Your company isn’t just a business. It’s also a brand. And every good brand has a unique identity.
A brand identity is vital for building strong relationships with customers. Humans form lasting connections with other humans (or, at least, other personalities) – not with faceless systems and processes. So, if you want to build a strong, loyal customer base, your brand needs its own personality.
We’ve already told you various tactics for getting to know your customers, including how to build a customer persona. But that’s only half of the equation. It’s no use getting to know your customers if you are not going to provide them with an engaging personality to reciprocate with!
So, here we will delve into the mysteries of the ‘brand voice’, and how you can use it to scale your business.
What is a brand voice?
Put simply, your brand voice is what you use to communicate with your customers. It’s the words, tone, idioms, and so on that you use in emails, social posts, and marketing.
But there’s a lot more to it than that.
Your brand voice is also what you use to express your brand’s personality. It’s how you connect with your customers and showcase your values.
How can you achieve this? Let’s run through the basics:
First, research your audience
If it feels like the first step to most of our marketing guides is ‘research your audience’, that’s because it’s really, really important. At the end of the day, everything you do is for the benefit of your customers. So, any marketer worth their salt will check in with their audience before they launch any new venture.
In this case, you want to know the kind of voice and tone that your customers will respond to.
As you research, think about:
- The kind of persona that appeals to your audience.
- What your audience needs from your brand (for example, do they want a reassuring level of knowledge? If so, developing a calm, clever, authoritative voice could bring the best results)
- The kind of persona they would identify with.
- The kind of persona that would drive them away.
- The tones, idioms, and modes of speech to which they respond most positively.
Second, build a brand persona
Quite honestly, building a brand persona deserves a blog in its own right (want us to write it? Get in touch and let us know!). But we’ll try and cover it briefly here.
Your brand voice is an expression of your brand persona. So it stands to reason that you should develop the persona before the voice.
Developing a brand persona is a fine art. Some brands go so far as to create an actual mascot with a distinct personality to act for the brand. Others are more subtle, choosing to express their persona through tone, voice, branding, and action. The route you choose will depend on your brand and your audience.
First and foremost, your brand persona should be informed by the audience research you did back in step one. You want to build a persona that your audience can relate to, engage with, and like.
But that’s not all. Your brand persona should also embody your brand values and mission. For example, if you are an eco-conscious brand, your persona should also care about the environment. If you have a fun, dynamic company culture, your brand persona should also be fun and dynamic.
On the other hand, if your brand is actively involved in ecologically questionable practices, it’s probably best not to build a green brand persona. The hypocrisy will not just paint you in a very bad light, it will also give people a stick to beat you with. So, make sure that your persona is always consistent not just with your customer base and your values, but also with your actions.
Once you’ve developed the basics of a brand persona, it’s time to flesh it out with a distinct brand voice.
Third, figure out how your persona would communicate
If your brand persona was sending an email to a customer, what tone would they use? How would they address the customer? Would they be casual? Formal? Friendly? Enthusiastic?
And what about if they were posting on social media? Would they make big, flashy posts full of exclamation marks and emojis? Or would they be more subtle? Would they post longform, giving plenty of education and information, or would their posts be snappier?
If it helps, come up with three primary characteristics for your brand. For example: Enthusiastic, Quirky, and Friendly.
Then, expand those characteristics into lists of voice-related dos and don’ts.
Let’s take Enthusiastic for example.
- Use strong, powerful verbs (for example, ‘We know that’ rather than ‘We think that’)
- Express yourself
- Be positive
- Use an active voice
- Be wishy-washy
- Use a passive voice
- Use minimising statements (For example, don’t say ‘This might be because….’ say ‘This is because….’)
Fourth, come up with tone of voice guidelines
Our writer insists that we put this in! Writers LOVE tone of voice (TOV) guidelines. The only thing they love more than TOV guidelines are extended deadlines.
Why? Because TOV guidelines make the whole writing process a lot quicker and easier. Rather than having to play email tag with your copy until they nail the tone you want, they’ve got your requirements right there in front of them.
TOV guidelines don’t have to be complicated. Here’s an example we cooked up for our upcoming book (oh yes, we have an upcoming book! Watch this space!):
For other examples, check out the piece that Grammarly has written about seven different brand’s tone of voice.
By creating TOV guidelines, you ensure that everyone knows who you are, how you speak, and what you stand for. This is fantastic for consistency – which brings us neatly to our final step…
Finally – be consistent!
Once you have a brand voice, it’s very important that you stick to it.
Think about how weird it would be if an old friend suddenly started talking to you in an entirely different tone to the one you’re accustomed to. You’ve got to know a friendly, loving, happy individual and suddenly they’re talking to you in an aggressive, sneering, superior tone.
Disconcerting, right? You’d question whether or not you’d ever truly known them. You’d probably rethink the friendship – especially if they never gave you a decent explanation.
It’s the same with a brand voice. Remember, from the customer’s point of view, all communications are coming from the same ‘person’ – your brand. It doesn’t matter who actually wrote a particular social post or email, because from the customer’s perspective they are all written by your brand persona. And any inconsistency will be very jarring.
So, once you’ve developed your brand voice, stick to it! At least, until your next rebrand…(more on that soon!)
Struggling with the internet? Don’t worry! We’re here to help
If this all sounds like impenetrable digital nonsense to you, we don’t blame you. Give us a call. We can help you set your business up on the internet in a straightforward, easy-to-understand way with no bullshit.