How does your brand come across in its communications? Are you using a voice that’s true to the brand’s identity and values? Are you choosing the right words to connect with your ideal customers?
Voice matters. And in this article, we’ll help you create your brand voice from scratch — and communicate more effectively with the people who matter.
What’s a brand voice?
“Brand voice” is a fancy way of describing the tone of voice, word choice, and overall style through which you communicate your company’s personality. In other words, your brand voice is shaped not only by what you say, but how you say it.
For example, compare these two statements:
- “It was, indeed, an unpleasant set of circumstances he had wrought through his own thoughtless decisions.”
- “He really screwed up.”
Both statements mean similar things, but while one sounds like something your friend would say, the other just sounds like a know-it-all from your college philosophy course.
Why brand voice matters
In a nutshell, brand voice is important because it drives how people see your company. And if your company’s public persona is inconsistent, people aren’t going to recognize or trust you — which gives them no reason to buy from you.
Here are three other important roles of your brand voice.
1. Reflect your company’s values
Your brand voice speaks volumes about your company’s values, culture, and relevance — and for 64% of consumers, shared values is the main reason why they even have a relationship with a brand.
Your brand’s voice can help you to qualify leads too. For example, take a look at DiGiorno’s Twitter page. While the tweets are usually about pizza (obviously), their strange and meme-loving approach to spreading the pizza love tells you a lot about who’s buying their pizza — and why:
Seems like a great day to eat pizza. #NationalPancakeDay
— DiGiorno (@DiGiorno) February 27, 2018
— DiGiorno (@DiGiorno) April 11, 2018
2. Communicate with authenticity
In that same vein, cultivating an authentic brand voice can help you build trust and familiarity with your customer base. In a 2016 study by Label Insight, 94% of surveyed consumers said they’re more loyal to brands they perceive as transparent, which is why your brand must have the confidence to speak in a voice that’s true to itself.
3. Set your brand apart
Consumers won’t buy from a business they don’t remember. A strong voice can help distinguish your brand from the rest.
A good litmus test would be to remove your logo and other context from your communications. Would you still recognize the source of the message? Or would it sound like generic content that you could attribute to virtually anyone?
How to find your brand voice
When defining the perfect brand voice, remember: Context is key.
The following five exercises will help you to define a brand voice suited to your industry and consumer base.
1. Pin down your brand values
Your voice should align with what your company stands for.
Your company’s purpose is its north star — guiding you to the customers you pursue and how you conduct business every day.
So start by putting together a list of three to five core values. These will shape the substance of your writing.
2. Personify your brand
If your brand were an actual person, what would it be like? Would it be a brilliant young professor from an elite university? What about a bar-hopping millennial who’s never home before 2 a.m.?
Based on this broad character profile, pick three to five key personality traits to describe the brand. For example, if your brand is a refined lady with high-end tastes, you might define her as “selective,” “discerning,” and “cultured.”
Your brand’s communications should sound like they come from this character.
3. Brainstorm with other people
Gett other employees involved. Their perspective can help you better understand your company culture and generate fresh ideas.
And if your employees feel like they played an active part in helping build the brand voice, chances are they’ll feel more incentivized to use it.
There are lots of ways to ask employees for their input — and many forms that input can take. Our favorite: a quick request for each employee to give three to five adjectives that describe the company.
Once you’ve collected the word lists from everyone (from the C-suite down to your hourly employees and everywhere in between), make a master list. Are there common threads?
4. Play “we are, we are not”
Take your “everybody contributes three to five adjectives” game with employees one step further.
Once you’ve established a solid list of common words that describe your brand, extrapolate on them by playing “we are, we are not” — an exercise that Ignite Social Media has used extensively with their clients.
So if your list of adjectives includes “funny” and “helpful,” you might extrapolate:
- “We are funny… but we’re not obnoxious.”
- “We are helpful… but we don’t smother.”
You get the idea. This helps further delineate your voice by offering limitations that others can use as they interpret those key adjectives.
5. Target your buyer personas
Not everyone is going to need or want what you’re selling. There’s always going to be someone out there who prefers Android phones to iPhones.
That’s why your external messaging should appeal first and foremost to your ideal target audience — in marketing lingo, your buyer personas. They’re the folks who are most likely to use your stuff, which makes them the key target for whatever your brand has to say.
Where do your buyer personas hang out? Go where they are online and pay close attention to their voice.
Ask yourself: If you met them at a bar, how would you strike up a conversation?
And while you’re at it, look up any instances where other people are writing about your company. This will give you a great idea of the type of language people instinctively use when they’re thinking about your brand.
Get your team on board with your brand voice
Now that you’ve identified the important elements in your brand voice, you need to communicate your expectations with the entire company: Everyone should know exactly what you’re looking for and how to achieve it.
Start with a style guide. In it, you’ll want to include guidelines on:
- Word and sentence length. Short words and sentences are direct. Longer words and sentences introduce complexity, as well as a less frenetic energy.
- Tempo. By mixing up the lengths of your words and sentences, you can vary the tempo of your writing to evoke different moods.
- Formality. On a scale from the Wendy’s Twitter feed to an academic thesis, how seriously does your brand take itself?
- Vocabulary. How niche is your brand? Generally speaking, you should avoid unnecessary jargon, but sometimes you need to keep the hoi polloi away with a few well-chosen technical terms.
It’s always helpful to offer examples in your style guide — especially examples tailored to different mediums.
- Your email marketing copy will be snappy, concise, and action-oriented
- Writing a blog post? You’ll have more real estate to let your personality shine through
- You might need to use a more professional tone on LinkedIn than on Twitter
Practice what you preach by writing the entire style guide using the brand voice! (No time like the present to put that voice to work, right?)
And just as your marketing strategy, buyer personas, and pretty much everything you do as a business will evolve over time… so too should your brand voice and corresponding style guide. Revisit your brand voice guidelines periodically to ensure they’re still aligned with your company’s values and ever-changing goals.
Getting the most out of your brand voice
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