[Podcast] Verbal Brand Identity with Nihilo

[Podcast] Verbal Brand Identity with Nihilo

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We get super practical with Israeli duo, Margaret Kerr-Jarrett, and Emunah Winer, founders of Jerusalem-based agency, Nihilo.

We tuck into how they use words and ideas to build powerful brands. Together, we explore how the strategic elements of brand building find their way into the creative look and feel and customer experiences a brand produces for customers.

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We review what a “Verbal” Identity is and why brands need one. We also explore the principles of the tone of voice and how a verbal identity connects with visual identity.

We also do a deep dive into how this duo works and goes about creating and defining brand identity as well as exploring live projects.

If you want a peak behind the scenes as to how the brand building works in practice – this episode is not to be missed.


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Transcript (Auto Generated)

Hello, and welcome to JUST Branding, the only podcast dedicated to helping designers and entrepreneurs grow brands. Here are your hosts, Jacob Cass and Matt Davies.

Hello, everybody, and welcome to this episode of JUST Branding. Today, we’re going to be talking about verbal identity in branding. And we have two amazing people, amazing creative and talented people with us.

We have Margaret Jerr-Jarrett, and we have Emunah Winer. They’re both creative directors and co-founders of the Israeli-based agency, Nihilo. And they have been featured recently in Creative Boom, The One Show Shortlist, and It’s Nice That, and many, many other things.

Ladies, welcome to the show. We’re excited to be having this conversation with you.

Thank you so much for having us.

So we’re going to be talking about verbal identity and branding. But just before we get to that, I think it would be really helpful to kind of get a bit of a picture of you both, of your agency, and how you have basically got to where you’ve got to in your careers. So Margaret, I don’t know if you want to go first.

Sure. So my background originally was academic. I was very interested in poetry and creative writing throughout my life, and it’s a huge passion of mine.

But I also really enjoy business. I found the academic world to be a bit stifling. After many different types of roles over the years in marketing, copywriting, eventually I really landed in the design world where I found a greater appreciation for craft and just more of a strategic focus as opposed to a lot of the marketing type copywriting that people are so familiar with, which is more sales and conversion-oriented.

I really saw a place where I could carve out a niche for myself in terms of bringing that element of strategic and design thinking, but from a very strong verbal perspective and not just in terms of what message are we communicating, but really what are the words that we use and how can we use language to its utmost abilities to help serve the greater purposes of the brands that we build. In terms of our agency, Emunah and I actually worked together at a different agency that’s no longer around several years ago, and we quickly saw that there was a lot of synergy in the way that we thought about brand and thought about general communications. We were both working independently for many years after that, and we had a similar pain point where I would be hired by an agency or brand to come in and build out a voice, a tone, specific copy elements and verbal identity elements, but then I would see the design was often disjointed from the language, and it was really treated as a piecemeal process.

And I really thought that, you know, there must be a way to really combine the power of design and writing together and create more of a synergistic relationship. And that’s really why we founded Nihilo to kind of fit that, fill that need and to bring the best of writing and the best of design together to do something like even better than they could do by themselves.

Nice, amazing. Emunah, do you want to add anything to that? Give us a bit of a flavor from your background.

Sure. So I come from a slightly less surprising, more traditional design background. I actually started off my career in production design, so building prototyping kind of storefront displays for various retail environments.

And then along the way, you know, I moved more towards graphic design, worked at a few agencies, worked with Margie and then quickly kind of realized that branding is the area I want to focus on. There’s been a lot of conversation about why people go into branding. But I will just say one thing, which is what when I saw Margie’s work, which is even her traditional work, her traditional poetry work, I realized that there’s such an opportunity that’s just lacking in the design world.

And we really want to kind of embrace that idea of opportunity. Every medium is a new opportunity. We talk about visual and verbal, but there’s sound, there’s motion.

And so that’s really kind of what we’re trying to embrace in our in our work together.

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OK, great. Well, thanks. Thanks for that.

I think that’s super interesting. And did you call did you call Margaret Margie?

Oh, I did call Margaret Margie. I did.

You’re welcome to call me Margie too.

Are we allowed to call you Margie?

That’s totally call me Margie.

That’s it.

That’s fantastic. I won’t tell you what we should call Jacob, but that will be for another conversation. So, Margie, you know, interesting your background, you know, in the more academic kind of poetic kind of linguistic kind of area, particularly for this podcast.

So I’m excited to kind of see where where this goes. I guess one of the questions that we tend to ask guests, and I think this is helpful, is do you have a kind of a definition of brand and branding that you that you use and what what would that be? And then let’s kind of focus in on what what verbal identity is which we’ve mentioned and define that, please.

So rather than maybe like define branding, I think maybe I could talk a bit to our approach, which is very much focused on concept. The way we create a brand is by taking all of our strategic frameworks and a very in-depth understanding of the company and the customers and all the different parties involved and trying to distill that into a concept that can communicate directly with the customer in a way that is like really meeting them face to face, using their language, using their emotions. And we really like to keep that concept singular in most cases and figure out all the different ways we can communicate that concept across touch points and through different mediums.

That’s awesome. Really interesting to hear you talk about kind of building a brand from a concept. And just before we kind of proceed, it would be great to kind of get a bit of a real live example, if you like, of what that means.

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So have you got any examples that you could sort of share with us that kind of help our listeners and ourselves kind of get the picture of what we’re talking about here when we’re talking about a core concept?


There is a brand that we’re currently working on, which is a tequila brand. And the name of the tequila…

I like you already.

I like you already. And the name of the brand is called Casa Malca. Casa obviously traditionally means house and Malca in Hebrew means queen.

And Malca also happens to be the name of the founder’s wife. So it already had this very strong origin story when we were going into it. But once we understood that, once we understood kind of the story that we could be leading with, we jumped right into it and the entire brand became involved around this very core concept of the queendom and kind of this idea of like welcome to the house of the queen and connecting feminine energy with, you know, the very rustic based nature of an agave plant and tequila growing and that balance of very, very real earth based growth and that very strong feminine energy.

And when we started building out both visual and verbal and really all the touch points, it all came back to this very royal regal idea of welcome to the queendom. You’d see that visually in what the bottle looks like. The bottle is kind of visually represents, you know, like a Greek goddess almost with a very clear white label and then a gold like emblem on top.

You see that with all the verbal and all the tone of voice and all the kind of different touch points and the assets that we created. There’s some beautiful, beautiful poetry work from Marcy in there. And we worked with various different artists.

We worked with a CG artist to create the renders of the bottle and everything. You know, the checks and balances of building out this brand always comes back to, are we embracing this idea of welcome to the Queendom or are we getting lost in some other trend or concept or tangent? And that becomes our guiding principle.

OK, so you have the concept and then you move into the story, but how do you kind of jump to the bottle design and all that good stuff? But how do you actually get to that point? Is it the design first?

Is it the copy first? I don’t want to cause any fights here, but I’d love to know your process.

Call some fights, Jacob. Call some fights.

No fights.

It’s a really good question. And like, to be honest, it’s not something that we have. It’s not like such a clear process in that it always goes this way or that.

In general, we do create like a very core strategic framework. We go through a pretty in-depth brand strategy process for most of our clients, and then we try to distill it down to the concept. So if the concept is neither visual nor verbal, it’s conceptual.

So it’s like, it’s an idea. And then we really figure out how to build that concept out. So sometimes the language comes first and the design follows that.

And sometimes the design comes first. Sometimes the product design needs to come first. In the case of Casamalpa, because it is a physical product, we really had to design the bottle before we could build out the rest of the brand touch points in order to really understand how to create that consistency and how to make sure everything’s a reflection.

Of the concept. So it’s not, you know, there’s no formula that we follow other than making sure that we are really aligned on what that concept is so that everything we create ties back into that.

And I assume you get buy-in from the client, do you, on the concept? Make sure you pitch that concept. Yes, absolutely.

And then from there you build out the verbal and visual. So you dodged a quick question, Margaret, earlier. What is this verbal you talk about?

How do you define verbal identity?

So verbal identity, I think you can really just think of how you would define visual identity and think of how you can apply that to language. So verbal identity is really all the places where someone might interact with a brand that is verbal, that contains language, or maybe that even could contain language, but no one thought to do it before. What language you use and how you choose to present it, that’s the verbal identity.

So dive deep on this concept. So you have the Queendom, right? You haven’t got the bottle design, but you have the backstory.

So how did you get to kind of the bottle design? And when did you bring in this verbal identity? And how did you, I guess, weave that through the identity?

What are some examples of that?

Sure. So with Casa Malka, we really tried to bring visual and verbal in. In different, you know, in different ways, some brands require more of a visual focus and we embrace that.

And some brands require actually to lead with a more verbal focus and we embrace that as well. So each brand is different. With a brand like Casa Malka, we want to really take advantage of all the possibilities.

So we want to, you know, every single place the customer is going to be interfacing with, we want to think about how can we interface with them in different ways that will sort of like touch them differently. So they’ll see the bottle. They’ll get like visual cues.

They’ll also read the text, which will give them other cues. They’ll see, you know, imagery. They’ll see the typography.

Every single cue that’s being given to the customer, we want to make sure that’s all tied to that core concept. So with Casabalca, the label, the way that we write the copy on the label, what we put on the label, what we put on the packaging, what we put on different brand materials, like what we’re creating for this Tequila brand. We’re doing a few things for them, like a recipe card to include in their packaging.

We’re creating out of home campaigns that will include elements of the storytelling, visually and verbally. And depending on what the product or what the client is, it could be almost anything depending on what’s needed.

Well, I’d love to go one layer deeper. You’ve done the high level. But for this example of the Tequila brand, it’s like the feminine energy and the queendom.

So what sort of language are you using, both visual and verbal, to actually communicate that feminine energy that you spoke of?

Sure. So I’ll speak from the verbal and maybe Emunah can speak from the visual. For me, it’s really important to think about what’s the tone and how can we match the language style to the tone of this brand.

So if you get a chance to read some of the language and the verbal branding for Casamaca, you’ll see the tone is very inviting. It’s very almost enticing, maybe even like a little bit seductive. There’s a lot of emphasis of very visceral imagery.

So, you know, seeing the sky open up or feeling the dry earth and really getting in touch with like the visceral experience because drinking any alcohol but tequila, it’s very much like a sensory experience. So the language really reflects that and it reflects this idea of being invited into something. You know, we’re inviting you into this experience of the tequila and, you know, we’re calling that the Queendom from the point of view of our concept.

But the language is very inviting, very enticing, very visceral. Really, we strive that every single word and every aspect of the brand will have that same tone visually and verbally.

I’d love to go even deeper on this. So maybe we’ll talk about the visual aspects. So you talked about Sensory.

Is it a premium product? It sounds like it is if you’re talking about these things. So it’s a premium brand.

It’s all about the experience. You’re talking about this like Queendom, I guess that’s the place you go, I’m assuming that’s what you’re using with the visuals. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s what it sounds like.

So how do you create this Queendom world if that’s what you are doing?

I’ll talk about that a bit from a visual experience, starting from the very core traditional identity elements, which are the typography, the color palette, logo, etc. The entire thing was built on this balance of brutalistic relationship to earth and, again, that feminine energy. In the typography, you’ll see we’re using two very different but complementary fonts.

One of them, for the actual logo, is this very brutalist font, which you wouldn’t expect for a typical feminine product. And the other one is a much more delicate, paired back font, and that balance is somewhat shocking and surprising. Another piece of the visual identity we have is an actual illustration of the queen, which is drawn in this very kind of, you know, ink-bleedy sort of messy kind of way that almost looks like an old antique stamp.

And we have this queen, and we have her very kind of like sensual energy just sitting on a rock, and she becomes a core part of the brand that we use delicately but significantly. And then when it comes to the actual bottle design, I could talk about, I mean, I’m looking in front of me, but I could talk about the actual bottle design. It’s this very, very kind of clear, stark premium bottle, which is primarily just the clear glass.

On the very bottom, almost shockingly small, is just a black and white label. And then on top, you have this beautiful like gold sticker with the queen’s emblem on top. And the way we’re building out the visual assets of the brand beyond the product is a big part of the core concept.

We have this idea from the get-go when we were building this out, but is to have a CG artist actually place this tequila bottle inside a very raw, rustic desert filled with natural elements and then have all of this gold jewels and antique, almost pirate booty dripping all around it. And constantly just telling this very interesting, tantalizing, seductive story of here is this premium, beautiful, feminine thing against the backdrop of a very rustic, a very natural environment. So every single and that goes even deeper into what we’re playing with typography.

There’s a lot of like full with margin to margin typography bleeding all the way into the edges. And it almost looks like a mistake. And it almost looks like, you know, it doesn’t look neat enough.

And that and we’re embracing that because it’s raw and it’s like kind of shocking and surprising. And so just every iteration, every kind of detail that we can think of to play on this story. Obviously, we’re not always thinking about it like that.

It kind of comes naturally. But yeah, we want people to be questioning our work and being like, oh, like, why is it like that? That’s not something we would expect to see and constantly kind of question themselves and invite them into thinking more about the work that we’re doing.

You said you had it there. So people watching the videos, can you show us on the video?

Oh, not yet.

There are so many words in there. They’re just like, oh, they’re just…

I want to see it. I want to see it.

I mean, should I show one?

Come on.

We should show one. Okay, we’ll show one. Hold on one second.

Can we hear some of the poetry?

Yeah, I’m going to read it. Hold on a second. Margie, should I read your poetry?

Okay, hold on.

This is really exciting stuff. I really love seeing this true example. I’ve got tons more questions, but let’s hear how the verbal has come out.

So this text is written on the backside of the label of the bottle. Here it goes. Bones from stalks, skin stitched from petals, breath captured from the edges of the wind, eyes molded from drops of dew.

The queen sprouts forth from the ground, lifts her hands to your hands, leads you inside her palace and fills your glass. Welcome to the Queendom. And then it goes on to talk about Casamalca Blanco, 100% Agave, et cetera, et cetera.



That’s so exciting. That’s so good. So tons of questions, tons of questions now.

Right. Get ready. You know, you mentioned the original concept and, you know, as a lot of people know, I’m a massive kind of fan of strategic thinking.

So you think strategically first, you call it the concept, and then you translate that out into assets that communicate the meaning, you know, effectively as you’ve demonstrated. So just interested in how you worked. I mean, you mentioned the name, so it had a kind of an origin story, but how did you kind of get the buy in from the client?

How did you kind of connect all of the dots? And what does your sort of strategy deck look like? What kind of things do you put in it to get to this point?

Yeah, I think our strategy process is pretty similar for each client, though, you know, obviously we have to tailor things. In terms of which strategic elements get put into our strategy deck, you know, that really depends. We find that more sort of like high-tech companies or companies that are more of a service as opposed to a product need a lot more of the positioning type messaging and, you know, very broad competitive analysis, benchmark brands, probably, you know, a lot of the same kind of stuff that you guys do.

We certainly go through that process in a lot of depth. Something that’s particularly important for us is, especially as it relates to verbal identity, is really understanding the voice of the customer. So, like, I’ll give you another example.

A brand we recently did, which was very different from Casamalca, it was an in-home dialysis company. So it’s kind of disrupting the dialysis healthcare marketplace, which is typically done in centers. You know, people have to get up and drive to these centers, and this company has a really actually exciting model of bringing dialysis into people’s homes on their own schedules.

So we actually, in addition to talking a lot to a lot of patients, we did a ton of deep diving on Reddit and Quora to just really hear the words and stories of the people who are undergoing this really awful experience of having kidney failure and having to have dialysis. And getting into their mind and really trying to understand their perspective is a huge part of our strategic process. And it’s really what allows us to build out our concept in a way that’s going to speak to what the customers need or want or feel.

But actually, we didn’t really talk about the customer for the tequila brand. Who was the court audience for that?

So it’s kind of like an interesting… There’s really two types of brands we work on. I mean, there’s many, but we see the process for creating a brand new brand from scratch is very different from maybe like a rebrand or a sub-brand, which there’s already a lot of understanding of who the customers are and how they’re working.

So for a tequila brand, it’s sort of a very growing industry. I mean, it used to be tequila was like the party drink, and you stand on the bar, and you take a shot, and you’re not really savoring the flavor of the tequila. So tequila in recent years has become much more…

There’s more of like a luxury tequila market where people are interested in savoring the flavors and understanding the different, you know, wood fermenting and all the different kind of ways you can experience like a finer spirit. So it is more of a luxury product is the goal, which it will be targeted more towards people who have an interest in savoring the actual beverage as opposed to just like taking shots and having fun. And that’s really an emerging market.

So we do have some information about those customers, but not a ton.

OK, I want to dive into the concept of verbal identity a little bit more and sort of explode that if we can. So you showed us some examples there. We’ve talked about sort of strategic thinking and the concept and how that translates down.

But here’s a question. What is the difference, right, between verbal identity writing? Right.

And perhaps just normal copywriting on a website or for a brochure? You know, how do you sort of see that in terms of how you look at things?

We get this question a lot. And we realize something that people are a concept that people are already familiar with, which is really relevant and parallel to verbal identity versus copywriting is this idea of like your brand is more than a logo, which we see everywhere. And on the one hand, a client could go and outsource somebody making a logo and outsource some graphic design collateral, or you can approach people to inherently build your brand, understand your brand, and then express it through whatever mediums you’re expressing it to.

So we see a direct parallel to that, to verbal identity versus copywriting. Copywriting is a verbal asset, but it’s not actually creating the core foundational verbal brand and how we express it and creating the constraints and restraints around that.

So can I just ask a quick question? So you’re talking like principles. So you’re writing at a high level, you’re setting the tone, you’re getting everything.

So how do you kind of define those principles? Say, for example, the tequila brand we were talking about, you mentioned the idea of being welcoming, the central experience. Do you document those as sort of principles or pillars or anything like that?

How does that sort of look?

That’s a good question. We do in the strategic phase, we do focus a lot on like brand personality and brand tone. And that’s where we begin to build that up.

But I will admit that a lot of sort of the magic that happens is really once you begin the creative process. And we do like to leave space for that to emerge. I think another point to your previous question, that’s really important as verbal identity is very much tied together with visual identity.

So if it’s, like I said before, piecemealed, where you have a visual designer and then someone comes in to fill in with some words, you’re not really allowing the verbal and the visual to lean on each other. Sometimes you don’t have to go so far with the visual if you have verbal to lean on and vice versa. And it can create a little more tension and nuance in the brand when you have both of those mediums working together.

Yes. Do you use any tools like archetypes to form that personality? It sounds very like the lover archetype, very seductive and sensory.

And that sounds like what it is. And then you contrast it with the harsher visuals of the desert and those spiky plants and the cacti of cactus. It kind of like just works really well together.

So is that do you use tools like that?

You know, I’ve tried to use archetypes in the past. It’s never worked for me very much. I think maybe you’re right that intuitively we do develop an archetype for our brand, but it’s not something you really define.

We have sort of other ways of defining things that just work better for us.

So what are some of those other ways?

Like I mentioned with the personality and the tone, I think, you know, mood boarding is something that’s very important for us to do. And we always prefer to do like multiple concepts so that we can really hone in on what that tone is in a very specific way. And, you know, those are the processes that help us really land on that very specific personality.

All right. So tone. So can we break down tone?

Like, how do you actually decide the tone when it comes to visual or verbal?

I mean, I think it all ties back to strategy. So once again, really understanding the company, the product, the product strategy, the way that the customer is going to interface with the brand is really important. Like with Cosmalka, it’s a very physical experience, but with many brands, you know, it’s behind a screen.

So all of those really play into understanding how we can best communicate or try to communicate with the customer for a brand that’s more, you know, let’s say like a service or a software product. So you’re going to have to really speak to their immediate need. So the focus is going to be much more on like a value proposition for them, and the tone is going to be probably, you know, more helpful, lighthearted, focused, as opposed to Cosmalka, which the tone is, I’d say a little more, it’s like more sensory and more intimate.

You know, it’d be a little bit inappropriate to bring such an intimate tone to like a B2B software company. So just really having a very in-depth understanding of the company, the consumer landscape, the customers, and really understanding what’s the most appropriate in that context.

I like you tie it all back to strategy because I hope, you know, what folks are hearing here is that to do amazing creative work, you still need to have the strategy set, right? You still need to have that to go back to, to build from, which I’m a huge, huge fan of, as everybody knows. Question though, right?

So we’ve talked about setting the tone. We’ve talked about setting the principles, finding the concept, you know, and linking all that through from the strategy. But how would a company embed these principles on an ongoing basis?

Because one thing I find, and I don’t know if you will see this in your work, is that there’s an initial focus on this type of stuff. And everybody gets excited and it’s brilliant and wonderful. And then three years down the line, you know, things have kind of, if people don’t keep check on it, things can kind of drift away and suddenly the brand loses its soul, you know, and then you have to do the whole process all over again.

So I wondered if you had any thoughts on, you know, all the great work that you do. How do you see that being embedded and continuing on into businesses as time goes on?

Sure. That’s a very important question, a big pain point for us. And part of the reason we started the agency is because we found that over and over again, we’d be doing a kind of siloed work, handing it over to our clients and they’d either take it and work with other contractors or take it in house.

And then it’s really nice. And the work appears on our website on a case study, but it doesn’t actually exist in real life and it doesn’t actually interact with the customers the way we intended it to. And that’s extremely disappointing whenever that happens.

So there’s a few different ways we address that. One is from the get go. We’re very eager to make a brand that not only tells a beautiful story and is emotionally resonant, but it’s very, very practical for the clients to use.

To that end, things will change based on what the client capabilities are. One client is a nonprofit that has 300 different departments and they are going to need a system that tons and tons of people can access and dish out. Another client has their core creative in-house team and that’s it.

And we’ll work directly with them. But again, that’s also part of the way we view strategy from the get go is what are the restraints we’re working in. This being one of them and how do we make sure to actually build something out that’s practical and sustainable.

That also comes down to making things like very clear voice and tone guidelines and brand guidelines and stuff like that. But to that end, we also very practically speaking, we also encourage our clients to continue with us on a retainer basis, not necessarily that we’re doing the work, but just so that we can serve as an outside consult to be guardians of the brand and to maintain that checks and balances. It’s not like you don’t work with an accountant once and then just drop them.

You have to maintain it and it’s a constant effort. We also have to be prepared that the needs of a company might change and it might evolve. We need to prepare our brands from the get-go to evolve with them and to change with them and see how we can adapt the brand and maybe change the brand in order for it to work.

Because if it doesn’t work, it’s frankly irrelevant.

That’s really a great answer. I love that approach of being super flexible depending on the client needs. As you say, the company might change, but over time, the customer might change.

The brand has to constantly be checking its core principles and its core concept against the needs and wants and desires of its customers, which may need to be evolved over time. I absolutely love that. One thing I wondered about your retainers, if you don’t mind me asking, I’m obsessed about retainers because what I find is a lot of creative people, they hop from project to project to project, which is the way that their brains tend to work.

But the issue that with that is that you’re constantly feast or famine kind of from a business perspective, it’s quite a precarious position to be in from a business side. So building out retainers has surely got to be a smart business approach. So what do you include in your retainers to ensure that you are helping clients on an ongoing basis just out of interest?

Yeah. So, I mean, to a certain extent, it would be ongoing kind of asset creation. There’s a limit to that.

Like, we’re not going to be creating their social posts for them. But if they have a specific campaign or they have a white paper or they have some new pages of the website that need to be written, so there’s kind of this body of work that we will do with them to just continue to expand the brand. And then a lot of it is also consultation work.

A lot of the clients that we work with have some of their in-house teams and have in-house capabilities, but those employees need some sort of brand training. So we will work with them and say, this works, this doesn’t work, why doesn’t it work? If some of the language needs to be adjusted, like you said, based on new client, based on customers changing, we’ll work with them and make sure it’s still against the original strategy and it still works within it and it’s still on brand.

So there’s some actual asset creation, there’s some actual work being done and then a lot of it is also concentration.

Here’s something to think about, just to throw out there. I’ve found with some of my clients, like training is an interesting thing that we don’t explore often, particularly as you mentioned, like in massive companies where lots of people are going to be creating assets and touch points. And I found that that’s quite an interesting thing to offer, to extend a contract, if you like, is to say, well, hey, we’ve done this great work, everybody’s super happy.

What if we run four training sessions over the next year, right? Where anyone can show up and we’re going to reconnect everybody with the principles of the brand and that kind of stuff. You ever thought about doing that?

Is that something that would ever interest you?

Yeah, I think so. I think so as long as there are practical ramifications of it. I find that sometimes those kind of large company-wide sessions are just like talking and like waxing poetic about the brand and the brand philosophy.

Make sure to remain friendly in your tone of voice and make sure that and for that, it’s like, well, that was a nice hour session, but it doesn’t really mean anything. So I would absolutely love to do more training sessions as long as there’s really being clear guidelines as to what the training session is about. And we really, some creators like to kind of just do their creative thing and bounce.

We feel very frustrated when the brands we create don’t live and breathe to their full potential. So we will do everything we can to help the client maintain it.

Right. I think that is the major challenge, right, of creative work is like, and we get so infuriated, don’t we, when we don’t see it lived. And so that’s something that I’ve been focusing on in my consultancy work, more from a business consultancy perspective, like, how do we get this great stuff into a company?

Training is one session that I’ve been doing sessions with sales teams, right? So you reconnect with the brand, go through the strategy, show them how it looks and feels. And then one thing that, you know, talk about practical, one thing I love to do is get them off in pairs to then come back and do a pitch of the brand, right?

Trust the brand, not the product. Sell me the brand, the essence of the brand, why it exists, the story, the narrative. And I found that so interesting.

And do it in front of your peers and then everybody discuss it afterwards, right? So everybody takes their own take on it. And then you can kind of find things.

You’re like, hang on, that’s really not really in keeping with what we’re trying to do here. So you have to handle it carefully. But yeah, it’s a cool kind of approach.

But anyway, enough about me. Let’s just kind of start wrapping things up. Going back to the verbal identity and the principles, the one for Margie, really, have you ever been in a situation where you’ve got this great brand and you’ve done the principles and you hand it over, and then you see it not be followed?

And what do you do then? How do you advise companies to make sure that… Because you talked, for example, you talked about the tequila brand, you talked about being inviting, you talked about the queendom, you’ve talked about all that stuff.

Do you actually literally tangibly build out principles that say, do not say this, we say this, you know, and go through? And then how do you, as I say, so first of all, do you actually build that out? And secondly, how do you approach it when you see that not happening?

Yeah, so voice tone guidelines are a very popular thing to talk about in the copywriting world. In my experience, people don’t know how to follow them very well because it’s sort of theoretical, you know. Speak this way, not this way.

It’s like, how does someone just change the way they speak? It’s a difficult way to try to, you know, get someone on board. So I will create like a basic framework for voice and tone just to really set the stage.

But what we actually are really focused on doing is creating like a toolkit. So we call it like a visual and verbal toolkit. And in the process of branding, we’ll create a lot of different pieces of visual and verbal collateral that can be used together, separately for all kinds of different purposes.

And that really serves. And then like our hope is that the client will build upon that and will consult with us to continue to build upon that. And that will give them kind of some of the core language elements that they can use.

So you could, if you need to do a social media post, you can pull things from the verbal toolkit to help kind of frame that post in context for the brand. We also create, you know, we love doing campaigns. So we’ll create a lot of different examples of the type of language and the type of visuals you can use in a campaign and really how they work together.

Because I think that’s something that brands struggle with is, you know, you have some design accents and you have some copywriting. And do you just throw it up there together? How do they work together?

And that’s something, you know, when we do hand a brand over to a client, we go into that in a lot of depth. How do you really use all these assets on their own together? In what instances?

And we find that that is like a lot more useful than the voice tone guidelines, which are really just kind of it’s more of a strategic thing, almost like to use internally. Nice.

Right. Jacob, any final questions before we finish?

So you mentioned voice and tone, which is, you know, encapsulates everything about voice and tone. But do you go into detail such as vocabulary, for example, words to use, like they can plug and play or like sentences? Is that kind of what you’re referring to?

Yeah. So I love creating like a lexicon, which would be like just a big group of words that would be relevant for this brand. You know, like we said, for the Casamalca brand, what type of language are we using?

So if we’re going very image based and visceral versus very conceptual and idea based, we will definitely, you know, find ways to communicate that that work for the client. And just like Emunah said, it depends on their capabilities. So if someone has like amazing writer and house who’s really capable of taking this stuff and building upon it, then we’re going to build the brand in one way.

If they really just need plug and play, we’re going to build it in a different way. So it really depends on what the client needs. We really don’t have any type of, you know, pre-created formulas or packages.

Everything is like super custom.

I like that, right? Because I think some people can get themselves into a situation where they say, no, this is our process and this is what we do. And they box themselves in.

And if that isn’t appropriate for the client, they become very rigid. And I always find that every client is different, like you’ve outlined, like every customer group is different. Every business is different.

All the leadership teams are different. They’re set up. They’re people.

Everything’s unique. And so to kind of try and crowbar that into a very rigid process, you need a process, right? But if it’s too rigid, it becomes very, you know, perhaps areas become irrelevant and then that’s where frustrations occur.

So smart stuff.

It comes back to the strategy, right? Yeah. What are the values of the brand and how does the tone and the voice actually relate back to that strategy and the values?

So, for example, I recently did a lover type archetype brand for an eyewear.

You love the lover, don’t you, Jacob?

Just a lover. So a lot of the words were very seductive and sensory, kind of like you were mentioning. So we used those words as like a guide to create a lexicon for them.

So the brand was very handcrafted. It was very sustainable. It was very sensory as well.

So we had words that were related around those values, which were very tied to the strategy as well. So even if they just picked up a few words here or there for like a social media capture, we showed Ryan, they had that to come back to. It related to the strategy, it related to the values and the brand’s personality.

So it made it very easy for them to pick up words here and there, even though they’re not a particular copywriter.

Yeah. So helpful to just have those constraints. You need them.

Even as creatives, it’s so easy to go crazy and do anything, and you need those constraints in order to point you in the right direction.

Well, we’ve definitely come full circle. It’s about the strategy. Awesome.

We loved the example with the tequila brand and how you showed us how the strategy informs the concept and the storytelling and how you weave copyrighting and verbal identity all together to create a really strong product. I really encourage people to listen in to check out the tequila bottle and the graphics, because you’ll get to see it all come together, and it’s really, really beautiful. It’s really a very nice contrast between simple and earthy and feminine.

It’s a really, really strong job. So well done, girls. Thank you.

Yeah, brilliant. And Jacob and I expect a bottle of that to arrive at both of our studios.


Anyway, thank you so much for carving out the time. Final, final question for me. Where do people find you both?

How do they connect with you and follow your work?

Sure. So our website is Nilo.agency. And maybe you can put that in the show notes.

How do you spell it?

N-I-H-I-L-O. We actually on our website have a whole article about our name, which comes from the Latin ex nihilo, which means something from nothing. So you can go to our website and we’re on LinkedIn, Instagram.

You can find all those links on our website and personally just type in our names and you’ll find us, Margaret Jerr-Jarrett and Emunah Winer.

We have a newsletter. Sign up for our newsletter.

All right. We’ll drop that in the show notes. Listen, thanks so much both of you for carving out this time.

We appreciate it. And it’s been great to kind of go toe to toe with you and dig into all these things. I particularly personally love the fact that, you know, we’ve linked the verbal with the visual and then back to the strategy.

So from me and Mr. Lover Lover, thank you so much. Take care and we’ll see you next time on JUST Branding. Thank you.

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