When you imagine meeting up for coffee with a friend, you can probably make a fairly accurate guess about the things you’ll talk about with your friend and the way your friend will talk about those things. Your friends probably speak and behave in certain ways, have certain interests and hobbies, have values that matter to them, and have a generally stable mood, tone, and interpersonal interaction style.
One of your friends might be easily distracted but thoughtful and happy to talk through anything that’s on your mind. Another friend might be optimistic and amiable but only wants to talk about things within a narrowly defined category of topics. A third friend might have the personality of a blank screen but can explain niche topics in a way that will make sense to anyone.
None of these communication styles is better than the others; it all depends on what kind of conversation you’re looking for at the time.
The concept of “brand voice” is like that but for a business.
What Is a Brand Voice?
Think of a brand voice as part of the personification of a business. The mascot or a celebrity spokesperson may represent the business visually, but when they speak, they speak in the voice of the brand.
When you picture a brand’s mascot, you probably remember a catchphrase or slogan they use in its marketing. Slogans are a good place to start when you want specific, concise examples of a company’s brand voice because a good slogan will contain most, if not all, of the parts that define their particular voice.
The slogan itself, the tone of it, the formality of the phrase, and the specific words that were chosen over other words—these factors all work together to express the message in the most ideal way possible and all are important aspects to consider when creating a brand voice.
Does My Company Need a Brand Voice?
If your company doesn’t have a defined brand voice, your company documents will all tend to be written in the voice of whoever wrote them.
Why is this a big deal?
Think about it like this: have you ever had a friend who would sometimes speak very formally, sometimes speak very casually and curse like a middle schooler who just learned a new swear, and otherwise had a completely unpredictable communication style from conversation to conversation?
Hopefully not, because that sounds like it would be confusing, bordering on unsettling. The same goes for your brand voice.
Even for a smaller company, having multiple different tones, writing styles, and communication styles on display across the website can appear to readers as jarring and amateur. Using a defined and consistent brand voice instead will immediately make your company feel more established and professional.
Developing Your Brand Voice
If you’re planning to create a unique and compelling brand voice from scratch, it’s actually not going to be from scratch unless you’re creating an all-new brand from scratch right now! In actuality, you probably have a lot of the groundwork done already.
Start with Your Company’s Mission Statement
Your mission or values statement is the perfect place to start developing your brand voice. It expresses the core foundations of your business, and odds are it’s written with a defined style and phrasing that’s gone through multiple edits until it was perfect.
Review Your Best-Performing Content
This is the next place to look for direction when you’re developing your brand voice. It’s likely that you have some content on your site or socials that performs extremely well compared to your other content. This is the content that connected with people, and it’s worth taking another look to figure out why they connected with it.
Research Your Audience
Do you know the type of audience your content reaches? And do you know whether or not the audience you’re reaching is the right one? Fingers crossed this Venn diagram overlaps for you!
Once you know the audience you’re reaching and how that compares to your target audience, you’ll want to learn more about them.
- General interests. Look for interests in common that you can reference.
- Online activity. How online are they? How and when do they interact with content? What kind of content do they interact with?
- Offline activity. Not everyone lives on the internet (hard to believe, but it’s true!).
- Writing style. If they write more formally, mirror that with your brand voice; if they write very casually with a lot of slang, mirror that.
- Other brands they’re interested in. Do they have similar brand voices to yours? This is a golden opportunity to stand out with small, mindful differences.
Make a Brand Voice Folder, Drive, or Dropbox
In one document, list three to five core characteristics of your brand voice. Terms like “quirky,” “inspiring,” or “knowledgeable” are good places to start. This document should also include things like dos and don’ts, specific wording you want used (like descriptions of product features or fine print for services), formatting preferences, and anything else you want standardized in branded communications.
Your style guide folder should also include company-approved fonts, a company color pallet, and high-res versions of logos and other visual assets that will be used frequently.
Audit Your Content to Adhere to Your Brand Voice
Once you’ve got your brand voice figured out, you’re ready to use your style guide to begin auditing and editing all your existing content to make sure everything adheres to your brand voice.
Canonizing Your Brand Voice
There are four main reasons for creating a brand bible or style sheet or otherwise formally mapping out your brand voice.
Consistency Across Platforms
If you can remember the early days of e-commerce, you’ll recall the dark old digital days when a company’s website and sales page sometimes looked so drastically different that you had to check the URL to see if you’d clicked a bad link by mistake.
We’re far beyond the days of being held hostage by the aesthetics of the platforms we use; the new bare minimum is maintaining a consistent brand identity no matter where your audience finds you.
Resonate with Your Audience
You can choose to position your brand as having a background of deep knowledge and thought leadership, giving the impression of a white glove, concierge-level experience with impeccable formality and politeness.
You can also choose to position your brand as being focused on empathy and consideration, giving the impression of a brand that truly cares about its customers like they’re part of the family.
Which one sounds like the better brand voice for a yoga studio? Exactly!
With all the increased interest in the psychological phenomenon of parasocial relationships across social media, it would be naïve to suggest that that isn’t a huge aspect of the relationship between a brand and its customers. When you personify a brand, people will naturally form a relationship with that impression of a person.
Your brand voice should establish your company as trustworthy and show your audience what they can expect from your company’s content, products, services, and interactions (like with customer service). Then, it’s as easy as living up to the expectations you set.
If you’re like most people on social media, you probably follow a brand or five because they post funny or inspiring content. In the future, when you decide to buy something in the category that brand sells, you’re more likely to go with a brand you feel like you “know” than with an unknown brand.
Updating Your Brand Voice
One of the most important parts of creating a unique and compelling brand voice is consistently reviewing your voice to determine whether or not it’s still representative of your company and appealing to your targeted audience.
For example, a mom-and-pop shop that sells a niche product to a small and dedicated customer base might have a more relaxed, personal, and informal website and marketing plan. After the niche product goes viral and the company expands to keep up with the massive influx of new customers, they’ll need to upgrade the website to handle more traffic and appeal to new demographics within their growing audience.
Reviewing your brand voice should be part of the growth process as your company expands.
Consider reassessing your brand voice if…
- You’ve noticed an influx of customers from a new audience.
- Your brand voice is feeling outdated or behind the times.
- You’re in the process of rebranding.
- It’s been a few years since the last time you evaluated your brand voice.
Create a Unique and Compelling Brand Voice the Right Way
If you’re thinking this all sounds like a lot of work, you’re right! And if you’re thinking this sounds like something better left to the experts while you tend to the business of running your business, we have great news for you!
Effectively carrying out and analyzing the results of marketing research can help you build a brand voice from scratch or fine-tune your existing brand voice—and that’s where RSM Marketing comes in.
Our expert market researchers will curate survey questions that help identify what it is your consumer base loves about your brand and where they think there’s room for improvement, and our bloggers and social media managers will share your brand voice with the world!
Fill out the following form if you would like some help!
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That’s what we’re here for! Whether you need some guidance on moving in the right direction or a whole lot of marketing muscle—the experts at RSM Marketing can make it happen.
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