As individuals, we have control over the way we present ourselves to others. Our mannerisms and our speech leave impressions on those with whom we interact, and we can adjust our appearance, speech, and behavior. When you have a brand, you can’t communicate with every individual customer to manage their perceptions. Instead, the persona of your brand, embodied in your brand’s voice, speaks to customers.
Here, we will discuss all the considerations involved with shaping brand voice in ways that will communicate your desired message to your customers.
Understanding Brand Voice
Brand voice is usually defined as the verbal expression of a brand’s personality, its style and perspective. It plays a key role in brand storytelling and shaping the perception about a brand. It represents the values and personalities of the people behind the brand. Equally important, it creates a sense of distinctiveness that sets a brand apart from the competition and acts as a link that builds connection between a business and its prospective customers.
Given its importance, each business should make sure they dedicate enough time to determining the voice that best communicates the message they want customers to associate with their brand. Probably the same amount of time should be dedicated to training all the employees how to imbue the brand’s voice into their communication.
You’re wondering why? Because in practice the responsibility of speaking for your brand will fall upon more than one person. When your brand’s voice is well-defined, you can rest assured that your representatives will communicate in a consistent manner. If not, you will probably end up with having confused customers as a result of every team member interpreting your brand differently.
Where Do Brands Get it Wrong
Besides inconsistencies in communicating their brand voice, there are some other very common mistakes that brands make:
Sometimes brands have a voice that conveys a robotic corporate image, not a personal, customer-friendly persona. Other times, they have voices that mimic others, so they don’t come across as authentic.
Sloppiness also contributes to giving brands a wrong voice. If your products or marketing materials have spelling and grammar errors, for example, people will think of your brand as unprofessional and sketchy.
Excessive negativity or arrogance can also give your brand an undesirable voice. Your company should rely on objective comparisons with competitors in its marketing materials, and it should express confidence without conveying a haughty attitude.
How to Practically Approach Shaping Your Brand’s Voice?
1. Define your audience
The first and probably the most important step is understanding in depth who your customers and prospects are. If you don’t know your target market, not only will your brand’s voice will seem aimless, but you also stand very little chance of seeing any results.
What can help you a lot with defining your audience is data. Collect your primary market data by conveying surveys and interviews. With some effort and careful thought, you can mold this data into customer profiles that will represent your audience. Aim to make these profiles as detailed as possible, as if you had in front of yourself imaginary customers with whom you can converse. As you figure out how to talk with these imaginary customers, you will start understanding how to relate to your audience.
2. Find out how your current audience perceives you
It’s very useful to know where exactly your brand or company stand in the eyes of the public as it can help you discover if a discrepancy exists between your intended and perceived voice.
If you run a brick and mortar operation, you can survey customers in person, or you can contact them by email. You might even want to consider setting up an online poll and then request customers through social channels or email to participate in the poll.
Whatever you decide, make sure to ask your customers to use keywords when they describe your brand, not sentences. You can leave it up to them to come up with their own keywords or you can offer some by yourself and let them choose. Why keywords? Because later you can combine these keywords with build your messaging around those keywords, both on social media, in email newsletters and elsewhere.
3. Look for inspiration
Think about the brands you have recently encountered and think about their voice. You might think of some that inspired you and others that turned you off. Write down the ideas you get from those brands and use them to refine your message, but don’t copy them. The voice of other brands should guide your brand, but you must let your personality shine through, to give your message authenticity.
4. Train everyone in the company
Not only does everyone in your company need to have a thorough understanding of your products and services, but also of your brand, and, most importantly, your brand’s voice. Spend time training all your team members to make sure your company acts in unison at all times when it markets, promotes, and sells. Repeat the training periodically to ensure consistency on all levels.
5. Distinguish between voice and tone of voice
Last but not least, establish a clear distinction between brand voice and tone of voice. Although both voice and tone work to shape the persona of your brand, the terms mean different things. Tone can vary depending on context and audience, but voice communicates the underlying values that drive your brand. Make sure your team members remember to keep the voice of your products unchanged while varying the tone of voice as needed.
Now that you understand the importance of your brand’s voice and you understand the practical steps to shaping it, use the things you have learned to create and project a voice that will attract the attention of the customers you intend to serve.
Author: Taylor Moore
Current email address: taylorjanemoore (at) gmail(dot) com
Short bio: Freelance marketing writer interested mainly in small business and retail. Follow me on Twitter @taylormtweets.