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The perfect match: A guide to creating coherence between visual and verbal identity

Why do startups need a verbal identity and why is it important for the overall brand experience? In this guide, we put the puzzle together.

10 min read

When we talk about startup branding, we implicitly include an endless list of elements. One crucial factor is your verbal identity, another piece of the puzzle that needs to fit the whole brand experience harmoniously. In this guide, you will get a detailed framework to create a verbal identity that matches your visual identity and enhances brand perception. 

  • Set your tone of voice principles.
  • Find out how to write effective business statements.
  • Establish your messaging framework
  • Learn how to ensure consistency across all brand touchpoints.  
  • Deep dive into SaaS case studies and learn from the best.

Let's do it!

1. Answers to your most important branding questions

1.1.  What is a company's verbal identity and why is it important

Just do it. You know which brand we are talking about, don't you? Well, Nike has definitely nailed its tagline.

A tagline or slogan is part of a company's verbal identity, which can be defined as the language a company uses to describe anything related to its business, service, or product, including direct communication with customers.

Based on your brand personality, it acts in direct correlation with your visual identity. A strong verbal identity reaches the audience with the first syllable. It appeals to their emotions, targets their weak points, and presents the solution in an easy-to-understand way, allowing consumers to differentiate between brands easily. That way, a set of communication cues helps raise interest, communicate your solution clearly, and enhance customer loyalty.  

Typically, a brand's verbal identity is made up of the following: 

Name and slogan

It all starts with the brand or product name, ideally being short, memorable, and unique. A catchy slogan, especially for consumer brands, connects your brand with the sector or your mission, facilitating brand recognition. 

Tone of voice

Your tone of voice is made up of your brand tone and brand voice. If you imagine your brand as a person, your voice would be the way you communicate in general, depending on your personality: some are friendlier than others, some use higher-register vocabulary while others are proud of their dialect. Your tone is the way you communicate in a certain situation. If a generally amiable person gets into a difficult conversation, they also might adapt their tone to fit the context and reach their communicative goals. Altogether, this makes up our company's tone of voice. 

Mission and vision statements

As part of the brand strategy, both statements are essential guidelines for your startup and are of interest to stakeholders, investors, and talent. A mission statement outlines the fundamental purpose of the company, its primary activities, and the value it provides, concentrating on the present and answering the questions of “what”, “for whom”, and “how”. A vision statement articulates the company's long-term aspirations, goals, and the desired future state it aims to achieve.

Brand grammar

Crucial for consistency in a brand's verbal communication, a brand grammar resolves grammar, punctuation, and spelling issues, ensuring the consistent use of hyphens, upper or lower case, etc. This will also depend on where your company is located and which is your primary language. For most tech startups, here they need to decide whether to either use American or British English and a corresponding style guide. 

1.2.  What is a company's visual identity and why is it important

A bold check mark. Theoretically, it could be as simple as that. But there is more to a company's visual identity than its logo.

The visual identity of a tech company is a collection of visual elements that serve to present and differentiate the brand.

B2B and B2C brands alike need a powerful visual identity to stand out from the competition and to present their solution, including the following elements:


The logo is the primary identification element for a tech startup. Whether creating a new logo or revamping an existing one, it should be unique, easy to read and recognize, and can represent an imagotype (icon + logotype), isotype (icon), or a wordmark (logotype). Which type of logo you choose, is a strategic decision and also depends on the stage your company is at. 

Color palette

 While certain industries have typical colors, choosing a palette that stands out from competitors can be beneficial. Not every financial service needs to be blue: the Fintech unicorn Klarna shines in a powerful pink, for instance. 


For typography, less is more: the higher the readability, the better the choice, for headings and body texts alike. 

Illustrations and animations

Branded illustrations and animations provide a visual representation that complements or surpasses textual descriptions.

1.3.  How do visual and verbal identities relate to the overall brand strategy?

Your brand strategy should be the starting point for each and every decision you make, whether it be on a verbal or visual level. Strong communication aligned to your strategy is as important for a Saas company as for a sportswear brand: it increases your customer loyalty, brand recognition, and communicates your value proposition clearly with easy-to-understand language and branded illustrations and animations. 

Your brand strategy intertwines closely with your brand personality.

Are you characterized by progressiveness, playfulness, disruption, and idealism? Or do you lean towards tradition, seriousness, familiarity, and realism? These character traits shape your brand identity, both visually and verbally. For instance, a brand aiming for exclusivity and stability might opt for a more neutral style, while a vibrant and dynamic brand may embrace boldness and playfulness.

2. Your framework for success: Master your verbal identity

2.1.  Who are you? Define your brand personality. 

If you haven't already completed this exercise in the process of creating your brand strategy, you better do so.

Your brand personality consists of a set of characteristics that are attributed to your brand or you want your brand to be perceived as. 

First, on the table below, select the adjectives that you think describe (or must describe) your brand best. Next, pick the three most important attributes and write them down. These will guide the direction of your verbal identity. For a SaaS startup that wants to reach a more elite audience, we have selected authoritative, innovative, and trustworthy in our brand strategy exercise.

2.2.  Who are you not? Set your tone of voice principles. 

For this step, have a look at your competitive landscape. What do you like about the communication style of your competitors? What don't you like about it? How can you be different and do it better than them? If you like the friendly tone of competitor A in general, but think it is too fun for the intended target audience, take note of that. If you believe that competitor B communicates very clearly, but the style lacks some salsa, write it down.

Example: Competitor A: Friendly, engaging, but overly playful

Now, take the three adjectives from the first exercise as a starting point. Try to formulate three sentences saying what you are and to which extent, considering what extremes might put off your target audience. The analysis of your competitors above should have given you a feeling for certain limitations and areas of improvement. You can also combine two adjectives for the positive part of the sentence if you need to clarify your statement.

Example: We are reliable and trustworthy, but not bland.

2.3.  How do you say it? Describe how you do it. 

How do you have to communicate to reach your desired tone of voice? Outline Dos and Don'ts and put examples. For this purpose, keep in mind some brand communication principles:

Language register

This is a register of language used for a particular purpose or communicative situation. We often talk about register in terms of formality. Language register means for instance the use of industry jargon versus easy-to-understand vocabulary or Latin- and French-based words such as “status quo” versus phrasal verbs words such as “keep up to date”. Just compare the style of a business e-mail with a text message to your best friend. 

On the spectrum below, you can see an example of a repositioning of the above-mentioned startup, that wanted to establish a more elite tone of voice. Keeping in mind the "before" and "after" during the verbal identity exercise is crucial in order to align your language to your brand personality.

Some other points you should take into consideration for creating cohesive copy: 

  • Punctuation also hints to your target audience: As a general rule, you shouldn't overdo it. Don't use too many dashes, exclamation marks, etc., independently of your tone of voice, to simplify the reading flow. 
  • Contractions such as “we're” instead of “we are” give off a friendlier and more approachable tone. 
  • Keep it short and sweet. The average internet user's attention span is 8.25 seconds. Readers tend to skim texts instead of reading details. Therefore, put the user benefits of your solution at the very beginning of your sentence and don't use filler words. 
  • Active or passive voice: Another differentiator between an approachable and an overly professional style is the use of active or passive voice. A communication style that addresses the reader directly and avoids passive structures is perceived generally as friendlier.

Now, write down some Dos and Don'ts to keep in mind for writing copy for your brand.

Example: Write positively. 
Do: Our solution covers every detail of the process. 
Don't: Our solution doesn't skip a single detail of the process. 

2.4. What do you say? Pin down your brand strategy and messaging pillars

Not only the way you talk, but also what you say matters: build your brand messaging pillars to align your communication with your strategy. Brand messaging typically consists of: your brand story, e.g. your mission, vision, purpose; your brand promise or tagline; and your messaging pillars. 

For your mission, vision, and purpose statements, keep in mind that they should be short and encapsulate your business in a nutshell. You will need them for company presentations, pitch decks, or your About page on your website.

Mission: What, who, why you? 

The mission statement formulates the value proposition. It summarizes the specific benefits that customers experience when they use the services of the company. The mission statement functions as an elevator pitch that piques curiosity, articulating the value that customers experience through purchasing products or collaborating with the company. Therefore, it is primarily directed toward customers, partners, and other stakeholders.

Example (IKEA): To offer well-designed, functional, durable, affordable, and sustainable home furnishing solutions to people with big dreams and thin wallets. 

Vision: Where to? 

The company's vision is a concrete goal you aim to achieve within a defined timeframe. The vision statement is primarily directed toward the company's own employees and encompasses the goal that the company aims to achieve in the medium term. The vision serves as a guiding star and is intended to motivate employees to position the brand successfully in the future.

Example (IKEA): To create a better everyday life for the many people.

Purpose: The big WHY?

A brand's purpose is the reason why. It could address an existing issue or enhance the lives of your end users by making them better or easier. Reflect on how your brand, product, or service positively impacts the lives of those who utilize it. This constitutes your brand's purpose.

Example (IKEA): We want to have a positive impact on the world – from the communities where we source our raw materials to the way our products help our customers live a more sustainable life at home.

Tagline: Short and sweet

Your brand promise or tagline is even shorter, needing it to be more creative. Carefully think about each word and don't overcomplicate it. 

Apple: Think differently. 
Nike: Just do it. 

Messaging Pillars and Key Differentiator: What sets you apart? 

Companies often establish three factors that they create communication around, the brand pillars. These act as brand promises, highlighting your capabilities and their benefits for the end user. Whether you are using next-gen technology or you have flexible solution models, this needs to be kept in mind for your storytelling. 

Your key differentiator is the sum of the factors that mark the difference between you and your competitors, hence, why your target audience should choose your brand.

Remember that they need to be provable and relevant to your potential clients. The more niche your solution or product, the easier it will be to stand out.

For your verbal identity, defining your messaging pillars and your key differentiator is crucial, as it will frame the topics you will focus on. Also when building your visual identity, it's important to keep your key differentiators in mind to communicate your value proposition clearly and consistently with different brand assets. 

At this stage, you have already defined the key factors of the messaging framework for your company. Ideally, you summarize it in order to keep it in mind during the whole process. 

2.5.  Be consistent and pay attention to details: Brand Grammar 

The least creative and most technical step is creating a Brand Grammar, which you can use as a reference whenever you write texts and have doubts about spelling, capitalization etc. It helps create consistency across your texts and fosters trust and a professional brand image. 

It should include:

  • Abbreviations & acronyms: when to write out unfamiliar abbreviations or acronyms. 
  • Capitalization: when and what to capitalize, especially important for titles and headings. 
  • Emojis: where they are (in)appropriate for your brand. 
  • Numbers: when to spell out numbers. 
  • British versus American English: which spellings, vocabulary, and formatting options you use, depending on your target market.

For reference, you can also use the AP Style Guide for American or the Oxford Style Manual for British English. 

2.6. Align your visual and verbal identity 

Congratulations! You've successfully created your verbal identity! Now, you might wonder how you effectively translate words into images and vice versa. 

Ideally, you design your visuals at the same time you build your verbal identity. That way, you make sure to create cohesive branded storytelling. Especially for your website, this step is important: When illustrations match and strengthen your headline and speak to your audience in the same voice, you will significantly increase user experience. Vice versa, if the wording of your call to action establishes a direct relationship with its design, it will be more appealing to users. 

Check out the case studies below and see some best practices of the SaaS industry

3. Case Studies: A deep dive into industry-leading examples

3.1. Mailchimp: Businesses talk, but with a wink

One of the most famous examples of ingenious verbal identity is Mailchimp.

Although the marketing automation and e-mail marketing platform is targeted at a business audience, Mailchimp always communicates with a hint of playfulness and a big smile.

Mailchimp has developed a brand with a strong personality and an original identity. In addition to its distinctive illustrations, unique color palette, and typography, they have crafted a genuine and authentic brand voice. 

In their Tone of Voice guidelines, they describe themselves as plainspoken, genuine, and translators with dry humor—this is clearly visible across different channels. Using offbeat humor and a conversational voice, Mailchimp plays with language and engagingly communicates dry marketing topics, translating B2B topics to a broad audience. However, they don't overdo it: they know that businesses come to Mailchimp to get work done and refrain from distractions in their verbal communication. 

Their Instagram feed is loud and fun, filled with dry humor that resonates with the targeted users: postings in the communicative style of the screenshot gain the most likes.

Depending on the platform, their tone varies slightly: obviously, they are more fun or outgoing on social media than on marketing landing pages. Still, the essence of their voice remains the same. CTA headlines like Need to hire a helping hand? We got you. are friendly, plainspoken, and inviting. Also, they tweaked it to make it a rhetorical figure “hire (a) helping hand”: three words in a row that start with the same letter, linguists call this Alliteration. This helps make phrases easier to remember and appeals to readers. 

3.2. Bolt: The company name says it all

When the company name is indicative of the whole brand identity: Bolt. Bolt is a checkout experience platform, connecting shoppers to retailers in a unified cross-brand network. Needing to communicate a complex tech product, they try to reduce tech talk to the bare minimum.

Bolt puts user benefits at the center of their communication and swiftly combines copy and imagery, always trying to make a direct connection between verbal and visual impact.

In their Tone of Voice Guidelines, they describe themselves as thoughtfully concise, knowingly playful, and comfortably at ease. This is true for sure—across their website, on the merchant and shopper section, Bolt uses short phrases, and playful language, appealing to the audience. Whereas the body text is more descriptive and toned-town, the headings are creative and on-point, using rhetorical devices such as:

  • Alliterations (words starting with the same letter): Shockingly simple shopping. 
  • Tricolons (three short words in a row): Browse. Click. Buy. 
  • Antithesis (combination of two opposing concepts): Password hint: Forget it
  • Metaphors (symbolical description): Lightning-fast checkout 

So whereas the tone of voice remains the same for both target audiences, the imagery changes slightly. On the merchant page, they cleverly combine the text elements with branded illustrations, which depict the product benefit humorously: exaggerating certain elements of the illustrations, the illustrative style is loud, bold, and playful. On the shopper page, the main focus lies on humans, extravagant in their appearance. A fish-eye effect placed over the picture leads to some elements also being exaggerated, which connects these visuals to the illustrations of the merchant page.

As you can see, even as a SaaS startup, you can get creative with your verbal and visual identity without compromising professionalism, technology, and innovation. However, the direction your branding is going always depends on the look and feel you want to establish and be in line with your brand strategy.

If you've got any questions about the topic or any other startup branding queries, we're happy to help.

Bolt Media Kit and Brand Guidelines. 
Mailchimp: Tone of Voice Guidelines. 

About the author

Tamara Hofer
Copywriter & Marketing Assistant

Tamara is our multi-lingual expert in copywriting and storytelling. She also helps with all digital marketing efforts.