When most people think of branding, they think about the visuals like logos, web design, photos, etc. You know what often goes unnoticed? The brand's voice. The messaging is just as important as the visuals. Let's look into what a brand voice is, the differences between voice and tone, and how to develop a brand voice.
WHAT IS BRAND VOICE
Brand voice is the personality and emotions incorporated in communications, according to CoSchedule. The brand voice will affect your word choice, imagery, and other marketing aspects.
Why does a brand need a voice? To streak past its competition. To cut through the noise, a business needs to develop brand recognition, which requires consistency and repetition. Developing a personality for the brand helps maintain consistency and will produce repetition with similar messaging. If Nike tells you to "Just Do It" in one email and then produces an ad that says, "Just Don't Do It," you wouldn't know what to expect from them. Successful companies (like Nike) have a strong personality and a clear purpose, which leads to sending a solid, consistent message to its audience. That's your goal when developing a brand voice.
The brand voice will spill onto visual items, like branded boxes. Photo by Rogue Lab.
VOICE VS. TONE
Yes, there is a difference between the two. Voice is a brand's personality; it doesn't change. Tone is the way you say a message, which will change depending on the content or scenario. For example, the tone in an email talking about a new service will be happy whereas the tone will be more serious when addressing a conflict.
HOW TO CREATE YOUR BRAND'S VOICE
To develop a brand's voice, you need to go through a few steps. CoSchedule laid it out beautifully, but below is a guide that's more centered on screen printing.
STEP ONE — REVIEW COMPANY'S VALUES AND/OR MISSION STATEMENT
The voice should reflect on the company's values, which should show through a mission statement. Reviewing the mission statement will give you an idea of where the voice could go.
Let's look at FN-INK™ for an example. The mission of FN-INK™ is to provide a high-quality plastisol ink at a great price. Therefore, the voice of the brand should reflect its merit, usefulness, and effectivity.
STEP TWO — REVIEW YOUR CURRENT MESSAGING
If you're a brand new business, you can skip this step. Or, you could look at other similar businesses' messaging to start getting a feel for the industry's vernacular.
If you're an established business, take a hard look at your current messaging. Focus on the website, ads, emails, social posts, signage, blogs, videos, etc. Look for common themes. See if there's already a voice or tone emerging through the words. Does that voice reflect on the business's mission?
You should also take note on specific emails, blogs, social posts, etc. that performed great. The well-performing content will give you insight on what resonates with your audience.
A brand's voice will shine through its merchandise. Photo by Salt & Pine Co.
STEP THREE — KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Read the blog about brand identity and already researched your audience? Sweet, skip this step.
If you're a brand new business, immerse yourself into your potential audience. Say you want to print shirts for local businesses, join local Facebook groups. Or you've decided you want to make a clothing brand on houseplants, follow other houseplant clothing lines on Instagram. When you put yourself in front of a potential audience, start taking notes. Pay attention to their age, sex, occupation, family/martial status. This may require doing some "creeping" on others, but it'll help paint a picture of who you will be communicating with. Besides the key demographics, you should also try to discover more fun things about them like the podcasts they listen to, the movies they watch, books they read, etc. Learning more about their interests will help you create an engaging voice.
If you have already established your business, reach out to three to five of your best customers. Ask them questions about some key demographics like occupation or family status, but also ask the fun questions like their favorite podcasts, books, and movies. You can also directly ask them what they think of your brand, how they would describe it to others, what does it sound like to them. If you have access to their social profiles, review their social activity. Check out articles they share, photos they post, conversations they engage with. You can gather very valuable information just by asking a few questions.
Once you have all this information, start listing common traits or interests. The goal is for your brand's voice to sound familiar and natural, sound like someone they want to get to know and spend time with.
STEP FOUR — LIST ADJECTIVES
After collecting all the data, it's time to start crafting the voice. Select three or four adjectives that define the voice. For example, the voice of FN-INK™ is fun, helpful, and rugged. Go a step further and list supporting adjectives for each characteristic. Here's the ink's voice characteristics:
- Fun: witty, informal, clever, friendly
- Helpful: convenient, useful, handy
- Rugged: transparent, direct, to-the-point
Once you have decided on the descriptive characteristics, try the "we're this, not that" exercise. For example, FN-INK™ is fun but not silly; it's helpful but not overbearing; it's rugged by not crass. By drawing the line, you help define how far one can take each personality trait. You can go a step further and simply state what you can and cannot do. Like when writing about FN-INK™, you can have fun with the initials (i.e. we're FN stoked to try this ink!), but you cannot use indecent language. Clarifying what you expect can help yourself and others when creating content for your brand.
A brand's personality can be reflected in working spaces. Photo by Golden Press Studio.
STEP FIVE — EXPLAINING TONE
As stated earlier, tone is the emotional infliction applied to copy that'll vary due to different scenarios. First, decide whether your tone is more informal or formal.
After deciding the typical approach, lay out different situations that may arise and how the company should adjust its tone to fit the situation. For example, you'd adopt a more caring and empathetic tone when dealing with an unhappy customer.
STEP SIX — SHARE WITH THE TEAM
If you're not the only person who will be drafting copy and content for the business, share your information with the team. By getting on the same page, you can ensure that others provide a consistent message to the audience, which will increase brand recognition and strengthen communication.
Wa-la, you have the steps to help you create a brand voice! Take a stab at it. In our next post, we'll look into the process of creating a logo.