Prioritizing Verbal, Auditory and Visual Branding – Part 2

In Part 1 of the Prioritizing Verbal, Auditory, and Visual Branding series, you learned the difference between these three types of branding elements and why they’re important. Now, it’s time to learn why visual branding is such a hot topic these days and how to effectively balance visual branding in your overall branding efforts. If you missed Part 1 of the series, follow the link above to read it now, so you understand the importance of marrying verbal, auditory, and visual branding in order to achieve the best results from your marketing initiatives.

verbal auditory visual brandingVisual Branding Takes Center Stage

Last month, I attended the 2012 Mashable Connect conference. Mashable Editor-in-Chief Lance Ulanoff took the stage and shared his commentary on the future of the Internet, which he predicts will be all about images. In fact, he cautioned that the shift to images is already happening. He asked the audience, “The image is the story, but how can we be sure our messages are getting through correctly?” According to Ulanoff, “We can’t. How can images, which alone mean nothing without contextual text, be the next phase of the Internet?”

Ulanoff’s commentary applies directly to visual branding as well. He said, “Reading is about comprehending. Images are wide open to interpretations. Without context, we have no idea what the image is about.” He explained that people respond instinctively to images, but those responses might not be accurate, and they certainly might not be the ones that a brand manager wants consumers to have when presented with visual branding elements such as an image in a print ad.

In other words, images should be presented within context. For branding, that means visual brand elements should be presented to consumers along with verbal brand elements, so the message is clear. Leaving room for interpretation isn’t a luxury that marketers with shrinking budgets can afford. Instead, a campaign that marries visual, verbal, and auditory (in media that allow it) cues are more likely to elicit the emotional and physical reactions that a company wants as well as aid in developing the desired brand perceptions.

Prove Your Verbal Claims with Visuals

The key to successful brand marketing is to identify the right verbal message for a target audience and then prove that claim with relevant images. There is a reason why the Verizon Wireless ads that showed a map of its 3G coverage in comparison to 3G coverage by AT&T Wireless were so popular. Instead of simply saying, “the best 3G coverage,” which alone is abstract and meaningless (akin to communicating empty differentiators like “the best quality” or “the best customer service”), Verizon Wireless proved it using a visual that made the claim meaningful and relevant to consumers.

verizon wireless vs att wireless

You can see one of the Verizon Wireless “There’s a Map for That” commercials from 2009 below. In fact, these ads were so successful that AT&T sued Verizon Wireless stating that the ads misled consumers into thinking AT&T Wireless didn’t offer mobile coverage in the white areas of the map (even though the map and commercial say “3G coverage”). AT&T also launched a new advertising campaign in response that hyped the fact that AT&T carried the most popular smartphone (the iPhone). It wasn’t as good as Verizon Wireless’ campaign, and the phrase “a phone is only as good as the network it’s on” was born. The campaign didn’t last for long. Verizon Wireless started carrying the iPhone a couple of years later.

Bottom-line, think of marrying verbal and visual branding as a two-step process:

  1. Identify the best claims for your target audience (verbal).
  2. Prove your claims with relevant and meaningful images (visual).

Stay tuned for Part 3 of the Prioritizing Verbal, Auditory, and Visual Branding series to learn how to develop verbal claims and visual images through market research and strategic brand development. In the meantime, if you missed Part 1 of the series, follow the preceding link to read it now.

Image: Nick Benjaminsz, Verizon Wireless

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Gunelius
Susan Gunelius, MBA is a 25-year marketing and branding expert and President and CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She is the author of 10 books about marketing, branding and social media, and her marketing-related articles appear on top media websites such as and She is also the Founder and Editor in Chief of, an award-winning blog for business women.