Nick Westergaard

By Nick Westergaard on May 7, 2018

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Mastering Your Brand’s Verbal Identity with Al Hussain

al hussain

“The CMO for a medium-sized brand is responsible for more words than the editor of a newspaper.” Words matter. And, to this very point, there are a lot of them in the crowded, digital world we find ourselves in. How can you develop a consistent yet flexible brand lexicon? Just ask strategist Al Hussain of Verbal Identity. And that’s exactly what I did on this week’s episode of the On Brand podcast.

Enjoy This Episode Now

About Al Hussain

Al is a thought leader in where language meets behavioral science. He’s helped position great British fashion brands like Fred Perry and Belstaff; Britain’s most popular car brand, Vauxhall; and he also lead the naming team for one of the world’s greatest hotels, although it’s not open yet. He’s also a guest speaker at various conferences, most recently the Telegraph Festival of Business in London.

Episode Highlights

Where do you start with brand language? “It has to be working at every level.” Al took us through the three major categories: 10,000-foot level — the brand narrative, 1,000-foot level — the different ways of telling a story, and the ground-level – the basics of word choice and sentence length. “Language exists everywhere. The strongest brands work at all levels.”

What brand’s language does Al admire? “Slack because it’s carried all the way through. Even to the language on an app update.” Words are a simple and cost-effective way to enhance any brand touchpoint — even a software update!

How do you operationalize language internally? It’s a lot of work! Al and his team use a mix of workshops, mini-sites, emails, toolkits, and templates to help individuals at organizations understand how to implement the brand language in their day-to-day work.

What’s one thing you can do to start thinking about your brand’s language? “Two things: First, look at the overarching thought or strategy for your brand. Then ask people to interpret that — like the forklift driver. Second, look at externals like your website and your competitors. Ask yourself, is that who we want to be?”

What brand has made Al smile recently? Why is Al subscribed to an email list for a women’s clothing brand? Because fashion brand Reformation writes amazing subject lines that consistently make Al smile.

To learn more, go to verbalidentity.com.

As We Wrap …

Before we go, I want to flip the microphone around to our community …
Bill Robinson gave us a shout on Twitter after listening to our live show at SXSW. Thanks for listening, Bill!

Did you hear something you liked on this episode or another? Do you have a question you’d like our guests to answer? Let me know on Twitter using the hashtag #OnBrandPodcast and you may just hear your thoughts here on the show.

On Brand is sponsored by my new book Brand NowDiscover the seven dynamics to help your brand stand out in our crowded, distracted world. Pre-order now and get special digital extras. Learn more.

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Until next week, I’ll see you on the Internet!



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Nick Westergaard
Email Brand Driven Digital

is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World and Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, an educator at the University of Iowa, and host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.


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