Brand voice: A guide to making your audience love you
I was in discussion with one of my friends who runs a startup. Though his startup was doing great, he kept bringing up how his brand lacks character.
The company does more sales than it can handle. I couldn’t think of why so many clients would sign up if they didn’t find the brand humane enough.
I quickly changed topics since he had no basis to back it up. But I comforted him saying that profit is the ultimate measure. And as long as the money in the bank is growing, it is all good.
Later that night, I browsed through his website and phoned him to send me his company’s marketing collateral.
The problem was pretty straightforward. The language on the website was entirely different from the marketing collateral. They didn’t have a consistent voice because the old copywriter left and he was being replaced by a new one.
Your brand is no different. People from your marketing team are going to leave. And if they do, your brand shouldn’t suffer.
If your marketing or sales team is confused on how to respond to a situation, either your brand doesn’t have a voice or your team doesn’t understand your brand language.
Both cases above are deadly for the brand. In the business world where trust is the biggest issue, lack of consistency means doom’s day. This is why coming up with a voice for the brand becomes so important.
A brand’s voice is what a person feels when he interacts with your company.
All that is cool. Why does a successful company need a voice? Are profits the ultimate measure of any business right?
Majorly right, but not completely right if you want to build a business empire that will be remembered even after your time.
Majorly right, until your competitor provides the same product/service at a cheaper cost.
Your brand’s voice is everything from how you do your marketing, copy, design, to how your employees interact with your customers.
The voice is also important because it:
- Gives your audience something to associate with (Eg. adventurous people love Redbull)
- Builds trust
- Sets you apart from the rest (Eg. Mailchimp)
- Gives you the extra time you want to create a new Purple cow (Eg. Apple)
Understanding the importance of having a brand voice can do wonders for any business. Be it a coffee shop, tech startup, or even a blog.
How do you actually build a voice for your brand?
This is what we did for my friend’s company with some help from Google. We came up with the brand’s voice guide. Though I would love to have shared the guide, I am only allowed to share the framework.
Setting up a Voice guide
- Take existing blogs, website copy, designs, and any other available materials and show how the copy looks under the brand’s voice. Write in the tone of the voice itself.
- Put down all the references in a visual format on a canvas. The references should focus on the personality behind the voice. This is to make sure that people get used to the personality and the tone becomes second nature to them.
- Put down in words the characteristics of the personality. For instance, is it authentic, fun, friendly, empathetic, or remarkable?
- After you are done with the essentials, delve a bit deeper into the specifics:
- Blog format, Twitter tweet format
- Number of hashtags to be used on Twitter/Instagram
- Lists of words and phrases that you like versus those you don’t like (Suggest 1 — Recommend 0)
- Copy format (length, headings, images, etc)
- Examples of formal copy or a letter of apology. Here’s a bad example from TVF
- Examples of taking part in friendly banter on social
But what should I keep in mind while coming up with the Voice guide?
Words are beautiful. Every sentence you write should feel like you have enjoyed writing it.
The design makes words more beautiful. Design to back up those beautiful words.
Use simple words. Write for the people, not to be an amazing writer. Unless 99% of your customers know the word, don’t use it.
Be human. Once it feels like marketing, people ignore. So make it like it’s coming from a friend.
Customer first, the company next. How would they like to be approached? What would they like to read about?
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