What is your brand voice?

We can all think of brands that sound a particular way.  The examples I always use in my training are Marks & Spencer’s food vs. Iceland food.  Consider how they show off Christmas biscuits:

The way they sound, the words they use, the emotions they conjure – that is done through ‘brand voice’. So how do you find yours?  Let’s start with a definition.

What a Brand voice is:

  • Attitude: sometimes called the ‘register’.  It’s about the attitude behind the words – formal or friendly, funny or fierce, homely and honest or cheeky and crass…there are so many options.  It’s unlikely that your brand is the extreme of any of these.  Let’s look at Innocent Drinks – they are friendly, homely and very cheeky:
  • Vocabulary: sometimes this is particular words (saying ‘people’ instead of ‘staff’ for instance) and sometimes it’s a style of words (slang, technical jargon, long and complex or short and snappy).
  • Grammar: should things be active or passive; first person or third person; do you say “don’t” or “do not”; this is a list that could go on forever, so don’t get too pedantic!

What a Brand Voice isn’t:

  • A list of values: a florist, a car manufacturer, and a supermarket could all say that they were affordable, honest, and passionate, but they should not all have the same brand voice.  Your values should inform your voice, but they are not the same thing.

Pulling all of these things together creates a picture of what your brand voice should be – but once you define your brand voice and create the guidelines, it’s no good to you sitting in a folder on your shelf, so how do you turn it into something you can actually use?  Firstly, don’t make it a vague list of rules, nor a lengthy document that no one will read. When I create a company’s brand voice guidelines I include an easy to understand description, plus hints, tips and plenty of examples.

The examples are so important, as brand voice is not exactly the same every time you produce content. Your tone needs to vary depending on the 5Ws:

  • Who are you speaking to – is it prospective clients, existing clients, or potential suppliers?
  • What you are telling them – don’t go too quirky in your Terms & Conditions, or too formal in your thank you letters.
  • Where you are speaking to them – is it on social media, or in an ebook?
  • When you are speaking to them – what stage of the buying process they are at?
  • Why are you speaking to them – are you trying to get them to make a decision, or are you telling them valuable information?

All this adds up to there being no hard and fast rule for how you write in your brand voice every single time you write (or speak). The purpose of the guidelines is to give you and your team a way to check and see if writing obeys the rules, and has the correct tone of voice for your business, and for the occasion. 

You need Buy In

No matter how clearly I create them, or what exciting font I use, a list of rules is not going to inspire your people to create content in your new voice.  You need to get them to buy into your brand voice, and believe in what you are saying to get them to use it.

How you get them to buy in depends on your people, your organisation style and more – I can help you through this step with my brand voice workshop.  Get in touch to find out more.

If it’s all a bit overwhelming, don’t worry, I can help.  Get in touch for more information on how I can help you to establish your brand voice.