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Do You Know Your Brand Voice?

If you think of brands you know well, you can probably start to list off the attributes you associate with them, almost as though they were people. Apple is innovative, minimalist, and optimistic. Fenty is fearless and luxurious. Coca-Cola is friendly and sincere. 

As different as these famous brands are, what they have in common is a strong brand voice. They know who they are and what they stand for, and the essence of the brand comes through in all marketing touchpoints. These brands resonate with consumers because of their consistent messaging, and in turn, consumer confidence strengthens these brands in a positive feedback loop. 

If you want to grow your business into a trusted category leader, you must find your brand voice and decide how to use it. 

What is Brand Voice?

What comes to mind when you think of your company’s brand? Is it your logo or slogan? Maybe it’s your mission statement and core values. In reality, brand is a mix of all of these things — it’s your organization’s personality.

Companies that sell very similar products can be distinguished by their brand voice. Think of the difference between a Yeti and a Stanley water bottle or Nike and Reebok sneakers — sometimes a choice between competitors has more to do with which brand voice you find more appealing than actual product features. We can even begin to view strong brands as a reflection of ourselves. If your Ray-Ban sunglasses make you feel cool or your Chanel lipstick makes you feel powerful, you can already relate.

Brand voice is your most powerful tool for reaching and connecting with your audience, so it’s important to fully understand the essence of your company and make unambiguous decisions about how to incorporate your brand into all elements of your messaging.

Understand Your Brand

So how do you find and define your brand voice?

One of the biggest challenges of brand building is striking a balance between:

  1. Who you think you are
  2. Who your audience needs you to be
  3. Who your audience already thinks you are

Aligning on all three points requires your leadership team to come together and engage in some (often pretty abstract) work. The task of defining a new business’ brand voice or revitalizing a stagnant one can be intense and even emotional. Pulling in professional brand design help can allow your team to reach conclusions much more efficiently. 

Branding Research

Brand work starts with research on both your business and your target audience.

What assets do you already have in place, and are you happy with the way that your core values and content pillars reflect your mission? Consider whether you distill your organization into a very simple statement like:

We are a ___(who you are)___ company that ____(what you do)_____ by/through ____(how you do it)____.

Once you are confident in your positioning, it’s time to look outwards. Designate mentor and competitor brands, and dive deep into their experiences to see what you can learn from the successes and failures of others.

Finally, don’t skimp on consumer research. Surveys and focus groups can provide you with valuable information about your audience’s priorities and unmet needs when they interact with businesses like yours. 

 Brand Strategy

branded retail sign in shop window reads "style"

Brand strategy is your brand voice in action. Consider how you can use your positioning to give consumers something that they want but aren’t getting from your competitors. 

A fantastic example is how the Lume deodorant brand became a disrupter by using messaging to acknowledge that sweat can smell bad. This kind of witty honesty had been largely missing from the deodorant category, and consumers responded.

Use your unique voice to set yourself apart and unify your marketing efforts. 

How to Use Your Brand Voice

Now that you know whether your brand is playful, authoritative, warm, edgy, and so much more, you can develop assets that reflect this personality. Your brand will show up in so many touchpoints, from color choices to word choices, so be deliberate in your decisions. 

Develop a Brand Style Guide

Brand work may be abstract, but brand builders still need to be methodical. Your style guide is an opportunity to clarify important aspects of your brand, including the:

  • Color palette
  • Logo usage guidelines
  • Fonts
  • Imagery
  • Taglines
  • Specific grammar conventions
  • Mission and attitude
  • Acceptable and unacceptable usage examples 

Your style guide establishes important parameters for new marketing campaign ideas without extinguishing creativity. It also allows new employees and outside vendors to more easily create cohesive brand assets. 

Be Authentic

Abraham Lincoln may not actually be responsible for the quote “Whatever you are, be a good one,” but the sentiment rings true. Whether your brand voice is gentle and reassuring or big and bold, audiences are quick to sniff out when brands aren’t telling their own stories. 

Keep your mission in mind when writing copy and choosing imagery. Add something real to the conversations, be yourself, and be inclusive. You’ll grab consumers’ attention. 

Be Consistent Across Brand Assets

We’ve all come across a company with a logo or slogan that just doesn’t suit its other design elements. Imagine signage for a boxing gym in a delicate script font — it may be hard to articulate exactly what is incongruous, but to most people, it will feel off. 

brand voice inspiration featuring a hand holding a lightbult

Humans generally agree on which words, shapes, and images belong together and which are a bad fit. For this reason, haphazard and inconsistent brand assets will stand out (in a bad way).

Uneven branding can erode your audience’s confidence in your brand, subtly signaling disorganization or instability within your business itself. If you want to build a strong brand, you’ll need to enforce your style guidelines across all assets, from your logo to your marketing emails. 

Understand Brand Voice vs. Tone

Brand voice is inherent to your business, but tone is subject to change. Think of how you may choose to behave a bit differently during a family dinner than in a business meeting — your tone shifts, but not your personality. 

Just because you have committed to a brand voice doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed some range. Social media platforms, for example, are more conducive to experimentation and playfulness than the mission statement page of your website. Tailoring your tone to different platforms and situations can actually help your audience think of your brand as a living, breathing asset. 

Know When It’s Time to Rebrand

Your brand voice is inherent, but that doesn’t mean it should never be reevaluated. Audiences and markets change (sometimes drastically), so it only makes sense that brands evolve, too. If things have gotten stale or the goalposts have moved in your category, it may be time to start planning a rebrand

If you think of how some of the brands you know and trust have modernized over the years, you’ll see that this doesn’t require you to scorch the earth. In fact, some of the most successful rebrands have brought their assets into the future while retaining the facets that never go out of style. 

Ongoing research and consumer listening will help you understand where you may be falling out of touch and where your connection is still strong. Use your learnings to strategize a rebrand that helps you grow alongside your audience.