If you’re new to content creation (or maybe you just started a business), you’re likely wondering, “What is a Brand Voice?” Simply put, your brand voice is the personality of your business.
It’s how you communicate with your audience.
Brand voice isn’t about perfect grammar or quotes. It’s about how you use language, tone, and storytelling to connect with your readers.
Brand Identity and Voice
People value emotional engagement over customer satisfaction, according to a “Harvard Business Review” study. Other studies confirm these findings.
Sprout Social asked consumers why some brands stand out. They found:
- 40% said memorable content
- 33% said distinct content
- 32% said a compelling storytelling
People want to feel connected, and they become attached to brands that feel relatable.
Answer the question “What is a Brand Voice” by creating a brand voice that resonates with your ideal customer.
Developing your brand voice takes time and research. But, when it comes to this process, don’t skimp! Like the rest of your branding efforts, your voice is a part of everything you do. From social media, to copy, to newsletters, to packaging — brand voice is who you are.
Brand Voice Creates Emotional Motivation
Four social needs drive humans: to feel seen, heard, connected, and to have a sense of belonging. It may feel gimmicky to leverage human emotion, but discovering how your brand can fulfill a specific need creates connection, community, and relationships.
Remember that Harvard study? Researchers uncovered more than 300 emotional motivators, which are the driving force behind many consumer purchases, in the same study. Let’s take a look at the top ten emotional motivators.
While you should consider emotional motivators when creating a brand voice and communication strategy, they vary greatly.
For instance, emotional motivators vary across:
- Customer touchpoint
- Purchasing and decision-making journey
Some brands have an easier time forging emotional connections with their customers. Consider companies like Disney. Emotional connection is a little baked in! But any product that helps consumers fulfill their desires can build those connections.
How to Identify Emotional Motivators
To identify emotional motivators, start by using your existing data — market research and customer insights — to determine what matters most to your customers. For example, do they value community, safety, family?
From there, define what high-impact motivators you want to explore. Once defined, an online survey can help you understand their relevance to your customers. Avoid making a crucial mistake here. Just because you know who your customers are doesn’t mean you know their motivations.
Employing an online survey can help you parse through the ambiguity. Like an enneagram assessment, ask questions like “What do you value more: acceptance or individuality?”
Next, you’ll thoroughly examine your best customers.
Who are your best customers? For these purposes, your “best” customers:
- Buy often
- Aren’t concerned with price
- Buy a lot (as in quantity)
- Hype up and recommend your company to others
- Are loyal to your brand
Compare the emotional motivators of your best customers, or the high-value group, to your overall customer base. When comparing, you’ll notice that the motivators of the high-value group differ from those of your overall base. Take a few of these high-value key motivators that your brand strongly identifies with and use them to understand which emotions your brand needs to connect with.
Using the emotional motivators of your best customers, you’ll be able to fine-tune your marketing, communication, and customer service strategies and grow the segment with the most return on investment.
Commit to using emotions and connections as a way to grow your business. When speaking with customers, use emotional language that fits their motivators. We’re not talking about just your marketing. Deploy this language across your brand, including packaging, social media communications, marketing strategies, the customer service department, and product development.
Brand Voice vs. Tone
Understanding how to use emotions to connect with your customers is just one answer for “What is a Brand Voice?”
Knowing the difference between voice and tone is another essential piece of the puzzle.
What is Brand Voice?
Not only is using your brand voice across all channels important for consistency, it’s how your customers connect with you. Your brand voice should help customers relate to you, build relationships, and create brand loyalty.
Brand voices can be funny, poetic, inspiring, casual, empowering, formal, or any other adjective you might use to describe a person.
It takes users about 50 milliseconds to form an opinion about your site and your brand. Make it count.
How Does Tone Differ From Voice?
Tone of voice is how your brand communicates.
Tone can change depending on the situation. For instance, if your audience consists of more than one persona, your tone may change when speaking to different segments. Tone also can change if your goals change. For example, how you deliver news about your company will be different from a how-to article.
Overall, your tone should remain consistent. Your audience should be able to recognize your tone of voice, even if the content is devoid of your logo or brand name.
Think of tone this way. When you communicate with people in your personal life, your perspective as an individual remains primarily unchanged. But the way you speak to people in your daily interactions changes. You use a different tone and phrasing when you talk with your boss than when you talk to your best friend.
Examples of Brand Voice
Let’s examine some popular brands and their voices.
On the About Us page, the featured text reads: “Before she was BadGalRiRi: music, fashion, and beauty icon, Robyn Rihanna Fenty was a little girl in Barbados transfixed by her mother’s lipstick. The first time she experienced makeup for herself, she never looked back. Makeup became her weapon of choice for self-expression.”
In these few sentences, you get a feel for the brand voice. It’s poetic and empowering, yet casual. You’ll see this voice employed across all of the Fenty channels. It’s a perfect match for their ideal customers: young millennials and Gen-Z.
Spotify’s voice is funny, direct, and edgy. They don’t take themselves too seriously, and they have no problem roasting Spotify users.
I don’t know about y’all, but I feel personally attacked by this Spotify advertisement.
If one of my favorite songs is on, I’ll stay in the car until the song is over. To be perfectly honest, sometimes I sit in my driveway just jamming out because all of the songs on my playlist are my favorites.
Like Fenty, Spotify uses a similar voice across all customer touchpoints. Take their Twitter account, for example. They use it to post about new music (and tease users) with the same friendly tone.
Advertisements from Apple are easy to spot. They choose visuals and words carefully. Apple’s brand voice is short, concise, and direct. Apple goes out of its way to use digestible language, even when addressing technical pain points or solutions.
Apple always gets straight to the point. As with all of the other brands examples in this post, it’s consistent across channels. The Apple Support Twitter account provides valuable and concise information to its followers. In the below tweet, they make it simple to understand how to share your location.
Defining and Developing Your Brand Voice
So, now that we’ve answered the questions, “What is a Brand Voice?” the next question is… how do you create your brand voice?
Your Mission, Vision, or Value Statement
Since you should build your brand voice around your brand’s unique perspective, it makes sense to start with your brand’s mission statement.
- A mission statement states what your brand has set out to do. It lets your audience know what services or products you provide, who those services or products are for, and why you’re doing it.
- A vision statement looks toward the future. It’s what your brand hopes to achieve. This statement is idealistic and conceptual — a nod to what could be.
Some brands combine these statements in an all-encompassing statement.
Examples of Mission Statements
Large and small companies have impactful mission statements. Let’s look at some of them.
Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis
To inspire humanity — both in the air and on the ground.
Cradles to Crayons
Provides children from birth through age 12, living in homeless or low-income situations, with the essential items they need to thrive — at home, at school and at play.
To offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially conscious businesses.
To entertain, inform and inspire people around the globe through the power of unparalleled storytelling, reflecting the iconic brands, creative minds and innovative technologies that make ours the world’s premier entertainment company.
Realizing the full potential of the internet — universal access to research and education, full participation in culture — to drive a new era of development, growth, and productivity.
Before you can do anything else, you must know who your audience is. If you haven’t already, you’ll need to dive in and examine audience information.
Demographics and Characteristics
There is so much information at your fingertips to help you understand your audience. Using Google Analytics or analytics from your social media channels, you can discover who your current and potential customers are.
Compile information about their gender, age, job title, education, socioeconomic status, etc. You’ll use all of this information to create a buyer persona.
When you start this portion of the process, you must consider your buyer personas. Don’t have a buyer persona? Yikes. Get that squared away first.
Your buyer persona will influence your brand voice.
Buyer personas are a somewhat fictional character. You create a character in a story based on real people. You base buyer personas on data and research. They represent your ideal customers
Creating accurate personas will help you decide how to communicate in a relatable way with your audience. If your audience doesn’t find your brand voice relatable, you won’t have much success.
An important piece of your buyer personas is figuring out which channels they use for communication. One way to do that is to understand that each generation is influenced differently.
Data Axle put together a white paper titled A Marketer’s Guide to Reaching Each Consumer Generation. They take a peek at all of the factors that influence the buying behavior of Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Centennials.
Each generation’s shopper profile details the drivers for the following:
- Brand loyalty
- Purchasing decisions
- Channel (communication) preferences
- Gift-giving style
- Shopping habits
Photo Credit: A Marketer’s Guide to Reaching Each Consumer Generation
Discover How Your Audience Talks to One Another
Creating a sense of connection and belonging is paramount when engaging your audience. By mirroring how your ideal customers speak and interact, your content becomes more relatable.
Mirroring is usually done subconsciously when face-to-face. This technique, where you copy the body language, qualities, or attitude, indicates interest. While you can’t mimic body language online, you can use mirroring to your advantage.
Pay attention to how your audience communicates with one another. What is the tone of the discussions in the comments? What language do they use?
Revisit Your Current Content
If you already have content on your site or other communication channels, you should peek at the pieces that performed best. More than likely, these top-performing articles, tweets, and posts have something in common.
Write down the characteristics of the voice. The Nielsen Norman Group identified four dimensions of tone. Their goal was to identify tones that could be used to describe and define the voice of any site, article, or post.
After eliminating a bunch of literary tones, NNG culled the list to 37 specific tones. From there, they further refined that list by eliminating synonyms, removing words without antonyms, and words that were overly specific.
At the end of that process, NNG identified 4 primary tones:
- Funny vs. Serious
- Formal vs. Casual
- Respectful vs. Irreverent
- Enthusiastic vs Matter-of-Fact
Tweaking any of these tones can alter any message.
- Formal: We apologize. We are experiencing an error loading this page.
- Casual: We’re sorry – there’s a problem loading this page.
- Enthusiastic: We’re sorry! It looks like there’s a problem.
- Funny: Our bad! We messed up somehow and now we can’t show you this page. Whoopsy-daisy!
Note which of these four characteristics you have already implemented in your content and grow your voice from there. Since this is top-performing content, that likely means that your audience resonates with it in some way.
Identify What You Don’t Want in Your Brand Voice
Determining what you don’t want your voice to sound like is another important part of creating your ideal brand voice.
Bring your team together and brainstorm what your voice is not.
For instance, at Content Journey, our brand voice is not:
- Too serious
Once you’ve gathered a list of these characteristics, you can craft a brand voice that is the opposite.
At Content Journey, our brand voice is down-to-earth and friendly. It’s authentic and casual. It’s helpful and informative.
Implementing Your Brand Voice
It’s not enough to create a brand voice. You also must ensure that your entire company uses the voice across marketing and communication channels.
Every writer, marketer, social media manager, and partner should adhere to your brand voice. Therefore, creating a style guide should be a top priority when rolling out a new (or more defined) brand voice.
You should include your brand’s voice in your style guide just like you do other brand components.
Your brand voice style guide should include:
- Characteristics. These should be included in your style guide by order of importance. You’ll have primary, secondary, and tertiary characteristics.
- Brand Voice Examples. Include examples from past articles and successful campaigns that help provide context for shaping your communication.
- Tone of Voice Differences. Different types of content, channels, and audiences require a change in tone. Provide a chart to show how tone may change based on the type of content, goals, or customers.
- Checklist. Make it easy for your employees to understand voice and style by providing a checklist to check for voice and tone.
Additionally, you should include the following in your style guide:
- A snapshot of your audience
- Core values
- Your mission statement
- Specific grammar or vocabulary rules and guidelines (such as pronoun and slang usage)
Defining and Implementing Your Brand Voice
You want good content, right? Then you need a good voice. Keeping your voice consistent across all communication channels allows your audience to better understand and relate to your brand.
You can’t create consistency if every customer touchpoint doesn’t represent your brand voice. From product development to cart abandonment emails, brand voice is a crucial part of your business. So ensure that every employee understands how to craft content that aligns with your voice.