Creating a language brand isn’t as overwhelming as it might seem, although it does entail some work. Before even considering creating a logo and visual elements, you need to sit down comfortably and think seriously about your business.
To guide your first solo brainstorming session, we’ve put together the 5 most important questions that will help you define your language brand. So grab a piece of paper, top up your favourite drink, and get ready to start this amazing journey!
1. Who am I?
No doubt a very interesting philosophical question, however, that’s not exactly where we want you to go. (We’re not referring to your awesome cooking skills, either).
This question is aimed at your business self. As someone once said, ‘There’s one thing every brand should know. Itself.’ The first step in building a language brand identity is to look at your brand as a person with a specific personality, tone of voice and values.
How do you define your language brand’s character? First of all, try to come up with a few adjectives that you think define your identity as a business.
In his book How to launch a brand, Fabian Geyrhalter shares a list of relevant adjectives to get you started.
It’s important to understand that you’re defining your character as a brand, not a person. On the one hand, you should pick adjectives that resonate with your own personality, but on the other hand, it’s important to consider what your audience expects from you.
Let’s say you’re a naturally funny and laid-back person who offers court interpreting services to local institutions. Funny and law don’t exactly go hand in hand, right?
To establish your language brand’s personality, try to reach a balance between who you are as a person and who your audience expects you to be (we’ll get to that later), so that you don’t end up sounding artificial or inappropriate.
Tone of voice
Choosing the right tone to communicate with your audience is extremely important.
A brand’s tone of voice could be: professional, passionate, authoritative, educational, technical, empowering, conversational, positive, promotional, formal, informal, among other adjectives.
Again, there are endless possibilities and your tone can vary according to context (e.g. it’s OK to be a bit more informal on social media and sound more educational on your blog posts).
When you think about your language brand’s tone of voice, remember to take into account:
- Characteristics: the traits you chose above will help you define your tone. If you went for ‘relaxed’ as a trait, it wouldn’t make sense to pick a very formal tone.
- Audience: choosing the right tone will help you communicate effectively and connect with your audience, so bear in mind who you’ll be targeting and whether your list of adjectives reflects this.
Any brand should obviously follow a set of ethical values such as honesty, trust, responsibility, and the like. Yet your language brand values should go beyond that and reflect what you believe in as a business.
Take Apple, for instance. Their values are: Accessibility, Education, Environment, Inclusion and Diversity, Privacy, and Supplier Responsibility.
On their page dedicated to Inclusion and Diversity, Apple states: “We’ve achieved pay equity in every country where we operate — women earn the same as men when performing similar work.”
So, your brand’s values are not only what you believe in, but also the impact you want to have on the world.
Think about what you believe in as a language brand and how you’d like to make a difference. You might find inspiration in this handy list from Canva.
2. What’s my purpose?
In other words, what’s your why?
In his bestselling book Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, Simon Sinek says that:
“Very few organisations know why they do what they do. Why is not about making money. That’s a result. Why is a purpose, cause or belief. It’s the very reason your organisation exists. Making money is NOT a why. Revenues, profits, salaries and other monetary measurements are simply results of what we do. The why is about our contribution to impact and serve others. The why inspires us.”
According to Sinek, your why is at the very core of your brand because it’s the belief that drives you, your ultimate mission. By asking yourself why, you’re focusing on the emotional side of your brand, which is exactly what will help you connect with your audience.
If you haven’t found your why, ask yourself:
- What made you start doing what you do?
- What makes you get up every morning?
- What drives you?
- What’s your story?
(You can refer to Simon Sinek’s Find Your Why page to help you plunge deeper in your journey of brand discovery.)
When you finally figure out the why of your language brand, make sure it’s out there so that everyone can see it and use it to stand out from your competition.
3. What do I offer?
This question goes beyond your range of services. Think about all the problems you solve for your clients – above all, focus on benefits and value, rather than services.
Just like a mattress shop should be selling a good night’s sleep rather than memory foam, think about the results of the services you provide. What do clients get from working with you? Peace of mind, credibility, international sales?
Many language professionals out there offer the same services as you. Value, on the other hand, is something personal and it’s what makes you different from competitors.
So consider what value you provide. Is it an initial free consultation, or an extra round of revision before publishing?
To help you identify the benefits and type of value you provide, you can check what clients usually say about working with you (this is also a good chance to ask for a few testimonials if you haven’t already). Do they say you’re a problem solver? In what way?
Put together a short list of what makes you valuable to your clients. That will be your unique selling point and your advantage over competitors.
4. Who’s my audience?
You’ve probably heard that finding a niche is advisable for any business. This is especially true for small businesses, including language brands.
When you define your target audience, you’re actually increasing the chances of being found instead of getting lost in a sea of possibilities.
In our branding questionnaires, most of our clients answer ‘agencies’ and ‘direct clients’ when asked about who their target audience is. How can they find, market, and sell to such a diverse group of people?
What they should be saying is ‘American translation agencies who offer medical consecutive interpretation’ and ‘European jewellery brands who need creative English copywriting’.
Ask yourself these questions to help you identify and narrow down the audience of your language brand:
- Which industry do I mostly get work from?
- What are my favourite subject fields?
- What’s my ideal client like?
- Who’d be interested in my services?
Developing the personal profiles of your ideal clients is another helpful strategy for identifying your audience.
Think about your clients as individuals with certain jobs, ages, hobbies, goals and fears to give you an idea of what they might need from you and where you can find them. Try to create at least 2 different profiles to target different needs.
By defining and understanding your target audience, you’re making sure you’ll have the right people contact you, receive your marketing campaigns, and read your content.
5. What are your goals?
All businesses want to be noticed and recognised, so your very first goal should be brand awareness.
Brand awareness is how well your language brand is known out there.
To motivate potential clients to hire your services, first you have to make them aware you exist. Then, work towards building an image of credibility and trust in order to establish a more solid presence.
As a language brand, you’ll have other specific goals. You might want to increase website traffic or grow your Twitter account. Think about what you want to achieve and what matters to your brand right now, and write down a short list of main goals for your first year as a language brand.
Your brand goals must be aligned with your audience’s needs. It’s useless to set yourself a milestone that doesn’t translate into benefits for potential clients.
Remember that the goals you set will influence your marketing strategy and determine which elements and materials your language brand will need.
Plus, in the post-COVID era, business is taking place mostly online, so remember to adjust your marketing to the new reality. Email signatures and digital brochures are the new business cards!
Lastly, for succeeding at creating a language brand, remember:
- Never imitate other people you admire or copy a model that has worked for somebody else. That is the worst mistake! Every language brand is truly unique and provides different value. Remember that YOU are the reason why your clients do business with you.
- Always be consistent with whatever you decide. This will increase brand awareness.
- There’s never a right time to create and launch a language brand. Answering these questions will help you gain the confidence you need to take a leap of faith.
And when you’re finally ready to create your visual identity, we’d love to help you stay on the right track!