‘Brand’ is an articulation of business strategy.
We all feel the need for belonging. Be it in the way we dress, or how we communicate. Our values and what we stand for are all ways of giving and receiving attention. These attributes make up our personality and help define what we stand for. Our personality is unique and varies dramatically from person to person in very much the same way it needs to vary from business to business.
The most enduring companies have strong personalities with a clear sense of purpose. We see their message delivered consistently across all channels, in fact, anywhere they have a presence they have an established brand voice.
Let’s take Ford and Rolls-Royce. Both produce functionally the same product but their personalities are very different.
It is essential to put time and effort into defining your brand personality, but don’t go yet spending marketing money and effort building “brand awareness”. That’s putting the cart before the horse.
The first place your customers need to feel your brand is ‘at home’ through your web, your sales team and your customer care.
A sales experience where your customer experiences your brands’ personality first hand is the best way for your audience to understand who you are and what you stand for, if you care about them and if you care about helping them. I mean really care.
You do this by designing and delivering differentiated sales experiences. Sales experiences that help people understand what your brand is about and how you will provide value to them.
How do you develop your brand values?
Your brand values are what essentially drives your customer’s behaviours. If customers can identify with you, they are more likely to trust you.
So, you need to find a way to tell people what your brand is about, what you believe in and what you deliver. Brand, in this sense, is an articulation of business strategy.
Look for values that not only motivate your target customers but that you know how to deliver as a business in a differentiated way and at those moments that matter the most to your audience.
So critically, ‘brand’ is not just marketing, it is the whole business strategy, the way your whole company lives and breathes your value proposition when speaking to your customers at any touchpoint or interaction throughout their journey with you.
Let’s take the above image of newtons cradle, by way of example. If your whole company is not aligned or you over-invest in any one area; business, marketing, customer, making the balls uneven in size, then there won’t be enough momentum for the balls to keep moving.
It’s Managements role to align and orchestrate business, brand and behaviour. Brand governance is thus, not down to marketing alone.
What is a brand voice?
This is where you show off your personality as a brand in all of your communications. This will through:
- your storytelling techniques
- your choice of images
- your register and style
- anything you identify with.
Think of it this way, if your brand was a person, what personality traits would they take on and which would they actively avoid? Which stylistic phrases would you use when speaking?
In very much the same way that you would need to get to know someone first to get a sense of their personality, you need to experience a brand and their business to understand their personality. You may do this by interacting with them on social media, talking with a representative, consuming their content or engaging with their customer success or customer services teams.
What Exactly is the Difference Between Voice and Tone?
How do you want to sound to others? Your voice is basically how the personality of your brand comes through the words you use. It allows your audience to familiarize themselves with your brand as if they’re talking to a human being.
Your tone is not only about how you speak, but also the words you use and how you use them (the cadence and rhythm, velocity, and length of your speech and so on).
In addition to your voice, it’s also important to understand tone.
- Voice: This describes your company’s personality. It’s consistent and unchanging.
- Tone: The emotional inflexion applied to your voice. It adjusts to what’s suitable for a particular piece or message.
While your voice remains consistent, the tone may change according to the context of your messaging. For example, a social media post about a fun giveaway would have a more light-hearted tone than one breaking news about a company crisis.
6 Steps to Creating your Brand Voice and Tone
The personality of your brand is determined, in large measure, by the words you use and the sentences you write. We need to appeal to the more emotional dimensions of our audience and understand how people are likely to feel when they have a given problem for the first time.
• It is key to use a language and style that your audience understands. This will build a connection with your audience and make it easier to convert them into customers.
• Establish brand voice guidelines will ensure consistency and reinforce who we are no matter where customers find us.
• To avoid poor performance speak clearly to you audience
1. Visit your target audience.
Your tone of voice should feel familiar to them, so your voice needs to come off as someone they’d get along with and build a relationship with. Grab a small sample of your current best customers and research them to understand how they would best describe you. You’re looking to understand:
- Interests (e.g. do they watch comedies? If they do then they may appreciate humour in your brand voice)
- How they write (e.g. are they formal or informal? If they are more formal then they may appreciate your brand voice to be more academic)
- Publications they read (e.g. do they read sci-fi? If they do then you could include nerdy sci-fi puns as part of your brand voice)
2. Do a brand audit.
Go gather everything from videos to web pages, e-books to your social media publications. Which of these examples could have come from any of your competitors? Why? take note of the reasons and set those aside. Your goal is to understand how to differentiate yourself from your competition. Now look for content pieces that are unique to your brand and could serve as examples of the brand voice you want to embody. Identify the feel of these pieces.
3. Describe your brand voice in three words.
Imagine your brand is a person who just showed up at an industry party full of your ideal customers and competitors. Describe what you are like. What are you wearing? How do you approach people? What do you say? Write down as many attributes as you can.
Lets create and example:
Now let’s take this a step further. Imagine your brand sneaks off to the bar to enjoy some cocktails. You come back to the party buzzed. How do you act differently? Are you funnier? Talking louder? More confrontational? How do you now approach competitors and customers? What is it about your brand that you think would stand out or be most interesting to people?
What is [insert Brand]’s core personality? Pick 3-5 adjectives + one-sentence description
Let’s continue the example:
- Trustworthy – reliable, genuine, direct, authentic, empathetic
- Passionate – emotional, expressive, enthusiastic, excited,
- Quirky – unexpected, wacky, unconventional
- Empathetic – understanding, trustworthy, resourceful
Now gather the information from the last two exercises and fill in the blanks:
We are (tone of voice descriptor), but we are not (another descriptor) x3
4. Map your brand principles with your writing guidelines.
Its now time to describe your voice characteristics. So, continuing on from the above example, explain what makes you trustworthy, what you are passionate about and in what way you are quirky.
Then explain your writing style. What do we need to do as content creators to portray each characteristic? For example:
Trustworthy – We genuinely want to help solve our customer’s problems be it through our products or not. We will do this by taking the time to explain concepts. We won’t sound too friendly or casual.
Empathetic- We know that change can be frightening, uncomfortable and maybe even a little scary. So to counteract that we want to write in a way that is understanding, trustworthy and resourceful. It is important for us to anticipate questions or concerns our audience might have and proactively provide them with answers.
This should give you an idea on how brand principles can be applied to writing,
Brand principles + writing guidelines = your products voice
Once you have your own brand principles and writing guidelines in place you’ll have a pretty good sense of what your product’s voice will sound like and be proud of it.
Apple: Clean. Simple. Confident.
As the world’s most valuable company, it’s difficult to match the mix of having powerful products with a confident voice as well as Apple, but that is because they have nailed their brand voice and tone.
Whether you’re on their website, seeing an ad or going through their social media stream, they are clear, concise, very confident and consistent throughout.
5. Create a voice and tone chart
You can take this a step further and think about what your voice will sound like in different contexts. This will help us find our tone.
Our brand has only one voice. However, our tone may change depending on context. For example, we would speak differently to someone with a complaint, than we would to someone who has just discovered our brand.
When in doubt, plot your touchpoints with your customers down on an x-axis and your tone on the y-axis. This will help you guide your tone when writing within different contexts. Think about the distinct milestones or interactions in your user experience: onboarding, education, troubleshooting.
To help you decide where each touchpoint falls in the spectrum, think about what your users goal is and what they might be feeling in that moment as well as what you’d like them to feel.
Ex: first impression of your brand may be whimsical. Yet when your audience wants to interact with you it will still be on the whimsical scale of the spectrum but we don’t want tone to get in the way. Where as an error code should show more reassuring language as it won’t be the right time for personality or humor.
6. Put this into action.
Infusing texts with personality may make things longer. And that’s ok. Revisit your current content and mark how these need to be revised to be in line with your voice and tone.
Provide your marketing and sales teams with a laminated or card-stock copy of the brand voice chart to keep at their desk for reference. An electronic version should also be made available, you can do this by uploading it into your DAM or use a content marketing platform that allows for all creators to have easy access at their point of writing.
When you make people matter and feel understood, your brand will matter to them. You may be the best in your industry but unless you know how to resonate with your audience you won’t be capturing their attention. Nobel Prize-winning scientist, Daniel Kahneman, suggests that we encounter an average of 20,000 moments in a day. He defines a moment as being the few seconds our brain needs to record an experience. Taking into account that these can be positive, negative or neutral, it is important to be relevant. As a business, we are competing for attention with a lot of moments each day.
Branding is what makes you memorable, different and stand out. It is what sets you apart so that consumers will resonate with your personality and feel identified.
Every piece of content being put out into the world has an experience around it.
It’s the difference between dining in a rooftop lounge drinking from a selection of hand-crafted delicious cocktails or eating takeout in some alley between two dumpsters smelling of rotten fish. Big difference.