Chris West is a unique combination of insightful strategic thinker and highly-awarded writer. He is the founder of Verbal Identity, which defines the strategic vision for global brands and startups. From Alphabet’s ‘moonshot factory’, LVMH, Vauxhall or John Lewis, Chris has perfected the art of language applied to marketing strategies. He regularly contributes to popular magazines and editorial columns with a huge readership, owing to his passion for writing, and deep intuition of language.
With a Science-based background- Human Physiology and Computer Science were his subjects of specialisation while pursuing his degree at esteemed Universities like Cambridge. Chris started in the world of computers, and gradually progressed to the creative realm on finding his ‘Moment of Realisation’.
“I think it was only on the last day of my career that I fully understood what my career really was”, he jokes. Chris ran a project-based advertising agency for 10 years working with global clients and before that, he was one of London’s most awarded copywriters for his work across the Guardian, Adidas, British Airways and the Conservative Party. In 2016, he was the convening President for the inaugural verbal branding jury at the LIA.
“As much as we want Science in the world, and I strongly believe we need and must listen to science, there’s also some magic as well that can go on. I think when you can weave those two together in business or in language, you’re doing really well”, he shares fondly.
Founding Verbal Identity
He founded Verbal Identity in 2010 to help company and department leaders define the strategic vision for their business and bring it to life with language. His firm has guided global and national brands, relaunches, and start-ups, from B2B and B2C to tech and luxury and everything in between. Chris is the Founding Partner and CEO of Verbal Identity, a strategic brand consultancy specializing in the power of language. Clients include Alphabet’s ‘moonshot factory’, LVMH, Vauxhall, John Lewis, and start-ups from fintech, data science, and beauty.
“Lots of companies end up looking different, but sounding exactly the same. So, it’s that kind of realisation that made me think, you know what, why shouldn’t business owners, founders, leaders have another lever to pull to shape how their business interacts with their colleagues and shape how their business interacts with the outside world. And for me, that was language, this hugely supremely powerful thing that we all have.”
Verbal Identity is the congregation of super-specialists in linguistics, expert writers, and strategists who use language as a powerful tool in transforming companies inside and out. It is a common think tank that shapes the foundation ideology of the companies with language as their unique edge.
“When we talk to business leaders about verbal identity, it’s very quickly they can see, because it's intuitive for them. Yeah, I understand how language works now if there’s this really simple framework. So, that’s really how people get into it”.
The firm has been successful in directing more than $1b of investment to their national and international clients.
“All those little cues, all those little hints in people’s personality or in a brand’s personality, they’re all there. And if you can listen to them, and spot them, and question things in the right way, then often what you find is that the leader of the business or whoever is responsible for this tone of voice is very good at startings put together, and we just give them the framework, and we just help them with a few tips and tricks along the way”,
Chris explains. Chris is also a Bestselling Author. He has written two books to date: ‘Strong Language: The Fastest, Smartest, Cheapest Marketing Tool You're Not Using’ and ‘How Words Work’. [embed]https://youtu.be/_fi6ZeiLE0Q[/embed]
Strong Language: The Fastest, Smartest, Cheapest Marketing Tool You're Not Using
In Strong Language, international tone of voice expert Chris West walks readers through the process of creating a compelling brand voice – and getting everyone to use it from day one.
“A great brand voice grabs attention, persuades your audience, and builds loyalty.”
But as the number of brand channels explodes, organisations are finding it harder than ever to create a consistent, differentiated brand voice and express exactly what they stand for. In the book, he wants readers to discover the three levels that every brand voice operates on, and learn step-by-step how to create a practical tone of voice guidelines, flex their brand voice for different situations, and get organisational support to create the change they want.
“Discover the three levels that every brand voice operates on and learn step by step on how to create practical tone of voice, guidelines, and look at how to create this change you want.”
Drawing on his experience working with hundreds of brands – including Alphabet’s Moonshot Factory, Harry Winston, the world's biggest carmaker, and startups in fintech, edtech, and skincare – Chris West’s Strong Language framework tries to guide readers to the breakthrough voice they need to outsmart and outperform competitors.
“My pitch for the book is very straightforward. I think we’re in a world where most people would say they're are more channels than ever before. So they have to know what to say in each of those channels. Not only that, there are more challenges than ever before. So, whatever size business you are, you can be pretty sure there’s a new business that’s just started in your sector which is going to be aggressive. They’re going to use language because they don’t have money to outspend you, so they outthink you, so they are going to use language. So, there are more channels, more challenges. We’re living in a society where I think consumers quite rightly are saying to brands and businesses what’s your view of this issue. So, we’re in this kind of environment where language has never been more important than before. We say that language is working everywhere all the time, and we’re responsible for all of us in a business for language with a greater velocity than ever before. So, it’s kind of crazy, we don’t have a consistent language, that we can’t look across at someone starting our company, and we can train them.”
How Words Work
How Words Work was initially created as promotional material for the brand strategy consultancy, Verbal Identity, to open the eyes of CEOs and CMOs to the value that smart language can add to their business. He said about his book:
“It was great for my ego that my book hit #1 just 36 hours after launch, but I think the real story here is that an increasing number of business leaders are looking to language as the most underused, yet most powerful, marketing asset that can cut through the noise and win customers, deepen their loyalty and de-position rivals. Just with words"!
The book, ‘How Words Work’, was recognised at the 2017 D&AD Awards. Outside of work, he contributes to The Sunday Times and is a Contributing Editor at a leading UK luxury magazine. He wrote “A Little Worm” which won Best Film at the Barcelona Film Festival.
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