Prioritizing Verbal, Auditory and Visual Branding - Part 1

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Posted Jun 25, 2012
Susan Gunelius

Every brand is made up of visual, verbal, and auditory elements that cue recognition and spark recall. When those elements work together, marketing messages are well-received and consumers are motivated to action. When those elements don't work together, marketing messages fall flat and advertising expenditures fail to deliver an adequate return on investment. In my new series, Prioritizing Verbal, Auditory, and Visual Branding, you'll learn what each of these sensory brand elements is and how to develop a branding strategy that leverages them in the best way.

verbal auditory visual branding

What Is Visual Branding?

Visual branding refers to the images (including video images) that represent the brand. These images could be part of the brand identity, such as the logo, or they can be part of advertisements, the brand website, and so on. In other words, any visual cue associated with the brand is a form of visual branding.

What is Verbal Branding?

Verbal branding refers to the words and messages that are associated with the brand. Those verbal elements could be part of the brand identity, such as the brand name and slogan, or they could be the copy on a website, in a brochure, in an ad, in a video, in a blog post, in a tweet, and so on. Even the text in an executive speech, an annual report, a direct mail piece, or a coupon could be considered a form of verbal branding.

What is Auditory Branding?

Auditory branding refers to the sounds associated with a brand. Those sounds could come from television or radio commercials, speeches, live events, recorded interviews, and so on. In other words, audible messages related to a brand are forms of auditory branding.

Which is Most Important?

So which is most important -- verbal, auditory, or visual branding? There have been many psychological studies claiming that one form of communication is more effective than the others or that one form is more memorable than the others. However, being memorable is only part of an overall brand marketing plan. Focusing on one form of branding and forgetting the others is unlikely to drive the best results.

Watch a television commercial without the sound, and it's likely to be less effective. Alternately, listen to a television commercial with your eyes closed, and it's likely to be less effective than it would have been with sound. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but in media that allow it, the majority of marketing campaigns and branding initiatives are more successful when they include verbal, visual, and auditory elements.

In other words, marketers who recognize that campaigns which tap into multiple senses are more effective than those that focus on only one sense are the ones who will be most successful. Pondering which is most important -- verbal, auditory, or visual branding -- is like trying to determine which came first, the chicken or the egg. A great image alone won't generate the same results that a great image with a specific, relevant verbal message can deliver.

Al Ries explains the importance of marrying visual and verbal brand elements as a hammer and nails -- you need both to build a house just as you need both visual and verbal brand elements to achieve the best marketing results. He says:

"It's like asking what's more important in building a house, a hammer or a nail. Both have to work together. The best hammer in the world is useless if the hammer misses the nail. And the best nail in the world is useless unless there's a hammer to hammer the nail in. [In branding], the visual is the hammer. A visual alone is not enough. You need to connect the visual to a powerful verbal statement. When the two work together, when you have an exceptionally powerful hammer and an exceptionally sharp nail, the results can be astounding. If you can't find a visual device to hammer your verbal nail, then your strategy tends to fall apart." -- Al Ries

Stay tuned to the AYTM blog for Part 2 of the Prioritizing Verbal, Auditory, and Visual Branding series where you'll learn more about developing these branding elements to achieve better marketing results.

Image: Nick Benjaminsz

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