Defining Your Brand Voice Guidelines
Brand voice. As a business owner, it’s probably a term you’ve heard before and, even if you aren’t quite sure what it means, you’ve experienced it as a consumer. So what is a brand voice? Well, you can see it everywhere.
Brand voice is the difference between how Starbucks communicates with their customers versus, let’s say, how Jiffy Lube communicates with theirs. While there’s probably some overlap between those two customer bases, they are not the same, ergo the way each company communicates also differs.
Just like how you speak differently to your romantic partner than you would your coworker, businesses must learn how to speak to their unique customer base. That is what brand voice is - and it covers everything from the words used on social media to the images used in advertisements.
Your brand voice is also one of the best tools you have for ensuring you stand out from the crowd, so you need to know how to use it. Not only will your brand’s voice determine the customer’s first impression of you, but it can also influence their loyalty and purchasing decisions. Of course, doing all of this is no small task. How do we know, you ask? Because we help our clients do it all the time - and we hope this article will help you too!
Why is Brand Voice So Important
At this point, you might be wondering what the big deal is. Sure, you want to be nice to your customers and treat them right, but why is it so important to go through this whole process of developing a brand voice?
Because if you don’t, you risk coming off as clumsy, inconsistent, and discombobulated. If you don’t clearly define what type of tone and voice to use, you’ll undoubtedly end up using a whole bunch of different ones which can make for confusing communications, to say the least.
The process of defining your brand voice is the physical embodiment of the phrase “consistency is key.” Without consistency in your company’ voice, you will not be seen as an authority, your marketing efforts will fall flat, and your customers are less likely to see value in your products or services.
How to Create a Brand Voice
Once all of this is said and done, you’ll have a clear list of guidelines that you can use to make sure you, and anyone else who represents your company, is communicating with customers the way you want them to. Honing in on your brand voice takes some time but it’s well worth it, so let’s get started!
1. Take a look at your mission statement.
Your mission should communicate your core values. It’s where your brand’s “heart is at” so to speak. It should answer questions like why does our brand exist? What do we want our brand to accomplish? What are our plans for achieving those goals?
If your mission statement doesn’t answer these questions, well, it might be time for a new mission statement…
If it does, you’ve got a nice foundation on which to build your brand voice on!
2. Evaluate your buyer personas.
One of the biggest clues as to what your brand voice should be can be discovered by considering who you’re talking to. So, who are your customers? Are they funny and lighthearted or serious and straight to the point?
Look at how they talk. Find out what they enjoy reading or watching. Learn about what they do for entertainment and work. In many cases, the way your customers communicate with each other is also the way they want you to communicate with them.
3. Think about how you want your brand to make people feel.
Brand voice isn’t just about words on a page, it’s about eliciting an emotional response. For example, a makeup company may want their target audience to feel beautiful and confident, and they can use their brand voice to trigger that emotion. By contrast, an identity theft protection firm would probably choose to use language that will make their customers feel safe and secure.
4. Survey your audience.
Customers love feeling like their opinion matters, so ask them for it! Send out a poll in your next email blast, newsletter, and/or social media post and ask your customers to describe your brand in their own words. You should also include questions like “is our voice appropriate for our brand?” and “do you have any suggestions for improving our brand voice?”
5. Get some inspiration.
While you don’t want to copy your competition or another brand, there’s certainly no harm in deriving inspiration from them. For instance, if you’re thinking of going with a snappy, sarcastic brand voice, you should check out the notorious Wendy’s Twitter feed. Or, if you’re looking for something clean, information, and to the point, Apple is a great brand voice example to consider.
6. Audit your existing content.
Sometimes what you’re looking for is right under your nose. Check out the content you have right now, on your website, blogs, social media, etc., to see how you are currently communicating. Are you happy with it? If not, why not? What needs to be changed? Of the unique, original content you’ve created, which pieces have performed best? Chances are your brand voice should mimic the language used in those.
7. Listen to your team members.
Throughout this process, make sure to keep your ears open. How do your employees talk about your brand? What kinds of phrases are they using? What is their tone when talking about your products?
The way your team communicates about your brand can indicate how your customers communicate with each other about it. Additionally, asking your team members to provide their own description of your brand voice can provide some insight as well!
8. Try a classic “We’re This, Not That” exercise.
Now that we’re starting to narrow down your brand voice, it’s time to figure out exactly what type of tone you want to take. The above exercise is a great tool for doing so. For example, if you want your company to be seen as serious but not stern, you might say, “We’re playful, but we’re not comedians.” Do this a few more times until you have a few words that define who you are and a few that define who you are not.
9. Finally, create a brand voice chart.
To start building your chart, pick the top three words that describe your brand, and then a few more words that describe each of those. Open a spreadsheet and place your top three words, and their sub-definitions, vertically in the far left column.
Horizontally, across the top of your chart, make three columns for descriptions, do’s and don’ts. All you have to do now is use your previous findings to fill out this chart and boom, you’ve got your brand voice guidelines.
Reevaluating Your Brand Voice
Now we all know that change is a part of life. Over time, your company will change. It may grow or shrink, you may add more products or services, or you may even expand to another country. Your brand voice should be reevaluated each time you undergo a major change or, at the very least, once a year. This will ensure it remains consistent and up to date at all times.
Whether you're struggling to develop your brand voice or aren’t quite sure how to use the brand voice you’ve already established, there are plenty of marketing experts who can help you, like us!
The BlueTone Media team is made up of marketing gurus, branding specialists, and professional writers who are more than capable of helping your business find, and use, the proper brand voice. For help with brand voice or any other branding needs, call us at 888-BLU-TONE (888-258-8663) or contact us online by clicking here.