How to Create a Unique Tone of Voice for Your Brand

Jan 04, 2021

Imagine you get a marketing email from a company that sells high-end business attire. The email pops with bright colors and cartoonish illustrations, and the message begins, “Hiya friend! We’re super stoked to share with you our new line of totally rad business suits. Starting at $4,000, these bad boys will make you feel like a million bucks!” That message would feel...weird, right? Not because of what the company is saying — they’re simply announcing a new line of clothing — but because of the way they’re saying it. In other words, the email wouldn’t be effective because they got their brand voice wrong.

What Is Brand Voice?

As shown in the example above, your brand voice isn’t what you say, but how you say it. It expresses your brand’s personality and values, who you are rather than what you sell. What’s more, it’s everywhere. Brand voice isn’t restricted to things like email newsletters, and it’s not even limited to text. It comes through in social media, ad campaigns, radio spots, TV commercials, and even words on product packaging. Just like your own personality is always inflecting the way you behave in the world, brand voice should influence your brand’s every means of communicating.

Brand voice matters a great deal, and this is more true today than ever. More and more, consumers seek authenticity from brands and desire a deeper personal connection with the brands they consume. It’s not just about products anymore: they want to identify with brands before they make a purchase. That means that today’s brands simply cannot succeed or set themselves apart from the competition without a distinctive brand voice.

What’s more, having a well-developed brand voice helps ensure brand consistency. Brand consistency is essential for the success of your brand, because it builds brand awareness and trust, keeping you top-of-mind for consumers. With a strong brand voice, your brand will be better equipped to maintain a high level of brand consistency in everything it says. Think of your brand like a person: someone with a strong sense of self will always be themselves, regardless of the situation.

6 Steps To Developing Your Brand Voice

So now that you know what brand voice is and why it matters, it’s time to get down to creating the right voice for your brand. This isn’t a throwaway exercise. The voice you land on will have a huge influence on the way you communicate and the consumers you attract, so it’s important to be thoughtful and go slow.

Following this step-by-step guide will help you understand who your brand is and how you should speak going forward:

  • Get clear on your mission and values. Because a brand voice embodies a company’s values, you need to make sure that those values are crystal clear. Brand values should be deeply embedded in the company, and be tied to the reason it exists in the first place. What is it you want to achieve as a company? And what is it you want to tell the world?
  • Do audience research. Though your brand voice comes out of who you are as a brand, it also needs to be developed in such a way that it speaks to your specific audience. To that end, you need to know who you’re talking to. Gather as much data as you can, learning about not only the demographics of your audience but also where they hang out online. If you can find communities of your target audience on social media, spend some time there to learn how they talk to one another. Your brand voice shouldn’t exactly mirror the voice of your consumers; rather, use their style of speaking and adapt it to fit the other aspects of your brand identity.
  • Do competitor research. Because brand voice is a way to differentiate yourself from the competition, you want to make sure that you don’t sound exactly like other brands in your space. Spend some time getting a sense of the landscape and looking at the way similar brands speak, then be thoughtful about the ways in which your brand is different and how your voice will demonstrate that.
  • Evaluate where you are. Even if you haven’t established your brand voice yet, the fact is that you’ve been speaking to your audience with some voice (or voices). Do a content audit to assess what that voice is, and start from there. Look at how you speak on your website, in your newsletters, on social media, in blog posts, and so on. How are you currently speaking? What’s working, and what isn’t? Pull out examples that embody the voice you want for your brand, as well as examples that illustrate what to avoid.
  • Define your personality. You already got clear on your values, but personality is something different — and it’s also the biggest driver of brand voice. While your values are about what you want to achieve, your personality embodies how you act and speak while you try to achieve it. One of the best ways to get clear on brand personality is to write down all the adjectives that describe your brand’s personality, then boil them down to a few key words (no more than five). You can do this as an exercise that involves the whole team, or a few key members. Once you’ve established your attributes, include a few examples of how each one shows up in language. For instance, if one of your words is “bold,” you might include guidelines such as “Use short sentences with strong verbs. Make authoritative and clear statements.”
  • Modulate accordingly. Your brand personality will always be the same, and your brand voice will express that — but that doesn’t mean that the words you choose will be the same everywhere. Just as you would speak differently at a cocktail party than you would at a funeral (even though your personality remains the same in both situations), your brand voice should adjust according to what it’s saying and where it’s saying it. For instance, a social media post about racial justice will sound a lot different than an email about a flash sale. Platform also matters: if your brand is playful and clever, you may emphasize the playful aspect on a fun platform like Instagram, and the clever aspect on a more serious platform like LinkedIn.

Ultimately, creating your brand voice is about writing in a way that best communicates who you are and what you have to offer to your target audience. Once you’ve nailed it down, it will not only help you strengthen your brand identity and enforce brand consistency, it will also attract the right kind of consumers, fueling conversion and growth.

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