The I Ching of Branding and Marketing

Branding is the attempt to set one organization apart from another. Successful branding is setting apart your brand from your competition. The ability to do so isn’t as complicated as you might think.

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A recent client in the tech industry asked me to write a corporate positing document that has one purpose: succinctly yet comprehensively explain what the company does. It has two primary audiences: potential investors and healthcare CEOs/COOs/CFOs. However, when the President/CEO of the company sent me the initial draft of what she wanted, the opening paragraph consisted of 128 words and two sentences laden with redundant tech industry corpspeak. “You can wordsmith it however you’d like,” she said. “But I’d really like to keep the tone of it.”

I have a great relationship with the CEO, fortunately, so I explained to her the information needed to stay but the tone – and text – needed work. The complicated run-on sentences saturated with corpspeak was going to do nothing to generate funds or sales. And that’s when I shared with her the I-Ching of branding and marketing.

If you want to be understood, write (and speak) in language that connects with your audience.

That’s it (sorry if you were expecting more). Too many branding and marketing initiatives are as flat as week-old soda pop because the language used speaks more to corporate insiders. I recognize the battle is often convincing the C-Suite to lose the jargon, and unfortunately it is the C-Suite – and not prospects – for whom the copy winds up being written. In the case of my client’s emerging company, the document charts the course for who they need to become. The right use of language determines the success or failure of the branding effort.

Here are three assumptions leaders and others should avoid when launching a branding and marketing initiative.

1. Branding strategies have to sound important to be important.

Too often people believe the more complex and complicated the corporate positioning statement sounds the more it makes the company sound…serious. Not so. More often it may communicate the company isn’t clear on what it actually does. The objective is to quickly connect your audience to the importance of your company with as little effort as possible. The clear and simple use of language accelerates that process and allows you to get on with business.

2. Branding initiatives should create a professional image. 

True, but they should also create a personality. In today’s world of social media, content marketing, brand journalism and people’s desire to emotionally connect with organizations, it isn’t good enough to simply be professional. Connecting with audiences begins with conversational language that increases people’s confidence in your company thereby increasing your, “likeability.” And in the end, what kind of “professional” image are you creating when you’re language screams you’re a frigid, impersonal, corporate monolith with an inflated sense of self importance?

3. Corpspeak communicates we know what we’re doing.

Not so. Customer service and delivering the results you promise communicate more about corporate competence than the heavily worded explanation of what you say you can do. People want results and they want to know that you’ve delivered results for others. Clear and simple language can open a door for business; results keep the business coming.

Don’t risk losing prospects because the language you use to explain your services leaves the impression doing business with you would be about as pleasant as an IRS audit. Embrace the I-Ching of branding and marketing and write (and speak) in language that your audiences understand.


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