In this series, there will always be two sections:
- My learning — About my personal notes in crisp manner
- My test — About my journey of the test
Now I know, the ideal way is that I should have written about my test first and then my learning at the end. But the reason, for me to start this series was to maintain my notes/insights. If ever, you want to revisit the learning, you shouldn’t have to scroll/skip my test section. See different perspective, you are gonna see a lot of it in the coming series. That’s what makes us humane.
So, if you find something not appropriate or right, feel free to comment or correct me. The goal is to just have the best concise learning around.
“Brand personality & communication” topic is about a set of rules or guidelines defined to create a uniform brand identity & communication.
It helps product to uniformly communicate the reasons, actions and empathy across all user touch-points; which helps to provide a simple and consistent communication experience to the user.
It also gives a direction to the brand image to user’s perspective which is essential to create an impact and to make your product stand out.
🏹 Why it is important for a product?
1. Clear communication can improve user experience
If the user gets confused or blocked in a step, a clean communication can help clear the confusion or make the experience better. Not all the problems are solved by creating new features. For example, look at how Call-To-Action copy has evolved over time for products.
2. Foundation to write consistent copy and improve team efficiency
For writing copy for a product, marketing channel or comms sent at various user touch points; the copy can change with the change in the team. Everyone thinks differently but with a basic foundation people can build up on it with their creativity. It keeps the communication consistent and efficient.
3. Creates an image of the product helpful to reach mass
A great product requires an equally great brand image to reach the mass. Projecting a brand image on personality guidelines keeps the image consistent throughout. Helps to get the product stand out in competition. Research says, a user perceives the brand personality as a reflection of own or one which aligns with themselves.
🤩 What is Brand Personality of a Product?
Brand Personality is the personification of a product. It is a set of certain qualities & characteristics which primarily depend on the kind of product, and target user base. It sets the qualities for the brand image.
🗣 What is Communication in a Product?
It is all the content/text used in the product for the user be it in the user journey, marketing or customer service. A communication with a user is derived from a personality of the brand which sets the voice of the product to be used in various situations as different tones. In simple terms; voice means ‘what you should say’ and tone means ‘how you should say’.
📜 Why is it a set of rules/guidelines?
Say it guidelines or rules or pointers, but essentially it is the north-star principles which are defined to keep consistency across various touch-points. They are the guiding points which keeps the team working in one direction also improves efficiency to write the copy/text in various places like communication channels, product messages, marketing-campaigns etc.
🎯 Is it for all kinds of products?
Yes as long as you have users to communicate. It doesn’t matter which business sector you are in B2B, B2C or any other hybird. The whole reason to this is to bring the idea of experimentation around communication for product and see results; as how communication can affect a product metrics. This is a small revolution in itself.
🧠 How to start thinking around this?
‘How a person (in this case your product) is helping the user and how the user (target user) communicates in that problem’ — this becomes the crux of the first situation from where you should start setting up these guidelines. To basically understand your user, think your product as a person and how they will communicate.
✍🏻 What are the basic steps to start-off things?
- Research your users — find their demographics; get some insights around the use cases — know them as much as possible
- Separate the users into different cohorts (if multiple use case) and find the common personality points
- Select the personality qualities for the brand; based on the mission of the product, the image of the brand and common user personality among different cohorts
- Derive the communication voice qualities like friendly, optimistic, exciting and others from the brand personality
- Figure out different user touch-points where communication is done like on-boarding, emails/ SMS/ Push Notifications, user journey etc
- Set the different tone required in different touch points — in general you need to have at-least — positive tone, neutral tone & negative tone
- Set principles around which touch point requires which kind of tone and voice; keeping the user situation in context
This gives a simple flow: Brand Personality → helps to derive → Voice Qualities → help to set up → Tones at various touch points
🌟 What can go wrong? Nothing, it’s an experiment!
- Your method can be different. It depends on the product, business area and users. Bring your creativity around the process.
- Start small but scale it in time. You can’t get the best guidelines set up in the first attempt.
- Don’t get stuck in unnecessary things like over defining, understand the problem you are tackling here. Be sane in approaching this problem.
- Start with the main user journey and then take different verticals one by one. It is not possible to cover all the possible touch points.
- It is possible to get few things wrong in the principle doc; it’s okay. You can iterate over it with time and include more cases.
- Most style-guides start with ‘voice & tone’ structure to define the communication guidelines. It can be made more detailed by including points like Writing Style, Grammar etc.
This project was a part of Design Language System; is a set of rules or guidelines that heightens the level of harmony in a digital ecosystem.
In a DLS, there are multiple sections around typography, spacing, UI components, colors etc. One of them is Brand’s Voice & Tone. It means setting up guidelines as to how the brand will communicate to the user at multiple levels like in the product, marketing, support etc.
🚀 Targeted Problems
With the revamp of the app to improve experience, it was also required to re-look at the voice and tone of the company as part of experience. There were already certain problems identified around the communication in the product at Zoomcar.
- No consistency in the communication led to use of different words for similar meaning; making communication complicated
- Product tone appeared very transactional (formal) and didn’t have the empathy for the user; no directional guidelines
- Over explained things affecting the clarity of the action; clear and crisp messaging was missing
It helped me understand the expectations of users from product communication. Users need clear, crisp and right information in the right place. This communication should have a human touch. User should get the feel that the product is empathetic, friendly etc.
⏱ Research for the Research
1. Design Language Systems
With growing number of users and range of products many companies have some rules around how their voice should be for users and different rules for how they should sound (tones) in different situations. It improves efficiency and maintains consistency. Take a look at guidelines for Uber, Mailchimp, Atlassian, Shopify etc.
Simply the guidelines don’t make much sense but the relation to the brand image and user base gives an insight about how they are set.
You can make sense as to how they relate their voice to the users and their brand characteristics
For example, Uber’s voice properties are considerate, consistent, simple and direct. And they have defined directly their ‘tone of voice’ as bold, inviting and optimistic. There are instances of it.
2. Research Papers
From DLS, we figured how voice and tone comes from the brand characteristics and user base but there was still the gap of user’s perception with the product personality. I was not able to figure out how to go around finding these characteristics of the voice. So, I read a few research papers.
There are helpful research papers on how a brand should communicate with its users, how users are affected by brand personality, how they perceive it. The answer to my problem was to understand the core of brand personality.
Found that brand personality is a concept within the field of relational marketing and is defined as a set of human characteristics associated with a brand. What is brand’s ideology behind the product is something that should be conveyed and people only make impressions on things which they interact with.
According to Eliott (R. Elliott, “Existential consumption and irrational desire,” European Journal of Marketing, vol. 31, no. 3/4, pp. 285–296, 1997.), consumers do not buy consumer products for their material utilities but consume the symbolic meaning of those products as portrayed in their images.
There are 3 important ways in which a brand personality functions for users:
- As a vehicle to express the functional benefits of a brand.
- As a reflective symbol of the self of the consumer.
- As a medium to establish a consumer-brand relationship.
Brand personality is very important to relate the brand to the users. The personality characteristics generate the voice qualities which helps to convey emotions
For example if you say “Get free subscription for 6 months” and “Hurray! Register now and get a FREE subscription on your car for the first 6 months” These two are very different tones. First conversation is not clear and generate different questions and it feels very formal. The second conversation is very clear on user action and tells that the situation is exciting and joyful, after-all it’s for user’s benefit.
As a copywriter, we might get biased some times while writing copy. The emotions we feel create a bias towards the conceived notion around the copy. Thus, it’s always best to go to the guidelines and look for the principles to remove bias.
3. Articles and blogs
From all the research papers I could now gather some insights about how the structuring works in setting up voice and tone. I was looking for more of a verification of the process I was going to follow.
In many articles and blogs, there have been a repeated set of things been shared like generic definitions of voice and tone, why you need a voice and tone, brand voice examples etc. This is also nice as it gives you different things to add to your checklist while forming the voice and tone and verifies that you don’t miss out on any step.
The articles have more or less the same idea about how to set characteristics. It involves knowing the user, identifying the mission of the brand, audit the current voice and tone, identify the brand values to communicate etc.
Research before every project has helped me understand the plan of action.
- I understood what the problem was in the current product
- I understood what is brand personality
- I understood what is the basic structure of communication
- I understood how people like to perceive communication
- I understood how to set up/ structure the guidelines around communication
I prepared my point 5 steps in terms of a human-like approach for the product communication
Setting up a brand personality
When you meet a new person, you talk to them. Subconsciously, you understand the person’s behavior, habits, talking style (are they funny, introvert and likewise a mixed bag of diverse qualities). So people try to break down others in terms of there personalities. That’s the first sign of impression. What is the personality of the brand?
When reading any communication from Apple makes you feel that it’s a trusted brand and they are premium etc. Likewise, you can take Uber, Google and many more companies have a personality in front of users which makes them trusting, premium and usable for users as they feel secure. Personality is accumulation of different characteristics.
Now figuring out these brand-defining properties is a little difficult. These characteristics also shape up the properties of the brand’s voice. It gets easy to decide these qualities when the brand mission is clear. The best way I found to start was to make a mind map of characteristics I felt the brand should aim to and characteristics that are already in the brand.
After knowing the effects of brand personality for the users, next step is to decide brand personality. Generally, it can be the characteristics which a brand has or the brand aims to have or maybe a mix of both. As a product is always evolving just like humans the personalities also evolve with time.
In both the cases the personality for a brand comes from the product and the characteristics of the kind of users the product is made for. These two things go hand-in-hand as an ideal product has the same values as per the target user base.
So keeping these points in mind, Zoomcar when communicates with it’s user wants to always ensure that, the product is:
Setting up the voice
Voice helps you understand the personality of the person. For example, Michael Scott says “Hug it out, bitch!” We understand that he is caring and wants to forgive Dwight but secretly he was also a little angry with him. There are many other examples like that.
The choice of words always makes an impression in front of others. The kind of impression you want to keep in front of the users sets the voice of a brand along with the personality the brand has.
When we connect with our user on multiple mediums like product, customer support or 1–1 interaction, we prioritize our voice to be useful for them, and also
Things to remember
- To be concise; do not give up on the meaning
- To be empathetic; do not become over-expressive
- To be friendly; do not cross the boundaries
- To be transparent; do not become insensitive
This last section are basically the principles around the usage of voice and very essential to start with UX copywriting
Setting up the tone
Zoomcar is transparent, empathetic, friendly and energetic and so we care about the way we are heard or read. After figuring out various situations in which human interaction occurs, there are broadly 3 categories in which our product communication varies.
- Constructive Tone — When the context for the user produces positive feeling. For ex, in cases of savings, benefits, confirmation messages etc.
- Objective Tone — When the conversation is more informatory and transactional. For ex, in cases of instructions, Call-To-Action copy, payments etc.
- Gloomy Tone — When the context for the user produces negative feeling. For ex, in cases of error messages, service not available etc.
💬 Complied guidelines for Zoomcar DLS
Design Language System is still a WIP; an experiment. But you can take a look at the set communication guidelines here.
Anyways, I hope you enjoyed reading this article. If results don’t work out the way you expected, don’t worry, go out with a better approach again. Always remember this:
Links for articles/books I went through
- How to Define Your Brand’s Tone of Voice: Infographics & Examples
- 5 Easy Steps to Define and Use Your Brand Voice
- Creating A Brand Communications Guide For Your Business
- Look at DLS of various companies and check their Voice & Tone guidelines
There are of course various new articles everyday to refer to with the changing times around brand communication
📚 Research Papers:
- Existential consumption and irrational desire
- Applying the theory of social identification
- The effect of informal vs. formal online-based interactive brand communication style on brand trust and brand attachment
Please look for more new research papers and create your own insight map
🍎 Bonus: Classic example of brand image from personality
Remember what Apple did in the famous ‘1984’ marketing campaign? Apple created an ad around the famous novel ‘1984’ by George Orwell (dystopian social science fiction). The idea was that Macintosh would revolutionize computing and that the future of technology would bring freedom, rather than control. Take a look here at the commercial.
They understood the user needs and projected an image of freedom in terms of personal computing through their campaign. They maintain this image of technical revolution and freedom till now. It’s been more than 35 years.