When you hear people talk about branding, often they are talking about logos, brand colors, and sometimes even key messaging, but not enough people talk about how to define your brand voice. Your brand voice is the personality and style of your brand and will carry through every marketing, HR, operations, and business item or program you create.
Your Brand Personality
Your brand voice is a function of numerous traits that, when combined, convey a specific tone and style that shows off your brand’s personality. So in order to define your brand voice you first need to ask yourself the following questions:
What makes us “us”? What sets you a part from everyone else out there doing what you do? This should have been part of your original positioning exercises when you developed your brand and company. This is also tied to your values and mission statement, which defines what you stand for and what impact you want to make on the world.
How do we want people to remember us? What impression do you want people to walk away with? Do you want them to think you are cool, hip, and innovative? Or do you want them to view you as a firm that is stable, providing tried and true services, and who will be here for years to come?
Answering these two questions helps you pull out 3-5 key characteristics that define your brand. The Content Marketing Institute suggests taking those traits and making a “brand voice chart” to map out your key characteristics and how they are conveyed in your current collateral. Once you have this information, its time to build the elements of your brand voice.
Elements of Brand Voice
The basis of style, word choice is the first step in conveying the exact personality you wish to convey to your target audience. The words you choose are subconscious clues as to who you are as a firm. For example, the hip, innovative company will choose words like “fresh” and “cutting-edge,” whereas the stable firm will choose words like “reliable” and “long-lasting.” Defining your key words helps you build the voice and the message you want to project.
How sentences are formed also conveys personality and style. For example, short, choppy sentences add speed and impact. On the other hand, long and flowing sentences that dive deep into a concept are more calm and elegant. Good communication includes a mix of sentence structures, but a predominance of one over another is indicative of style. Just compare classic writers like Hemmingway and Dickens and you will see a significant difference in sentence structure and how that changes the overall personality of the book. The same is true in business and marketing. Short, fast, upbeat sentences convey one personality, while longer sentences with more words convey another. In either case, be careful not to clutter your message and always look for ways to cut the excess in order to keep the message focused and impactful.
Here is where you decide if your company will lead with a formal, more professional tone, or if you will converse with a more laid-back, conversational style. If you haven’t guessed it, we here at Connor Creative Co. prefer a more laid-back conversational style and write each piece of collateral as if we were sitting face-to-face talking to the person. As a copywriter and marketing strategist, I have worked with other firms who took a more polished, professional tone as it made more sense for their brand and their client base. There is no right or wrong when it comes to tone. Its whatever feels right and makes sense for your brand.
Whatever you decide, the key is to be consistent. Each person brings his or her own personality and voice to the mix, but the overall brand voice should be consistent and identifiable throughout every element of your business. Brand voice guidelines should be included in your brand style guide, or brand bible as I like to call it, along with guidelines on logo use, brand colors, core collateral, and key messaging. This information should be made available to anyone who is involved in developing any type of communication for the firm, internally or externally. The brand experience should be consistent for all stakeholders who interact with your firm, not just customers.