Do You Know Your Brand’s “Voice?”
No, I don’t mean the literal voice of your CEO (although that would be an interesting experiment). I’m talking about your brand’s overall style of communication. Defining your brand voice includes everything from how you speak to your customers to the language and imagery used in marketing materials or product labels. Your brand voice is your “personality” and is an integral part of building a solid brand.
Brand voice isn’t just the sum of your messaging; it’s more about how that messaging makes people feel. It can be playful, intellectual, fun, ominous—as long as it reflects what you stand for and who you’re speaking to.
Because establishing a strong brand voice is so important, I’m going to share five tips to help you define your own.
Understand What it’s Not
When people talk about brand voice, often someone will ask, “Well how do we sound?” That’s the wrong question to ask. The way your customers speak doesn’t matter; nobody cares if you say “um” or “like.” The tone you use doesn’t matter either—it’s okay to be funny, serious, professional, or even silly.
So what does matter? Having a distinct voice reflects who you are and who your customers are. Your brand is relatable because it shows an understanding of your audience and how they feel about the world.
Be respectful of Your Audience
Remember, the tone you use doesn’t matter—but how you talk to people does. Your brand’s voice should always respect your audience; it needs to make them feel at home and like they belong with your brand. Think about companies that do this well: Apple, Starbucks, Target, and Google.
These companies know their audience and understand that a conversational tone is the most respectful way to communicate. It’s not about forcing your audience into a box or treating them like children— it’s about creating a place where they’re comfortable. Apple understands that technical things can be hard to use, so they simplify everything for you. Starbucks knows that some people are on-the-go and in a hurry, so they make getting coffee quick and easy. Target understands the needs of their customers, especially moms with kids because they’ve spent time with these women to find out what they need. Google knows that information is everywhere now—it’s infinite. So instead of trying to overwhelm you with their search results, they prioritize what’s important.
Make Sure it’s True to Your Brand
Drawing from these examples, you can tell how each brand stays true to its voice. For instance, Target makes getting in and out of the store quick and easy. Their packaging is clean and straightforward with a bold logo. They use models of all shapes and sizes in their advertising to encourage their customers that they can be comfortable here, too.
By staying true to your brand’s vision, you are keeping the promise you have made to your audience about who you are and what you do. Starbucks promises convenience, but not everyone is on-the-go; therefore, they’ve created stores with comfortable chairs so people can stay for a while. Apple promises innovation and simplicity—they design products to be easy to use with simple operating systems. This is what they stand for, so this is who they are.
Match Your Tone of Voice to the Level of Formality of Your Brand
Remember, your brand voice is the feel of the writing, not necessarily reflecting who you are as a person. Formality doesn’t have to match up with how “professional” you might be in-person—look at Target or Starbucks. With that being said, it’s essential to stay consistent across all channels and groups within your audience.
For example, people interested in DIY projects might want a more casual and humorous voice than those looking to buy their first home. If you’re not sure what the correct level of formality is for your brand, ask yourself these questions:
- Are we currently writing this way?
- Do customers respond better to one tone over another?
- What tone do we think will resonate the most with our customers?
It’s Like a Conversation
Your brand voice should make your audience feel like you’re talking to them. The best way to find your brand voice is through testing; try writing different kinds of posts or messaging and see which one gets the greatest response. Use the information you collect from your audience to see what kind of posts they prefer and how they like to be communicated with.
Remember, it’s always better to an error on the side of caution: if you’re not sure whether or not to include a joke or a pun in your writing—don’t. It can come across as unprofessional and inappropriate for some brands, so if you’re not sure whether or not it will work for your tone, leave it out.
Remember, your brand voice is a reflection of who you are and what you stand for—it’s going to attract people to your business and show them what you do. Most importantly, defining your brand voice should make them feel welcome!