When most people imagine a brand, they think of things like logos and colors. For example, when you think of Coca-Cola, chances are you either imagine the product, or the signature white font on Coca-Cola’s custom red background. However, there’s a far more subtle element to branding that’s just as important for creating long-term customer relationships, and it’s startlingly underutilized: your brand voice. If you want to succeed, you need to know how to use it.
Why Is a Brand Voice Important?
Your brand “voice” is what you’ll use to communicate with your customers, whether that’s through advertising and marketing messages, or through your human representatives. Either way, your voice will be a combination of intonation and character that conveys the idea of your brand in some signature fashion.
Why is this important?
- It’s another recognizable dimension of the brand. First, your brand voice may be just as recognizable as your associated imagery – even if your customer’s don’t explicitly realize it. Think about this in your own experiences; would you be able to distinguish between the tone of voice used by a brand like Taco Bell and a brand like IBM? On one hand, you have a casual, laid-back tone, and on the other, you have a professional, almost technical one. Now imagine these brands swapping voices; how would that make you feel?
- Voice seems human. Second, imagery appeals to the visual senses, but voices can make a brand seem somewhat human. The most successful brand-consumer relationships are ones in which the customer feels an almost human-like bond with the brand, so what better way to establish that connection than with a real conversation?
- Consistency is key. If you want your branding strategy to be effective, it needs to be consistent across all channels, and visuals alone won’t be enough to make that happen. Brand voice is a tool that can help you achieve consistency in almost any medium.
How to Find Your Brand Voice
If you don’t yet know how to describe your brand voice, or use it practically, these are the steps you should take to create one:
- Create a customer persona. First, thoroughly research your target demographics; these are the people you’ll be writing to (or speaking to), so your brand voice should be tailored to them specifically. Get to know what their core values are, how they’re used to interacting, their level of education and maturity, and how they communicate with others on a regular basis. When you’ve got that research in hand, you can create a customer persona – a character representing the “average” member of that demographic – and use that as a tool to shape your brand voice when it comes time.
- Research the competition. Next, take a look at the competition – especially if you have competitors targeting the same niche demographics you are. Look at how they write content and advertising messages, and think about how you would describe their voice. Compare their voices to one another, and detail how they’re distinct from one another. This will be a useful exercise in sculpting and differentiating your own brand voice.
- Document the personal characteristics of your brand. Thinking about how to distinguish yourself from the competition and how to appeal to your core demographics? Start documenting the characteristics of your brand voice the same way you’d describe a human being. Are they charming? Mature? Easygoing? If it helps, try to imagine your brand as if it were a real person, and describe them that way.
- Experiment with different phrasing. Once you have the basic tenets of your brand voice documented, get familiar with using it by experimenting with different phrasing. Choose a common phrase, or a short sentence, and try to write it three different ways; once the way you’d say it, once the way your brand would say it, and once the way a foil to your brand (a voice with many opposite characteristics) might say it. This will help you mentally identify the “feel” of your brand’s voice.
- Practice in a live environment. Once you’ve grown accustomed to writing in your brand’s voice in these short exercises, it’s time to practice in a live environment. Write a blog post or a short marketing message, and show it to your readers. This is your chance to gather feedback about your approach, and make any tweaks necessary before you push your brand voice to full deployment. This is also a good time to write up brand guidelines for how to use this voice in the future.
The most important factor for your success here is the consistency of your implementation. You’ll need to make tweaks to your voice over time, and every individual who tries to write or speak in your brand voice will have a slightly different approach, but the more consistent you can keep your presentation, the better. Implement a review process that oversees any and all materials before they’re made public, to ensure they fit your brand voice ideally.