New Year, new Brand: Part 1
A unique logo. A memorable tagline. Eye-catching colors and fonts. Exciting customer experiences. A strong mission and values.
These are all the makings of a great brand, right?
They’re certainly part of it.
But there’s another element that’s often overlooked, especially in small or growing businesses, and it is arguably the one element that brings your brand to life: your Brand Voice.
Over the past two years, it’s likely that your business’ voice has been drowned out (or at least muddled) by crisis after crisis. So, in this first installment of our New Year, New Brand series, we’ll explore what it takes to define, redefine, and develop an effective brand voice.
What Is Brand Voice and Why Is It Important?
There’s a reason people say the pen is mightier than the sword: because language is important.
A brand voice is one element of your brand’s identity, and it includes the words, tone, and point of view you use when communicating with customers, vendors, and employees.
Take Walt Disney World®, for example. Their brand identity focuses on caring for their customers in such a way that when you walk through the gates, you’ll feel like a beloved VIP. Therefore, they refer to their visitors as Guests with a capital G. (Even on their rules and regulation page!) This subtle distinction in word choice is just one aspect of their brand voice. Still, it’s a powerful choice because it promotes a hospitality mindset for both team members and customers.
Your brand voice will affect all forms of internal and external communication – written, verbal, and visual.
When there is a mismatch between brand voice and other elements of your business, it erodes trust. Your audience will perceive the company as saying one thing while doing another.
Scenarios That Lead to an Ineffective Brand Voice
1. If You Wing It:
In cases like a solopreneurship or a small business, the brand voice will often mirror how the CEO speaks. Or it will take on the voice of the writer or agency you hired to create your materials.
2. If There Are Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen:
When a business grows, new people and new ideas enter the mix. That’s great! But if guidelines for your brand’s voice have not been established or are allowed to vary wildly depending on who’s in charge of a project, it will dilute your brand.
3. If Guidelines Are Too Rigid:
On the opposite end of the spectrum is when brand voice guidelines (or style guides) are too rigid and leave no room for interpretation or evolution.
You Don’t Have to Be a Writer to Create a Unique Brand Voice
The good news is that you’ve probably already done the foundational work for developing a brand identity in general. This means you just have to choose the language and conventions that support what you’ve already established.
Start by focusing on tone, point of view, and word choice.
1. Choose a Tone: What’s Your Brand’s Personality?
The tone of your brand voice should match the rest of your branding. If your logo, colors, and mission statement all scream fun and flirty, your content better not be boring and serious.
Define your desired tone by writing down three words that describe your brand then gather examples of content (images, text, or video) that exemplify these words. Gathering samples is essential because words can mean different things to different people.
So, if your business is smart, innovative, and cool, what does that look like to you? Having examples on hand will help ensure your brand voice is consistent from one content creator to another.
2. Select a Primary Point of View: Who Are You in Relation to Your Audience?
Are you the audience’s trusted friend and partner? Then a first-person plural point of view is likely best for your content. Make ample use of the pronouns we, us, and ours and make it clear that the “we” includes the audience and your team. This tells the audience that you’re their partner and peer.
But maybe your business is less of a friend and more of a sought-after expert. If so, you can convey this and drive your audience to action with a second-person point of view. Using the words you and your commands attention because you’re speaking directly to your audience.
3. Refine Your Word Choice: What Does Your Audience Know and How Do They Talk?
For marketing materials, your audience will be your target customer. For internal communications, it might be your new hires or vendor partners.
Listen and Observe:
For each audience, note the words and phrases to use — or avoid — in order to communicate clearly and precisely.
Next: Create Memorable Content
Once you’ve established comprehensive, yet flexible, guidelines for a strong brand voice, it’s time to start creating content!
In the next installment of our New Year, New Brand series, you’ll learn how to ensure that your content is both exciting AND memorable by harnessing the power of storytelling and instructional design.
In the meantime, if you have questions or would like help defining and developing your brand voice and content strategy, contact us.