What do you need to know about your brand voice?
I get really, really excited to hear clients tell me that they want their brand to have a really clear ‘voice.’ So I’ll answer this blog’s title question quickly: it’s an essential tool.
When clients talk about needing to be clear on their brand voice, they’re telling me that they understand that the way they communicate, not just what they do or sell, matters. It means that they understand that tone influences perception and action. It means that they’re thinking about their brand as an asset which affects behaviour and language from the inside out, not just a logo.
So what IS a ‘brand voice?’
It’s the WAY your brand decides to use language to convey its values, its point of difference and its personality.
The essential word here is ‘decides.’ Brands with great voices don’t just happen to develop them over time; they consider how they want to come across and they pick their words carefully to do that. Your brand voice is a really active, not passive, asset. Yes, it’s an asset! It needs your continuous investment of time and energy.
How your brand voice is your values in words
Say you’re a business who chooses to say ‘hi’ when a customer walks through the door or lands on your homepage for the first time. Think about it – why have you chosen to say ‘hi’ rather than ‘welcome,’ ‘greetings’ or ‘hello’?
Well, ‘hi’ is informal, it’s chatty, it’s friendly and it’s youthful. It might just be one word, but it sets a very different impression from ‘greetings’ which would convey a stronger sense of old fashioned values, formality and tradition. Both are great words, meaning the same thing, but your decision as to which one is right for your brand and customers speaks volumes about your business personality, ethos and values.
You see? Your choice of words is really, really important. As people, we know this – most of our arguments, funny moments and points of confusion are because of language barriers, even if we’re from exactly the same place. Think of your 3 best friends and think of phrases you associate with each one of them… I bet they’re different phrases, quirky words and specific expressions which sum up so much of what that person is about without them even realising. Those phrases are their brand voice, their unique personalities and values in action…and they’re the language which makes them who they are in your mind.
Examples of GREAT brand voices…
Ben & Jerry’s. Ben & Jerry’s doesn’t say ‘delicious luxury ice cream,’ which would be accurate but dull. It says ‘a gooey caramel volcano, erupting between cocoaville and mount caramel.’ Now THAT’s a brand voice.
Haagen Dazs. Same category, similar products but a verrrry different brand voice. Haagen Dazs also doesn’t say ‘delicious luxury ice cream.’ It says things like ‘try a mouthful of paradise,’ and ‘Everyday made extraordinary.’ It’s no less effective, but a really different personality.
Your job isn’t to decide whether you brand is Ben & Jerry’s or Haagen-Dazs…it’s to be really clear about what makes your brand unique in its own right and what words, phrasing and sentence structure will best help to bring that to life through what you say.
YOUR LIGHT UP GUIDE: Find YOUR brand voice in just 5 easy steps…
Finding your brand voice is so much easier than you might think. An experienced copywriter and brand strategist (ahem, The Brand Bulb) can make a big difference, but you can make a great start yourself.
Follow my Find Your Brand Voice guide here to start using the right words for your brand in just a few simple steps:
1. Think about your target customer…if you were to overhear them talking about your brand to a friend, what 3 words would you love them to say?
2. Now take those 3 words – let’s say ‘helpful,’ ‘fun’ and ‘caring.’ Now, adapt each of these magic sentences to sound more helpful, fun and caring:
Magic sentence 1: Thank you for your business. We hope you enjoy your product.
So, far so boring. But adapted into your brand voice, this might read something like… We’re over the moon that you’ve chosen us for your purchase today – thank you! From all of us at [your brand], we hope that you love your [product] and have a sunny day ahead ☺
Magic sentence 2: We have received your complaint and one of our team will respond.
This doesn’t sound very caring, does it? So adapted into your brand voice, this might read something like… Oh no, we’ve clearly not done our jobs well enough and are so sorry that you didn’t have the experience you deserve. Thank you for letting us know; one of our team will be in touch personally within 24 hours to help turn this around for you.
Magic sentence 3: Hello, how may we help you today?
Fine, but blah. But in your helpful, fun and caring brand voice that simple welcome could be jazzed up to sound more like… Hi, we’re so happy to see you today! If there is anything you need at all, we’re here to help.
… and so on.
Now, here come the all-important 3 final steps:
- Take some content from your business and adapt it, sentence by sentence, to sound more in keeping with those 3 brand words you’ve chosen.
- Re-read your new content out loud. Seriously! It sounds funny but when we say something out loud it might feel uncomfortable or silly… keep editing (be ruthless!) until it sounds great out loud. Get your colleague or a friend to read it back to you. Then…keep going until every section of your public brand content is in your brand voice, bringing to life your unique values with every word.
- Write down your favourite phrases so far. These will become your essential Brand Voice examples when inspiration is dwindling or you need to make sure that new team members just get it from the beginning. Write them down, save them to your desktop, share with all of your team along with those 3 words you want to sound like and review / repeat them every day. Every single sentence that your business publishes from hereon in needs to live up to those phrases… if it doesn’t, it’s not right for you.
Having a distinct Brand Voice is SO important to your brand. Because if you sound like everyone else, everyone will think you’re just like everyone else.
I’ll leave you with my final tips for finding and establishing a megawatt Brand Voice which will turn your customers on…
- Be ruthless about every word – if it’s not necessary, get rid. If it doesn’t fulfil those 3 things you want to stand for, get rid. If it doesn’t sound good out loud, get rid.
- Take inspiration from EVERYWHERE. You might be a start-up tech company but you just love the brand voice of the coffee shop you go to every Saturday. Think about why you love it and how you could borrow from it to help build your brand’s voice.
- In everything you publish, ask yourself 3 questions:
- Is this conveying the essential facts I need my customers to know?
- Does this sound authentic?
- If I took out the specifics about my products and services, would it still sound like my brand?
For help with determining your brand voice, visit The Brand Bulb // Jossie Morrison, CEO and Founder of The Brand Bulb, where brighter thinking delivers megawatt brands.