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Using Linguistics to Create a Brand Tone for Your Marketing

by Missy Ward in Affiliate Marketing, Blogging, Content Marketing   &    

Using Linguistics to Create a Brand Tone for Your Marketing

Marketing is part science and part poetry. When an author puts pen to paper, the goal is to create a tone that invites a reader to join the story. The same holds true for marketing. Linguistic rules apply to the creation of a marketing message. To reach your audience in an inspiring manner, the marketing copywriter needs to follow a few well-established linguistic rules.

Presupposition and Assumption

Language is a common set of sounds and words that represent something that exists. If something does not exist or cannot be conceptualized, then it cannot have a word. There are suppositions and assumptions that we all make when we communicate. For one, we assume that the listener understands the same language in which we are speaking. We identify and then consider common ground in our communication.

An important step in creating a marketing tone is to identify your demographic assumptions. Cultural, regional and educational biases can skew the presuppositions on your marketing message. For instance, an ad highlighting life at high altitudes may not resonate well in below-sea-level Miami.

Chains of Reference

In linguistics, the chain of reference is the connection between the knowledge the reader and the author share. This point of reference is what gives the document meaning. To establish any form of resonating tone, the marketer needs to develop reference. This can be done either through assumption or through a chain of activities that educate the reader about the situation.

Take the Captain Morgan icon as an example. The pirate image is a common point of reference. The marketer can assume that most people have a familiarity with the romanticized vision of a pirate. The Captain Morgan brand uses that image and incorporates it into contemporary scenes through a chain of references. The end product for the viewer is a fun brand icon frolicking from party to party. The reference of your marketing must set the original tone of the market message. In the Captain Morgan example, the tone is fun.

Transitivity and Participant Roles

Where reference gives the user meaning, transitive and participant roles of the character allow for the creation of empathy by the user. This is where an emotional connection is developed. A transitivity analysis of your marketing will help you identify the emotional connection points for your target market.

First, isolate the specific characters of the marketing message and the roles. All marketing has characters. It may be a mascot-like image, a narrator or a spokesperson. Next, figure out the role the character plays. This role could be a party guy, alarmist or educator. Last, identify the emotion that the character is attempting to transfer to the viewer.


The linguistic property of conversationalization is the adoption of common, informal language to give the impression that an interpersonal relationship is being created. The way in which the character of the marketing message interacts will set a formal or informal tone, carrying with it an implied relationship.

Back to the Captain Morgan example — the primary character uses typical language associated with friendly youth culture. Under the guidelines of conversationalization, the rules of good grammar and authenticity are not universal. Captain Morgan does not need to speak in exact period language. Instead, his contractions, jargon, and informalities lend themselves to a casual relationship between the Captain and the viewer.

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Missy Ward

Co-Founder & President at Affiliate Summit, Inc.
Missy Ward has been in affiliate marketing since 1999. She is the Co-Founder of Affiliate Summit, FeedFront Magazine, GeekCast.fm, Founder of AffiliateMarketersGiveBack.com and manages many of her own affiliate sites. If she's not making money through affiliate links on the post you're currently reading, it's an oversight on her part and it will be corrected soon.

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