Opinion

In the era of design thinking, consider the copywriter

19 March, 2019 Share socially

When IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Jr. famously claimed that “good design is good business,” in 1973, he kickstarted an era of design thinking — and impacted how many of the world’s most powerful corporations solve problems, launch products and staff C-suites. Fast-forward to today, and design is still good business: recent reports from McKinsey and InVision confirm that design processes can be massive drivers of business performance. But something we don’t talk about as much, when we talk about the transformative power of design thinking, is the role of writing.

Verbal identity is a vastly under-utilized business asset — just like design once was. 

Much as design was once a siloed specialty responsible for “making stuff look cool” in the daisy-chain of product development, writing is often treated as a marketing function or shadow role. But a fully-integrated verbal identity teaches us as much about writing as it does about operationalizing consumer-first behaviors. Tone of voice is the literal substance of a brand’s conversation with consumers and — when embraced and adopted broadly — has the power to shape everything from products to experiences, especially as more brands lean on voice-assisted AI. 

Everyone can write, but thinking like a writer is a different skill.

Just like design thinking, there’s “copy thinking” — a type of problem-solving learned when you spend years working with prose. But copy thinking isn’t solely about word choice or even style: it’s about structure and psychology. First off, copy thinking favors continuity (an apt metaphor for delivering consistent consumer experiences). Secondly, it leans towards resolution (and encourages the use of subtle tools to achieve it — an invitation for all to think creatively). And finally, it focuses on the mindset of an end reader (or end user). 

“Storytelling” is a deceptively sweet way to describe what amounts to a lot of hard work.  

Storytelling is having a moment all on its own, and much like design thinking, its sweet name hides a big responsibility: a well-articulated brand story — one that’s told in a compelling way, day in and day out — is actually a lot of work. Companies that integrate verbal identity into their non-marketing processes ask their employees to use consumer oriented language — discrete, compelling, descriptive — as a way to reinforce the brand’s storytelling through their own work. But the payoff is immense: a richer experience for consumers at every touchpoint. 

As a brand discipline, verbal identity has traditionally served as a bridge between strategic vision and creative execution. But by leveraging its central tenants more broadly — and the writers responsible for creating them — brands can connect with consumers more completely than before.  

At FutureBrand, we help clients leverage their greatest brand assets — including (but never limited to) verbal identity — to create deeply compelling and entirely connected experiences.