over $25Bn as of 2018. They expanded quickly, now being available in 190 countries, and they produced their own content as well according to what users preferred to watch. To compliment this, they rebranded their tagline to “See What’s Next”, which generated curiosity in their new and present customers, as they entered a new country or premiered a new show. The Netflix team constantly worked on updating in-site advertisements of the shows on their catalog by selecting words and tone that resonate most with their customers – paying close attention to ease of viewing, understanding, and a sense of familiarity in the tone. Altogether, they have created a very homogeneous, warm and engaging tone in the regions where they maintain presence.


The brand that is most closely associated with the words “magic” and “fantasy” was found to be Disney, by a study carried out by author Martin Lindstrom. These two words along with four others were so heavily associated with Disney that the author likened it to Disney having ownership of these words. Indeed, Disney’s brand makes use of benefits from the use of a strong brand language that helps most of the youths of every generation identify strongly with the brand. The frequent use of these words and similar others, along with a cheerful and fantasy tone, is in all of their advertising, feature films, songs, characters and so on. When people visit a Disney theme park, they can experience the same tone in how the visitors are treated, with appearances by Disney characters ending with, “Have a magical day!”



Whilst there are plenty of ridesharing services in Bangladesh to choose from, the crowd favorite name can be Pathao. Their popularity can be attributed to the quality of services that they provide, their range of services and most importantly the image that they have built in the minds of its consumers. This image is reflected in almost every point of contact that a customer has with Pathao, starting with their advertisements, to their application UI. The use of language in slogans such as “Beat the traffic” or “Earn with Pathao”, certainly had a persuasive factor in them, and advertisements carried the same tone, tapping into the minds of many city dwellers and offering them a lucrative relief from their problems.


A leaflet from this company reads in Bangla, “Do you trust the person you let into your house?” One would think that the words on it are irrelevant to what the company offers. But connect the statement to the plumber who is currently fixing your leaky pipes for the fifth time in a year, and you’d be surprised by how you are suddenly concerned about the plumber’s credentials. The answer to your concerns sits on your hand inside the leaflet that came in with the paper this morning. Sheba.xyz has offered solutions for just about anything, bringing the blue collar marketplace at your fingertips.

Their impressive brand awareness campaign towards the beginning of last year went with the hashtag #sayyestomom and played on the emotional aspect of pleasing one’s mother and solving her problems. Their advertisements started with, “Does it feel alright responding to your mother with a no?” With this they successfully reached their target customers aged 18-34, and the successful campaign resulted in 40% increase in purchases through the app.


Brand language is thus an important component of a brand identity, and is directly connected to its verbal identity. If we view every brand as a unique person like you or me, the brand language appears as the verbal identity of the brand as much as our words, vocabulary and tone are a reflection of our personality and ultimate identity. At the end of the day, we often do view brands as an individual, homogenized entity rather than its multiple departments, product offerings, employees or advertisements. Therefore, selecting the right words along with the tone and maintaining the integrity of the language through and through allow the brand to appear more approachable and instill good faith upon customers. 

By Khondker Faraz Shafiq

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