Nonverbal Branding

Backing up your claim with more than words.

Your brand exists in the minds of your customers. It is their perception of your company. While you cannot control your customers’ perception, you can influence it with systematic communication planning and authentic brand expression. Taking a systematic approach, begs the question – how are you communicating with your customers both verbally and nonverbally?

The practice of psychology gives us a better understanding, two research studies illustrate the balance between verbal and nonverbal communications. One study demonstrated that body language accounts for 55% of your communication, 38% tone of voice and actual words spoken only 7%. Meanwhile, another study contrasted facial and vocal components and found the formula to be a 60% to 40% split favoring facial components. Communication is more than what you say, but the context in which you say it.

When developing or refining brands, organizations often see communication efforts being purely “verbal” – a product name, an advertising headline, etc. There are, however, an increasing number of nonverbal queues that your company is being judged upon. This puts pressure on taking a holistic view of your brand and creating tactics that add up to a congruent experience.

When you start to think about all the different touchpoints, your company has with customers your head may start to spin. There are a few steps to help you manage all of these touchpoints.

1. Audit & Organize

Take the time to audit what your company is doing. Organize your company’s initiatives into three categories: Physical, digital, and personal customer interactions. Physical interactions include products, roadmaps, life cycles, environments, print materials. Digital interactions are websites, mobile, apps, and social media. Personal interactions involve talent, training, recruiting, culture, leadership, and structure.

2. Assess & Synthesize

With this audit in hand, ask yourself: What does it all add up to? Do we have a unique claim? Are we substantiating that claim through all of our initiatives? Where are the gaps in the customer experience? All these touchpoints should add up to a desired experience. Begin to consider which are the most essential initiatives, and how they might need to change.

3. Show & Tell

In the past, companies could get on their marketing megaphone and tell customers how great their offer was. To win, companies would buy a bigger megaphone. Today, companies need to be much more transparent – online reviews and social media keep them honest. Customers have a vast amount of choice. Brand claims need to clearly substantiated and speak to something much more meaningful if they want to be more than a commodity.

An interesting example of "showing" your brand can be found in a recent Reebok campaign. Reebok has been reaching out to the CrossFit workout community in a number of ways. With the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games, the shoe company launched Reebok Bacon, uncured bacon that contains no nitrates, preservatives, MSG, or sweeteners. Reebok Bacon fits the nutritional standards of the Paleo Diet, which is highly adopted by CrossFit athletes. Reebok shipped the bacon packages in dry ice to 74 of the athletes participating before the games began. A Reebok Bacon Box food truck also served a variety of bacon infused foods during the event.

This serves as an example of how a company sought to show their brand’s commitment to its target audience in a meaningful way. In doing so, it made waves through social media, traditional media, and (they hope) the CrossFit community.

Remember that it is not "show" versus "tell", but show and tell. Finding and optimizing a balance is important.

Understanding your verbal and nonverbal communication initiatives can make a big impact on how customers perceive your brand. Being intentional about these initiatives by thinking holistically can help to create long-lasting, meaningful connections with your target customers.