There are a few things that make you stand out from the crowd when it comes to your brand. Obviously, there is your design, but there is also your brand voice. But what is your brand voice? What the hell does that even mean? How does it tie into the rest of your branding? Can I tell you about what brand voice is and how the heck you can find yours and use it in your business? The answer is yes. Let's dive in.
Your brand voice is essentially your distinct personality. It's the unique way that you present yourself through words and visuals, and the thing that makes you different from anybody else. It should set you apart from others and help your audience recognise you in a crowd.
Everybody has a unique voice that's different to everyone else's, but it stays consistent. If you hear me talking across a room, you can probably tell that it's me because I always sound like me and I sound different from everybody else.
While I have a consistent voice, my tone is influenced by emotion and inflection, and I might use different tones in different situations. I can sound more serious and formal and professional, I can sound more friendly and casual and chill, or I can sound really excited and hyperactive.
For example, you might use a different tone:
To illustrate the different tones you might use, and show you how you can craft a strategy for yours, let’s take a look at this example from Sprout Social.
They say *“when sprout talks to media, we may take a more authoritative tone. More confident, definitive statements, fewer questions, fewer apologies. We want to come off as an expert or leader in our field. No unnecessarily big words here, but calm, clear and concise.
When Sprout posts on social, we can unbutton a few buttons. Here we can be a bit more playful, use emojis, use (some) exclamation points, and be a bit more empathetic and compassionate. Remain confident, but feel free to keep it casual.”*
That's a great example of how a brand can have its own personality, but use a different tone based on the situation, audience, and circumstance.
Your personality is your brand’s best asset because it’s yours. There is and only ever will be one you, and that’s what makes you, and by extension, your brand, unique! If you want to stand out from the crowd, you need to make your voice distinct and show off what makes you you. When you have a super clear brand voice, you’ll stand out from everyone else instead of blending in (no matter how tempting that can be sometimes!)
Branding is all about shaping what people think of when they think of you and your business. Your brand voice plays a huge role in what people think of you, so it’s important that you’re crafting yours intentionally. Obviously you want to still be authentic to you, but that’s a bunch easier when you know what “being authentically you” looks like. Creating a brand voice strategy will help you do just that.
One of the biggest goals, and most difficult things when it comes to building a brand, is being memorable. Ideally, you want your audience to find you and then remember you when they’re thinking about products to buy or services to invest in. Your brand voice, especially when used consistently, goes a long way to increasing that recognition. When the way you show up is unique, it’s easy to spot each time your audience encounters your brand.
Getting clients and customers, particularly repeat ones, is all about trust. To get someone to buy from you, they first need to know, like, and trust you. Not only does your brand voice help you stand out so that your audience can find and get to know you, when you continually show up with your unique brand voice that speaks directly to them, they’ll also come to like and trust you. Then you’ll be able to share and sell your products or services no problem!
Communities are made up of people, and they come together mostly due to shared interests, values, goals, and personalities. When you share your brand and show up in all of your unique glory, your audience can see what you’re all about and whether you’re someone they want to spend more time around. If your personality, values, and interests shine through your brand voice, then you’ll start to gather a community of people who align with them too. But the only way to find and attract those people, is to unashamedly share your unique brand voice every time you encounter your audience.
Not only does a brand voice strategy let you improve things on your audience’s side, but it will make things easier for you! When you have a super clear direction and guidelines for how you want to show up as a business and share your personality, it helps you make decisions about so many parts of your brand. You’ll know how to respond to questions, how to write a sales page, whether a piece of content aligns with who you are, and so much more.
So how do we do this? How can you uncover and use your own brand voice?
I have a vision for a more creative world, a mission to help creatives build their brand, and values all about cheerleading, supporting, and providing value for creatives. To align with and achieve those things, my brand voice needs to feel supportive, welcoming, encouraging, and aspirational.
Your brand voice should be informed by your vision, mission, and values in the same way. You’ll want a brand voice that will align with your vision, support you on your mission, and make sense for your values. So if you haven’t done this part of your brand strategy yet, start there.
To create a great brand voice, think about who you're trying to reach and what they want. If you don't speak their language or stand out from the crowd, they might not notice you. So don’t forget to pinpoint your people and get to know your audience really well so you can create a unique and effective brand voice that appeals to them.
When it comes to finding and using your unique brand voice, the third step is to look back at your existing brand voice. Gather together the social media posts, emails, or other content that performed well and feels the most like you. Don't worry about content that doesn't feel genuine or feels forced.
You can also gather what I call “you-isms,” aka words or phrases that you say a lot and automatically make something sound like you.
Now think about what made these things successful. What do you want to take forward and use in your brand voice strategy?
To find your brand voice, next take a look at other brands, businesses, and creatives that you like and use them for inspiration. Think about how they make you feel, what kind of personality they have, and the parts of their personality you want to evoke too. This can help you figure out what you want your brand to sound and feel like (without copying them directly, obvoiusly!)
When you're coming up with your brand voice, it's a good idea to pick a few words that describe how you want your brand to feel, as well as words that describe things you don't want your brand to be. This will help you make sure that your brand voice is consistent when you start using it because you’ll have these keywords to check your work against.
Pick a brand archetype that matches your brand's personality. Brand archetypes are 12 common characters that most brands fit into, based on characters we see in books, movies, and TV shows. For instance, there's the hero or the sage, who's a wise person.
Maker & Moxie’s archetype, for example, is the creative magician which combines the magician and the creative.
Brand archetypes are a handy tool to pinpoint your brand personality and voice, making it easy for your audience to understand. If you create a brand that's clearly a specific archetype, people will get what you're all about and decide if it's their thing.
It can also helpful to name your personality or brand voice, like “the creative magician,” “the bad influence best friend,” or “the zen grandma,” for example.
Step number seven is to also describe how that person would act at a party. Ask yourself, if your brand walked into a party:
You can then use these answers to inform how your brand would show up in a real situation, like on social media, in your email marketing, or with a client, for example.
Once you've done all of that, step eight is to outline all of the details. Narrow everything down and get rid of stuff that doesn't make sense or feel aligned with what you're trying to do. Then fill in information that's missing so that you have a really robust description of your brand voice and your brand personality.
Lastly, pull it all together in a page or more that explains the key parts of your brand voice strategy.
A 1–2 sentence description of your brand’s personality.
Information about the 1–2 brand archetypes that represent your brand, including their drivers, fears, and motto, and examples of that archetype.
Name your brand something that explains your personality. Eg. The bad influence best friend, the comforting mother, the encouraging school teacher
A list of words or phrases that you use often and automatically make copy sound like you.
A list of words or phrases your brand avoids because they contradict your beliefs, or aren’t inclusive, diverse or welcoming.
A list of words that fit your brand voice and represent themes within your brand strategy.
Practical rules about how your content should be written, including grammatical choices, such as language, formality, colloquialisms, contractions, oxford commas, numbers, and ampersands.
Feeling stuck? Mailchimp have published their entire voice and tone strategy for us all to check out. Take a look and see how they’ve decided on and explained their brand voice.
I’ve also created The Brand Strategy Kit for Creatives, a complete brand strategy template with an example brand strategy to guide you as you do yours! This includes pages for all the brand voice pieces we’ve just talked about! Get your brand strategy kit for creatives here.
Now you’re ready to implement and start using your brand voice!
As you’re crafting your brand message or creating anything new for your business, refer back to your brand voice strategy to check in and make sure everything’s on brand and aligned.
If you’re stuck, you can open up your you-isms, archetype, or word bank to spark ideas and keep you on-track.
And don’t forget to come back and refresh your brand voice whenever it’s needed. You should be reviewing your whole brand strategy regularly, including your brand voice, to make sure it still feels aligned, you’re still on board with the strategy, and it feels like the right brand voice for you.
July 12, 2023