The importance of creating a distinguishable brand for your business that will set you apart from the competition in your space is well understood. What isn't discussed as much, though, is the importance of developing your brand voice. How you choose to communicate your brand's key messages is ultimately just as impactful as the messages themselves. In this article, we'll discuss everything you need to know about discovering and implementing a brand voice that your ideal customers will be drawn to.
What is Brand Voice?
When most people think of branding, visual identity is the first thing that comes to mind, followed by the messages and statements that define their brand. However, the tone and voice that you employ throughout the various forms of media that your brand uses to communicate with its customers is a vital part of your company's branding as well. In the same way that altering the tone of a statement can dramatically change how that statement is perceived by the person hearing it, the tone or voice of your brand's messages plays a crucial role in how they are received by your customers.
There are a thousand different ways to say the same thing. Some brands may benefit more from a brand voice that is edgy and laced with humor while others may benefit more from a brand voice that is more professional and authoritative. Unless you take the time to pinpoint your brand voice, though, maintaining a consistent message and branding across the various media that you produce is likely to be a struggle. This is especially true if your company relies on multiple creators in order to develop the branding and marketing materials you present to your customers. Without specific brand voice guidelines, each piece of media your company creates is bound to be different in terms of its tone and how it is perceived - even if the messaging behind each piece of media remains the same. For this reason, pinpointing a consistent and beneficial brand voice is an essential element when it comes to creating an overall branding strategy.
Questions to Ask as You Discover Your Brand Voice
At LAIRE, one of the many ways in which we help our clients fine-tune their branding is by providing them with a comprehensive branding questionnaire that is designed to help them form a better understanding of what it is that defines their brand and sets it apart from competitors. This questionnaire includes a wide range of questions - many of which apply to discovering brand tone of voice. Just a few of such questions that you will want to consider as you go about creating your brand voice include:
What is Your Brand's Key Message or Mission Statement?
Before you can determine how you want to communicate to your audience, you'll first need to determine what it is that you want to communicate to them in the first place. What is the most important thing that you want your customers to know about your brand? Once you've answered this question, figuring out how to best broadcast that information will come much easier.
What are Your Brand's Attributes?
Identifying where your brand falls between opposing attributes such as masculine/feminine, professional/casual, modern/classic, and so on is a great place to start when developing your branding strategy and is also a great place to start when you are trying to pin down your brand voice.
How Would You Describe Your Brand to a Friend?
If a close friend asked you to describe your brand, what would you say? The voice you would use to describe your brand to someone you are comfortable with in a setting where there aren't any stakes or ulterior motives is likely to be close to the voice you should adopt as your brand voice. At the very least, it's a good place to start.
What is Your Brand's Target Audience?
Figuring out who you are speaking to is arguably the most important thing to take into account when developing your brand voice. An audience of middle-aged professionals is obviously going to respond best to a much different brand voice than an audience of young customers shopping for lifestyle products.
This, of course, is just a small sample of the type of questions you should ask as you go about developing your brand's voice. In many ways, developing a brand voice is a process of self-discovery. It requires you to really understand your brand's messages, audience, and distinguishing factors in order to develop a brand voice that aligns with all of those things. Asking and answering questions such as those outlined in our branding questionnaire is an excellent way to begin this discovery process.
Who Can Define Your Brand Voice?
As the owner and founder of your company, no one is going to be better positioned to define your company's brand voice than you. However, great results are rarely achieved in a vacuum, and consulting with those who understand your brand and its mission is sure to be a helpful exercise as you go about developing your brand voice. Working with members of your marketing team or agency is an excellent option, as marketing professionals will be well-versed in how to best communicate with your customers. Speaking with close friends and family who understand your brand and aren't afraid to provide their honest feedback is another potentially helpful option. Of course, working with third-party branding professionals is a great option to consider as well if you are struggling to identify the brand voice that will best serve your company's goals.
Steps to Defining Your Brand Voice
Step #1: Define Your Brand
As we've already discussed, developing a keen understanding of what makes your brand unique is an all-important step in the process of discovering your brand voice. Asking and answering the questions outlined in LAIRE's branding questionnaire is one great way to begin this process. However you go about defining your brand and its key attributes, though, the definition you come up with will be one of the most important factors to keep in mind when it comes time to develop a brand voice.
Step #2: Define Your Target Audience
Once again, the target audience you will be speaking to is by far the most important thing to consider when it comes to identifying a brand voice that will encourage that audience to purchase your products or services. One great practice for better understanding your brand's target audience is to create archetypes of your brand's ideal customer. What does your ideal customer look like? What are their hobbies and interests? What are their fears and concerns? Keep going with questions such as these until you have created a complete archetype of what type of person your ideal customer is.
Step #3: Research the Brand Voice of Other Popular Brands
There are plenty of examples of brands that have developed unique and beneficial brand voices - and we will cover a few of these examples in the next section of this article. Start by researching brands in the same space as your own. Take a look at their website and social media profiles, and see if you can pinpoint a consistent tone of voice that they use throughout the media that they present to their customers. While you don't want to straight-up copy another company's brand voice if you are trying to set yourself apart from them, understanding what has worked for other companies can certainly help you begin to identify a unique brand voice for your own brand.
Step #4: Create a Test Group
Once you have developed a potential brand voice that takes into account your brand's identity and its target audience, test it out and see how people respond to it. You may want to hire a focus group that consists of people who match your ideal customer profile, but simply gathering together a group of friends and family is certainly an option as well. See how your test group responds to a few pieces of media that you've created using your new brand voice guidelines, and take their feedback seriously. Make adjustments and consider rebranding efforts if necessary, then present your brand voice to them again until they start responding in a positive way.
Examples of Strong Brand Voices
Given how important a strong brand voice is, there is no shortage of brand voice examples from companies that have developed brand voices that are immediately recognizable. Just a few brand tone of voice examples that may help you identify the brand voice that will be best for your own brand include:
Nike has built a brand voice centered around inspiring athletes to achieve their full potential. Nike's marketing materials all employ a very inspirational and motivational tone that is designed to make customers associate the brand with success and achievement.
Chick-Fil-A has created a brand voice that is distinguished by Southern hospitality and warm, friendly messaging. No matter how great you consider the restaurant's food to be, it is this brand voice that has been largely responsible for helping Chick-Fil-A rocket up the ranks of fast food popularity over the past few years.
Charmin's brand voice is defined by bathroom humor that is giggle-inducing yet appropriate. Their #tweetfromtheseat hashtag campaign and their charming commercials featuring animated bears are two examples of this brand voice in action.
Harley-Davidson is one great example of how a more confident and aggressive brand voice can be ideal for certain companies. Harley-Davidson understands who its customers are and why they choose to purchase Harley-Davidson products, and the company communicates to those customers using a brand voice that positions Harley-Davidson as a company for the bold and daring.
Discovering your brand voice is an essential part of creating an overall branding strategy that will really speak to your ideal customers and encourage them to hand over their hard-earned money. At LAIRE, we are experts at helping companies in all industries develop branding guidelines that will be as beneficial as possible - including comprehensive and effective brand voice guidelines. If you would like to learn more about how to improve your brand and create a beneficial brand voice, be sure to check out our free 20-minute branding assessment. Simply fill out this form, and a branding professional from LAIRE will get back to you with free advice on how you can go about fine-tuning your company's branding in a way that is sure to improve your bottom line.