In today’s crowded market, being able to stand out from the crowd is a highly coveted skill. Too many brands and businesses are disappearing into the ether as they strive to climb to the top. And why is that? Because they sound just like everyone else.
Having a strong brand voice isn’t just about creating a catchy tagline or ad campaign – that same voice has to flow through everything you do. From logo design, to social media, to letterheads – one glance should tell me exactly which brand I’m dealing with.
Standing out like this requires some creativity, and a lot of courage – because in order to stand out, you need to be taking risks with your branding. If you don’t want to sound like everyone else, then you have to do something that no-one else is doing, and that is definitely risky.
What is a “brand voice”?
How do you define what a brand voice actually is? Your brand voice is the public image you create for yourself or your business. It’s what your audience and consumers are going to associate with you, and it needs to reflect your values, goals, and product.
You utilise your brand voice whenever you create a social media post, an ad campaign, a press release, a new product, or when you appear in public representing your brand. It emcompasses every spoken and written word that is associated with your business. And it is the key to creating a successful business in today’s world of entrepreneurs, side hustlers, and freelancers.
Why is brand voice important?
If you want to make your brand memorable and distinctive, then developing a strong brand voice should be the first task on your to-do list. If your voice is clearly coming out across your marketing, then you’ll be better placed to make a real impact in your industry.
Just remember, your brand voice is not your company message – it’s the tool you use to spread that message out to the public.
When to utilise your brand voice
You should really be perfecting your brand voice before your business is even launched, but if you’re coming to the game a little late – there are still ways to make sure you’re utilising it effectively.
The first place to begin would be your brand’s website. This is where a lot of people will be looking to find out more about your brand and what you do. Establishing your brand voice here is essential. Don’t just throw something together quickly though – hire a copywriter, work with a marketing team, really spend some time here. If you get this right, it can pay off in spades.
Next, think about your public face. Social media is where some of the most impactful marketing takes place nowadays, and it’s here that your brand voice can really help your business to flourish.
Your brand voice is the tool you use to communicate with your audience and consumer base. Emails, letters, direct messages – all of these need to be filled with your chosen style.
Developing a brand voice: first steps
So, we’ve made it clear by now just how important brand voice is, but how do you actually go about developing one? Each brand voice is individual to each business, so there’s no cut and dry way to create yours. But, there are a few simple steps you should follow to help get the process started.
1. Brand keywords
What is your brand all about? Spend some time creating a collection of keywords that describe your brand. These can describe your product, your target market, your brand design – anything that works for your brand. Try and brainstorm as many words as possible, then whittle them down to just three. These three words should say everything about your brand – so choose wisely.
2. Differentiate your voice
Dive into some market research and see what your competitors are doing in the space next. You want to make sure your voice stands out from the crowd, so you need to know what that crowd is doing. What makes your product different from the others on the market? Make sure this is coming out in your brand voice.
3. Listen to your customers
How are your customers (or target customers if you’re still pre-launch) communicating online? Taking the time to listen to how people are already talking about your brand should help to shape your brand voice going forward. If your customers are polite and well-mannered, then your brand voice shouldn’t push too hard against that.
4. Don’t get stuck
If one approach isn’t working, move on. Don’t get stuck thinking that you absolutely have to use the first brand voice you come up with. The best businesses out there are constantly evolving their marketing – think about Madonna. How many times has she reinvented herself through the years? It’s this ability to move with the times that helps brands last.
What makes a great brand voice?
So, what makes a brand voice great? It has to sound natural, and it has to come from a place of certainty within your business. The best brands out there have taken time to develop a voice that resonates with their target audience, without sounding forced.
Once you know the core values and mission for your business, you can begin to build on these when establishing your voice. If your business feels strongly about being truthful, then this should be reflected in your branding as well. If you don’t know your core values, then none of the other aspects of your business will meld together either.
Examples of strong brand voices
Take two of the world’s hottest entrepreneurs right now as an example – Tony Robbins and Gary Vaynerchuk. Both of these guys have built wildly successful businesses on their own unique ways of speaking and coaching business owners to succeed. On paper, they are very similar – both do TED talks, personal and business coaching, and help people create killer businesses of their own.
But, how did they both manage to succeed if they are offering the same services? Brand voice. They both conduct their brand in very different ways, because of this, they both appeal to different parts of the business owner spectrum.
As a quick exercise, take a look at both of their websites homepages. Again, there is very similar material on both pages, but it is presented with very different language choices. What words come to your mind when you look at these sites?
Tony Robbins – strong, powerful, to the point, no-nonsense? Gary Vaynerchuk – relatable, friendly, approachable? Right away you can see that these two men have both created distinct brand voices that stand apart from each other as almost complete opposites.
Why do they work?
So, they have different brand voices, but what makes their branding so effective? Both men manage to position themselves as experts in their field. They do this by carefully choosing their wording in their marketing, and using easy to understand terminology when explaining concepts.
They make you trust their opinions because of how they position themselves – that’s what makes their branding so good.
Building on the basics
It can really take some time to create and build a strong, successful brand voice. But, if you put the time and effort in, it will pay off in dividends. Of course, your voice is just one aspect of your branding. It forms a cog in a larger machine. Ensuring that your voice marries the rest of your brand is essential. Your website, logo design, packaging, and product choice should all form a cohesive brand appearance.
What to avoid
Deciding that your brand will be “funny” is way too vague to help you build a successful plan. What kind of humor will you be using? Will you be irreverent, sarcastic, or use puns? One of the easiest ways to avoid this is by qualifying each of your chosen three brand words from before with three more words. For example, “funny, but not cheesy” or, “professional, but not complicated” etc.
Using a casual voice on your social media, and formal wording on your website is the easiest way to drive people away. Whatever brand voice you create, it has to remain the same across all your marketing. So, if you’re going to be dealing with a lot of business clients, and want to keep your tone professional, you might want to stay away from sharing too many memes on your Twitter account.
You need to make sure that you brand voice describes your business, and only your business. You wouldn’t use another businesses name or logo, and you shouldn’t use their style of voice either. The best style of voice your brand can have, is a unique one.
How to make your voice stand out
Being unique in such a saturated digital world can be incredibly difficult. Taking risks and creating a detailed marketing plan are two of the easiest ways to achieve this. Brands that play it too safe are likely to fall short of making an impact online.
Take brands such as Wendy’s – they took a risk by choosing to talk back to their followers on Twitter. They did away with being polite and kind, and instead use sarcasm and insults to make their brand stand out. This was an incredibly risky angle to take for such a large brand, and could easily have backfired for them if they executed it wrong.
But, by remaining consistent and developing a unique style of writing, they managed to establish a recognisable brand voice that other social media accounts have tried to emulate. If you’re going to try something as brave as this, you need to have a really strong voice that has been well thought out and pairs with your brand perfectly. Take your time to try and get this right, and you’ll soon see it pay off.
Using your voice online
Of course, developing an amazing brand voice is just the first step in building your business online. Next you need to share that voice on social media, through email marketing, and on your website.
Traditional marketing is on the way out, so your online marketing needs to be on point right from the get go. This is an area that you definitely don’t want to skimp on. If you don’t have the capacity to master this in-house, reach out to marketing freelancers or agencies – people who know what they’re doing and will do it well.
Your brand voice can also dictate which social media platforms you want to invest in. If your tone is largely professional, then Twitter might not bring in the results you really want; LinkedIn on the other hand would be ideal.
Standing out online is difficult, yes. But, having a developed brand voice can help you stand out and make a real impact. Just remember to follow these simple steps:
- Understand your brand’s values and mission
- Select three keywords to describe your brand
- Work with a copywriter and other marketing professionals to create some clear brand guidelines
- Make sure your brand voice is consistent across all your marketing efforts
If you’re finding it hard to stand out online, spend some time looking at your competitors and what they’re doing first. Use this information to guide your own decisions for your businesses marketing plans.