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How to Level Up Your Design Skills

Part 5: Brand Voice

Joanna Ngai
Feb 12, 2018 · 3 min read

When it comes to brand voice, having a consistent, distinct and trustworthy voice throughout your digital experience can make a lasting positive impact on your end user.

Traditionally the idea of a brand was much more visual — think logos, a set color palette, certain imagery or type ramps. The brand was meant to encapsulate the set of values/mission of the company and the purpose of the brand was to communicate values, establish trust and credibility and a sense of identity to connect with their customer.

What should your brand do?

To your customer, your brand is a mental picture of what your product/service represents — and your goal was to convince your customer to see you as the best way to solve their specific problem.

Instead, today’s brand increasing incorporate written words as well as voice interfaces on platforms where they engage users. Put simply, devices are talking and people are listening. With more and more interactions taking place over conversational UI, brand voice is becoming a crucial part of a company’s identity. It’s an important dimension for which brands engage with their audience and also requires thought and guidance for how to best express a purposeful brand voice.

1. Think of your brand as a person

What attributes do they have? What tone of voice do they use? Is it relevant to the context?

Some examples of brand attributes:

  • Approachable

Another aspect to consider are the core values of your company. How do you want to be perceived by your customer in an ideal world? And does your chosen brand voice support these core values?

For example:

Compare your finance consulting service to celebrity gossip site. It is very important for the customer of a finance consulting service to trust the service before giving them sensitive information.

The tone of voice might be approachable and friendly, if someone where primarily looking to get help or advice on their finances while the gossip site, primarily meant for entertainment, is more playful and even humorous.

2. Focus on your audience

Even if you have a broad audience, it can be helpful to identity a target audience and their goals.

Consider the examples below:

A digital assistant which has a broad audience of a diverse demographic may want their tone of voice to resemble that of an approachable peer.

A women’s eCommerce website’s brand voice may be more youthful or casual in order to sound familiar to a targeted audience that is younger and female.

While these examples are broad, by focusing on your audience you can pick up specific attributes that you want to focus on and emphasize through your brand voice.

3. Share your brand voice guidelines

The last step to a great brand voice is execution. Everyone in your company and team should be aware of these brand voice guidelines because they promote your companies mission and identity.

Conveying a consistent written voice is key to building user trust and maintaining professionalism.

Keep in mind that for something as complex and nuanced as voice, there may be high level principles/guidelines for how to write or speak for the brand on different platforms (like social media, website, mobile, documentation), but not set rules. Make sure to have a few examples in your guidelines to help everyone, from marketers to designers, better understand how to improve the brand voice.

Conclusion

It can be challenging to clarify the many nuances in human speech but I find that going back to the idea of a brand as a person helps to define some high level principles for how the brand voice should sound.

There is still a lot of work to be done on how to best refine brand voice guidelines and conversational interfaces. I hope these tips can help as a starting point toward defining your brand voice.

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