You’ve got your vision statement and master plan in place. And, you've done your homework on your target audience, so you’ve got a really good idea of who you're speaking to.
Next, it’s time need to get your brand voice and personality straight.
It's so worth spending the time on this part of your branding process, because you use your brand voice everywhere: on your website homepage, on every blog post, every time you comment on someone else’s Instagram post, in your emails to customers, on your packaging – pretty much whenever and wherever you are representing your company.
Why is brand voice so important?
Make a connection
Unless you work in a very niche industry, you've probably already noticed you're not the only company that does what you do. There might be hundreds of other businesses offering similar products and services as you – and they're all fighting for attention. And that's okay. Don't freak out! Because there's room for all of you.
So what makes them listen to you over Tom, Dick, or their brother, Harry? Think of your own experience as a consumer. Every business has a website, social media pages and a blog these days. It can be really hard to differentiate between so many voices speaking to you at the same time. Who do you trust?
The truth is, your brand voice is what makes you different and it's what makes you special. It's how your customers get to know you, then trust you, and then fall in love with you. They don't just want to fall in love with your product, they want to fall in love with you. The language you use, the phrases you choose, the stories you tell, the beliefs that you have, and how you explain all of that – all work together to make a connection with your customer that actually means something.
And that’s why it’s soooo important that the voice you choose comes from an entirely genuine place so that the right people will attach themselves to you. It will help you to find your folk.
What you need to know before you start
Start at the beginning
Look back at your vision statement. What is the pure, unadulterated reason you started the business in the first place? Keep this firmly in mind as you put words around what your voice will be. Think about what your end goal is. Will your brand personality and voice help you to achieve what you ultimately want for your business?
Think of your brand as a person
It can help to think of your business as a person: an individual with a completely unique set of likes, dislikes, opinions, idiosyncrasies, needs and desires. Your brand personality might be exactly like you, but it might not. Try thinking of a person you know, or a celebrity whose personality is similar to what you’re trying to achieve – it might help to think of them when you’re creating your own voice.
Your voice and personality needs to come from an honest place
Your brand voice needs to be 100% authentic and original. Not copied from someone else's brand. It should be based on solid truths about your business and what you’re trying to achieve. In today's world, where information and content is in over-supply, consumers do not want to be lied to or overtly sold to; they want to make connections and they want to hear the truth. All you need to do is make the truth sound engaging. If you’re doing it well, nobody will even notice that you’re putting effort into it – it will just seem natural.
Don’t be scared
It’s incredibly intimidating to put your voice out there and not know the response you’ll get. But, if you’re coming from a genuine place, you’re opening yourself to real and honest connections that will help you your business and its community to grow.
How to create your brand voice
Write it down
While the process of sitting down and putting words and guidelines around your brand voice and personality might seem a little forced and unnatural, it will help you to use it consistently. You might already have a really distinctive voice that you use on social media, and you find that the right people are responding to it. But, you might not use the same voice on your website. Or, if you're thinking about getting someone to help you with your social media, how would you describe to them what tone of voice to use so that it stays the same? Your brand voice guidelines is about solidifying what you might already be doing really well and applying it across the board.
Your brand voice guidelines could include any of the following:
- A person or a celebrity you want your brand to sound like?
- What do you want your brand to make people feel?
- What do you want your products or services to make people feel?
- Tone descriptors: i.e. intelligent, modern, different, funky, caring, friendly, authoritative, adventurous, upbeat, fearless, frank, confident, inclusive.
- Decide where your brand voice sits between these extremes:
- Professional --> Wacky
- Relaxed --> Lively
- Formal --> Chatty
- Detached --> Warm
- Serious --> Humorous
- Your stance on swearing (none, some, lots, mild, strong)?
- If you’re going to use humour, then how (subtle, self-depreciating, out-there)?
- Is there anything you want to avoid, such as jargon, abbreviations or cliched phrases?
- Your use of grammar?
How to use your voice
Use it everywhere
Give your brand guidelines to anyone and everyone who represents your company. Use it to create your social media posts, your blogs, your press releases, your website copy, your packaging. Little tip here: read your content aloud before you publish it – you'll know very quickly if it sounds too formal, too wacky, or doesn't fit to your guidelines.
It can take time and a bit of trial and error to get your brand voice right. But once you get it, and it feels honest, and it feels great, don't let it go! We live in a world where everything flips on its head faster than fast – technology, websites, products, goals, people – it all changes. But, your brand voice is the reassuring constant amongst the madness. It's the one thing that stays the same throughout your entire business journey.
Who’s already doing it?
Here’s some brands that have clearly defined brand voices and that are smashing it across all of their communications.
frank body – What they do: coffee scrubs and body balms made from locally sourced and natural ingredients that have some serious benefits for your skin. Their tone is completely irreverent and cheeky, overtly flirty and sexual, yet entirely personable. Although three of the founders are women, their brand voice paints the vivid picture of a man who has a big love of ladies with big boobs: Frank. With no paid advertising to date, much of their rapid success has come from a marketing approach that is largely defined by their clever tone of voice. The girls behind frank body say: “Frank’s tone of voice on social media and personal approach to conversations with his customers has allowed him to ‘befriend’ his babes in a non-traditional way. He’s the boyfriend girls have always wanted, the beauty sidekick they’ve been dreaming of, and the friend who has always got their back.” Excerpt from interview with frank body on A Bikini A Day.
Nudie Juice, Australia – their purpose: to provide drinks made with the best ingredients on the planet. Their tone is childlike, cheeky, bright, fun and truthful. This is seamlessly worked into all aspects of their packaging, social media, right through the website, including a funky little illustrated video on their About page. While the company and its product offerings has evolved and innovated over the past decade, its distinctive tone of voice has stayed exactly the same.