Businesses that have been in the game for a while know how important branding is for their marketing strategies. After all, where would Nike, Coca-Cola or Apple be without their branding?
Well-known companies invest in building a presence that spans all channels and attracts people to a personality that’s immediately accessible. Because, when people start to follow a brand, they’re often most attracted to its visual identity, followed by its voice and tone.
So, let’s take a look at how to build a brand voice that speaks confidently to the audience at hand.
What is a Brand Voice?
In marketing, branding stands for the messaging and tone behind a company’s communications. When a business speaks to its audience on social media, traditional television, radio or via digital ads, that messaging must invoke personality and paint the perfect image of that business in the minds of followers and potential customers.
Brand voice plays an essential role in delivering messaging and making sure that each message is heard (ultimately leaving a lasting impression on your audience). Ideally, your brand’s personality conveys exactly what you need it to in order to strike up a conversation and show your customer that your products are what they’ve been looking for.
In essence, brands need to communicate with the type of personality that instantly clicks with their audiences. Without this voice, brands lack the emotional empathy that is necessary to connect to potential followers and customers.
Tips to Establish Your Brand Voice
The first thing any business must do in this exercise is to understand the difference between your voice and tone.
- Tone: Tone is the way in which you speak – fluctuations, word choices – it’s the overall attitude that your copy takes on. But, be careful how you invoke tone so that you’re always speaking with the right emotions to influence your audience.
- Voice: Brand voice shows your company’s overarching personality and how you view the world. Make sure you create a consistent brand voice that’s reliable and recognizable by your audience.
Even when you have a recognizable, consistent voice, you can still change your tone from moment to moment (or platform to platform). For example, a company with an edgy brand voice can float between sarcastic, funny and questioning tones, depending on the product it’s promoting or the platform it’s promoting on.
Start By Looking at Great Brand Voice Examples
There are plenty of brands out there who do an amazing job of speaking to everyone in their audience. How do they do it?
Some choose to be warm, welcoming and helpful. Others put forth practical, confident and competitive voices. Then, there are those that envoke a more youthful, fun-filled attitude.
It’s all up to your business’ decision-makers and marketing leaders to determine what will (literally) speak to your audience. Brand voices can be a combination of visual styles and messaging, and both videos and images offer some great insights into various brands.
This brand has a long history of catering to “happiness” and tying its brand together with things that make its audience happy or hopeful.
“Turn Up Your Day with Coca-Cola” is an excellent example of this. The ad perfectly captures that feeling of happiness.
Friendly, fun, welcoming and easy-to-use are four adjectives that come to mind when thinking about MailChimp. It’s easy to describe a brand because the company communicates so effectively.
Just take a look at their homepage! The artwork used in their hero image is unique and fun, and their first sentence is written in a way that speaks to customers – “Marketing smarts for big ideas.”
Establish a Clear Company Mission Statements
Mission statements reflect company values in one simple statement to the world. When coming up with any part of your brand identity, it’s important to remember your mission statement. For example, MailChimp starts off as follows:
“MailChimp is the world’s leading marketing platform for small businesses.”
In just this one line, we see their strength, power and number one target audience. While it does cut off access to larger businesses, MailChimp correctly assumes that larger businesses aren’t looking at MailChimp’s scaling marketing platform.
Audit Your Current Branding
If you’ve already put your brand identity and marketing out there, then you likely have some analytics showing activity on your website, landing pages, social media profiles, videos and campaign materials.
It’s important to go through and audit your marketing assets to see what worked and what didn’t. Were there issues between your marketing collateral or in-store signage and your current voice or tone? Did everything feel cohesive?
What were the major values that you expressed to your audience? Did your audience connect to these values? Were there negative reactions to your ads? Look at reviews, ratings, comments, brand mentions and engagement activity, broken down by demographics, to see where you stand.
For example, The Gap used to be one of the top clothing brands in the United States. For many years, the company stood for high-quality, well-made clothes that offered simple styles. They had famous commercials, but unfortunately, the company also had a stale branding problem, hurting its brand recognition.
People got so used to The Gap’s basic commercials that it became a meme for bland and boring. Because of this, the company is now going through a complete rebrand as they rearrange the brands underneath The Gap logo, including Banana Republic and Athleta.
The Gap historically used contemporary music and iconic video choreography to sell clothing, but their latest commercial tries to grab onto an edgier theme with two musicians and well-known artists. It will be interesting to see how The Gap changes its voice over the next few years.
Conduct Market Research
Before changing or establishing your brand’s voice, you should always survey your audience and conduct as much research as possible. There are plenty of tools out there to help you (for example, Survey Monkey), but you may also survey your customers through other methods like email marketing or focus groups.
It’s also important to spend time discovering your top keywords in Google and reviewing the results. Where does your brand pop up for keywords? Is your branding and messaging standing out in your headlines or paid search text ads?
Then, take those findings to social media and do a deep dive into every profile that your audience follows. For example, what influencers capture their attention? What are your competitors saying in their ads and captions? What gets the most engagement on social media?
Once you have feedback, you’ll be ready to re-brand (or establish) your voice.
Exercises to Establish Brand Voice
Many brands go through a “we’re ________, but not ________” exercise. A “we’re this, but not that” exercise ensures values are listed out and allows companies to steer clear of the traps that can turn people off from a brand.
- We’re family-friendly, but we’re not childlike.
- We’re confident, but we’re not condescending.
- We’re eco-friendly, but we’re not judgmental.
It’s important to draw lines and establish a brand architecture or even a brand voice chart that talks about your brand values, how you speak to your audience, what matters most and how you respond to different issues facing brands today (such as eco-friendly matters, corporate responsibility and safety).
What’s Next for Your Brand?
Knowing the definition of brand voice is just the beginning. Once you’ve established a brand personality with the right voice and tone, it’s then time to create a brand style guide (that’s shared with your company) to ensure the right voice speaks at ALL times, whether it’s for marketing efforts or customer service.
This type of focus keeps your marketing, sales, and customer service teams in alignment, but it also sets the standard for your traditional and digital marketing channels, too. With clearly documented branding guidelines, your brand will always project the right personality to your audience.
Are you ready to establish a successful and unique brand voice for your company? A great digital marketing agency can help. Whether you’re a startup or an established company, we’ll conduct a comprehensive market research analysis to pinpoint the correct voice and tone for your brand and marketing campaigns.