Let your Brand do the Talking: Establishing your Brand Voice
If you’re a marketer, you know just how important strong branding is to allow a business to succeed. One of the basics of branding is figuring out your business’ personality. Are you an informational older sibling? An entertaining influencer? A comforting best friend? These are all things you want to flesh out before you jump into marketing yourself. Your brand is composed of a whole bunch of moving parts, like your logo, your colors, and, of course, your products or services. But something else is incredibly important to developing your brand — it’s your brand voice.
Like a person’s speaking voice, your brand voice is what you say and how you say it. It’s an expression of your personality. Any time a customer reads something from your brand, whether it be a social media post, an email newsletter, a product description, or even the “About” section on your website, they should be able to identify it as part of your brand because of the cohesiveness of your voice.
Why is a strong brand voice important?
Your brand needs to have a strong and consistent voice for several reasons. For starters, brand recognition relies on it. You want your business to stand out against the sea of competitors, and having a voice that you have meticulously honed in on will help get you there. In fact, 33% of surveyed consumers said a brand with a distinct personality stood out more than others — and your voice is simply a reflection of your personality. Because of this, you should stick with your brand voice once you’ve implemented it. This isn’t to say your brand can’t evolve over time, but flipping back and forth in your personality every other Instagram post will get confusing for your audience. Especially if you’re a marketing firm, you need to have a strong grasp on your identity so customers can trust you with theirs.
A strong voice also makes it clear to your audience what you’re about, so it should match up with your services and what your audience is looking for. For example, a health food brand wouldn’t want to come off as casual or aloof — it could turn away those who are looking for a trustworthy brand. Instead, the voice should be strong, confident, and informational, so customers feel comfortable buying its products.
While your voice should be unwavering, your tone can change depending on the subject matter you’re dealing with. Your tone refers to the emotions applied to your voice. Your personality stays the same, but you might use a different tone when introducing a new product versus when you speak on a social issue. Tone is particularly helpful because customers often connect more with brands when they feel an emotional tie.
Types of brand voices — and how to decide on yours
Everyone’s personality is different, so there’s no limit to what your brand’s can be. If this sounds daunting, here are some classic examples of brands whose personality shines through their unique voice:
- Apple is known for its sleek, high-tech products. Its graphics often match this style — but what about its voice? How can you communicate its mission through words? Throughout its advertisements and written copy on its website, Apple uses simple and direct language. It gets straight to the point, carrying over its no-frills business model. This simplicity also communicates confidence; it knows it produces a quality product and doesn’t need fancy words to convince its customers of that. In this case, less is more, and its voice helps its audience recognize what the brand is about.
- Oat milk brand Oatly has a very particular voice. It’s quirky and often rambles in its website copy and even on its packaging. This voice even carries over to its social media, with Instagram captions being out-there and humorous. You might question why a brand would want to go on long-winded tangents on the side of a milk carton, but it’s actually done very strategically. The brand is fun and laid-back, similar to those who are interested in drinking alternative milks, and the voice does an excellent job of communicating that.
- As one of the leading platforms in digital marketing, SproutSocial’s brand voice works to further support that. It takes an authoritative and informational tone while being confident and welcoming to beginners. SproutSocial’s voice is also a testament to how tone can change depending on the context. It’s social media captions sound a bit more casual and playful than its website’s career growth page, for example. However, it keeps its underlying personality consistent throughout.
You, too, can develop a strong and meaningful brand voice. As we said before, the first step to developing your voice is understanding your brand identity. You need to decide on your values and mission, which is at the core of your identity and translates into your voice. For more about getting started building your brand identity, you can read our guide here.
Once you have these key aspects chosen, you should choose three descriptive words that summarize your brand. Together, they should clearly paint a picture of your brand’s personality. These adjectives can range anywhere from helpful to passionate, elegant to quirky. One way to do this is by thinking of your brand as a person. What words would you use to describe it to a friend? Then, take it a step further and break down those descriptors even more. For example, if being passionate is one of your key characteristics, you might also be heartfelt and expressive. The more descriptive you can be the better, as it gets you closer to honing in on your voice.
Remember — these qualities need to be authentic and work with your brand, so think strategically, but don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Otherwise, it will come off sounding inauthentic and people won’t trust your brand.
Identifying your audience can be a helpful step in developing your brand voice. Think about some personas, or representations of your key customers. How old are they? Where do they live? What do they do for work? You can even conduct your own research, whether by surveying your audience or researching them on social media, to better understand this information. All of this will clue you into how they talk — and how they want to be talked to.
Now, you want to create a tangible guide to refer to when writing new copy. Documenting all of this will be one of the most helpful tools for maintaining a consistent voice and therefore promoting your brand recognition. But this style guide won’t only help yourself stay consistent; it will make it easy for you to communicate your voice to copywriters or social media managers you hire to your team.
You can make a simple document or chart highlighting your descriptive words and your “do’s and dont’s” of your voice. For example, if one of your characteristics is authentic, you might say “Do be honest, but don’t overpromise.” You can also write a “this, not that” guide of who your brand is and isn’t. For example, if you want to be humorous, you could say, “We’re funny, but not corny.”
You can also outline the ways your tone changes depending on the context. For example, if a tenant of your brand voice is being helpful, you could say “Our brand is encouraging when talking to customers on social media, but authoratative when being interviewed by a publication.” Being helpful is the underlying personality trait, but your tone slightly changes depending on who you’re talking to.
If you’re not just getting started with building your brand voice and have already written webpages, social media posts, newsletters, or anything else for your brand, you can conduct an audit to make sure your voice is effective and consistent. To do this, you should take a look at all of the written assets you have and find a few that are representative of your brand as a whole. When you’re reviewing these, you should try to identify the parts of your voice that are really unique to your brand. If you read your “About” page next to one from a competitor, for example, and you couldn’t easily tell which was which, that’s a sign that you need to rework that page to speak more to exactly who you are. Once you’ve narrowed your samples down to only the most authentic, use them as a guide for the rest of your content, eliminating inconsistencies or bland statements that could come from anyone.
Finally, remember you can always adjust your voice and goals as needed. While you shouldn’t be flipping back and forth between opposing characteristics, listen to your audience for their needs and how the trends change. Certain words or phrases can get outdated quickly on social media especially, so you want to be on top of the changes and allow your brand to evolve naturally.