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Verbal identity’s vital role in total brand experience

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US Strategy Director Jonathan Finer explores the multifaceted nature of verbal identity – and its crucial role in shaping brand perception.

In the realm of branding, the greats are recognised by more than just their visual appeal: they are fully experienced through multiple senses. They envelop us in a world that’s seen, heard and felt.

These brands transcend mere recognition – they evoke an emotional response and create a powerful, multi-sensory atmosphere.

Apple’s minimalist elegance, for instance, is not only a visual feast but also a conversational piece that asserts its authority in every interaction. Whether it’s walking through the sleek geometry of an Apple Store, navigating the intuitive interface of an iPhone or the familiar greeting of ‘Hello’ that introduces many of their devices, the Apple experience is unmistakable.

Similarly, Airbnb redefines travel by creating a sense of belonging across the globe, epitomised by its heart-shaped emblem that invites connection. The brand comes to life through immersive ‘Airbnb Experiences’ that connect travellers to local environs, the reassuring confirmation of a newly booked adventure, and a culture of shared appreciation – ‘thanks for being a great guest!’

These brands excel because they seamlessly integrate their look, voice and the overall user experience. This holistic approach is what we call ‘total brand experience’.

Within the scope of total brand experience lies an essential component that often goes unnoticed yet is fundamental to the brand’s expression: verbal identity. Verbal identity is the linguistic embodiment of a brand. It encompasses everything from choosing a name to forging a language that is unequivocally associated with the brand, covering tone, messaging and narrative. A brand’s verbal identity is the necessary companion to its visual identity, carrying the total brand essence through language, and mirroring the impact of its visual counterpart.

“Brands excel because they seamlessly integrate their look, voice and the overall user experience.”

In the wake of the ‘Great Resignation,’ we created Pluxee, the new Sodexo Benefits & Rewards Services brand, built to resonate with the evolving desire of today’s global workforce for meaningful recognition and fulfilment. Our mission has been to create a total brand experience that not only highlights Pluxee’s commitment to improving employees’ lives but also distinguishes it from parent company Sodexo. The brand strategy centres on amplification, offering innovative benefits and digital solutions to enhance the quality of life for its audience.

In perfect alignment with its visual identity, Pluxee’s verbal identity reflects its strategic positioning as a tech-savvy, customer-centric business, using language that’s warm, inviting and easily relatable. It mirrors the individuality of employees, evokes the joy that comes with recognition, and highlights the enrichment of everyday life.

We consciously steered away from corporate speak, favouring a more conversational tone that would resonate more authentically with the audience. This voice permeates every piece of communication, from marketing materials to user interfaces, strengthening Pluxee’s identity as a life-enhancing partner in the workspace. Phrases like ‘a world of opportunities’, ‘more of what really matters’ and ‘make the everyday more joyful’ became pillars of the brand’s verbal toolkit. This specific lexicon was pivotal in carving out a cohesive narrative that both employees and businesses could connect with and embrace.

“Words, in unison with visuals, are a vital ingredient that can enrich or weaken the audience’s relationship with a brand.”

Pluxee’s verbal identity, key to its brand story, reflects an understanding of the modern employee. The verbal branding extends to every part of their experience, including the Pluxee name itself, chosen for its positivity and optimism, in harmony with the company’s ambition to revolutionise employee engagement.

All elements of the verbal identity were intertwined with a dynamic visual identity, where the ‘x-mark’ of the logo is a bold and confident expression of how the brand amplifies the everyday. Pluxee’s global launch was a demonstration of a distinct total brand expression in a crowded marketplace, and serves as a compelling reminder that words, in unison with visuals, are a vital ingredient that can enrich or weaken the total brand experience and significantly impact (for better or worse) an audience’s relationship with a brand.

Jonathan Finer

Strategy Director - NYC

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