Whiplash Team, 22nd April 2022
Language and media change but the brand purpose is timeless
Brands face the constant challenge of keeping pace with the moment and the changes, both in the way of establishing relationships as well as in language, due to the emergence of new channels of communication. In this context, it is easy to get carried away with fashions, forgetting that language and media change, but the brand purpose is timeless.
When television burst in altering the formulas established by radio broadcasting and introducing its own language, there were many who predicted the end of an era. Radio broadcasting did not disappear, but brands adopted innovative ways of “doing” and “saying” imposed by the incoming media.
Likewise, when social networks appeared, many predicted the end of interpersonal relationships and interactions associated with physical spaces. Neither has happened.
Something similar occurred with language. The appearance of multiple abbreviations, memes, and digital networks that restrict the number of characters per message has made some believe it is a deadly threat to grammar and the correct use of language. And again, it is not happening.
Each social media has its own language
Let’s take Twitter, for example. At first, the question, addressed primarily to young users, was “What are you doing?”. After 2009 the question changed to “What’s going on?”, a variation on the linguistic structure that has since defined the purpose of that network, which has become a place for announcements, news, and comments that provides brands a world of possibilities when it comes to communicating with their followers.
In summary, each digital network has its own way of communicating. We do not communicate in the same way on LinkedIn as on Facebook or Twitter. Messages are constructed differently for each social network, adapting them to their audience, the type of content that is shared, and the interactions that each of them allows.
Thus, building “a digital language of the brand” may seem impossible, but the truth is that the key is to maintain consistency in the messages. How? Using a cross-network language of its own that reflects the brand’s personality without distorting it.
The language flows with the times
As if that were not enough, users create their own words, terms, and phrases to define things, situations, or products. Each generation has its own set of words and expressions.
In the context of linguistic changes in social networks, Carmen Maíz Arévalo, a linguistic teacher at the Complutense University of Madrid, commented in a recent article that teenagers “have the need to distinguish themselves from their elders, give a mark to their own identity and generate a group. What they do with language is to create new expressions to mark this generational difference. It is what has always been done, but now it is very enhanced.”
Adapt but remain faithful to the brand’s purpose
When it comes to brands, the question is whether they should stick to what is stated in their stylebook and maintain the tone and verbal identity that defines it or if, on the contrary, they get on the trolley of digital neologisms. New expressions arise in the blink of an eye, long enough to misuse an expression and damage the brand’s image in the user’s mind.
Getting carried away by the whirl of constant changes in language is an enormous temptation. The challenge for brands is to stay true to themselves, to adapt to trendy terms and expressions without blurring their identity. To do this, organizations must be clear about their purpose, as it is the best way to build a strong and authentic narrative that appeals to users. A solid purpose enables the creation of a language of their own fitting that covers all channels.
In short, although it is very tempting to mimic native-digital language, it is not possible to unify it since each network has its own conventions about what is right and what is not and it is easy to make mistakes.
However, with a clear purpose that connects with the users’ needs, words acquire a fundamental value, and the brand connects with its followers in a natural way, without sacrificing its position by an expression that’s out of place.