Your brand represents everything about how you want to portray yourself to your audience—it’s your company or individual personality. Voice communicates everything about you and your brand: who you represent to the audience you want to reach. A company’s voice isn’t heard only in the recording that greets callers on a telephone business line. That voice is present in written text—advertising and web copy, for example—and in the emails you send and the packaging that surrounds your products.
Voice can help or hurt your efforts to connect with people who share values similar to your own. Consistent use of brand voice builds familiarity, and over time, familiarity leads to trust. When shaping your brand voice, you need to make it distinctive enough to differentiate it from competitors and the noise that clutters an already fragmented media marketplace.
Consider the following 10 questions to help you find the voice that fits your brand.
What do you do?
If you’re bucking industry trends with the products and services you provide, reflect that progressive spirit in the voice you cultivate. If you’re more conservatively minded, your brand voice shouldn’t sound like a Gen Xer is representing you.
Why did you start your business?
You wanted to help fight hunger in your community. You wanted to create crocheted sweaters for dogs. You wanted to offer the ultimate co-working space for independent business owners. These reasons all can help you shape your brand’s voice.
When you think of energy drinks, Red Bull comes almost immediately to mind, and this company knows it. When the company speaks, it speaks from a position of authority, although the language it chooses to communicate with its audience is still very accessible:
Red Bull has been giving wings for more than 29 years. In 2016, we sold more than 6 billion cans. Red Bull Energy Drink vitalizes body and mind…wings when you need them.
What are your company’s principles and values?
Your company’s core principles and values are like the internal compass that guides you as you navigate the path of future business growth. When you can speak to those principles and values, you put power behind your voice—now you’re speaking authentically from the heart. When you maintain that consistency in the presentation of your principles and values, your audience won’t have to second-guess what you stand for. They’ll hear what you stand for in the words and phrases you use to describe those principles and values.
Our YRK Creative client RedCrow offers a good example of what we’re talking about. Listen to the way this equity niche funding platform for health care startups talks about itself by describing its foundational core principles and values:
The smartest person in the CROWD is the CROWD, and the crowd’s greatest strength is the CROWD itself. Our team is a collection of former financial advisors, wealth managers, entrepreneurs, and investors. We are ourselves experts who value the expertise of others. We recognize the power of collective knowledge and experience, and we have designed RedCrow to harness that power for the benefit of ALL investors.
What are the target demographics for your company?
Are you speaking to new moms? Are you reaching out to men ages 18 to 25? Are senior women interested in what your product or service offers them? Knowing the persona of your audience (feminine or masculine, young or old, rural or urban) can shape the delivery of your brand voice.
For a male audience of outdoor enthusiasts seeking the latest gear for their adventures, your brand voice should be assertive and strong to match the audience lifestyle interests. If it’s an innovative baby monitor that you’re promoting, the voice you use will be gentler and reassuring for those new moms in your target market.
Why do your customers choose your products or services over those from your competitors?
This question requires some analysis on your part, but the answers contribute to the terms you use to describe your company.
- “Create desserts as sweet as those from your neighborhood bakery.”
- “When you demand superior handling, you demand a tough, dependable ATV.”
- “Get unbeatable prices on discount mattresses.”
What elements do you admire in another brand’s voice?
When you think about how your favorite brands communicate with you, what is it about the voice of the brand that appeals to you? Is it the sassiness of the way a company promotes its products? Do you like the straightforward, no-nonsense BS approach your favorite personal care product takes toward telling you why you shouldn’t go out in public without it? Take some cues and apply them to your own brand delivery.
What upsets you about the way your competitors do business?
Your brand voice needs to communicate expertness and authority within your industry. Show your audience what you’re made of by thinking about what your competitors are doing within your industry. If you’re seeing aggressive sales tactics in the language a beauty salon across town uses to promote hair care services, why should your salon follow suit? Demonstrate that you’re better than the rest by adopting a voice that’s distinct from your brand competitors.
How would you describe your brand as if it was a person?
Picture your brand as a person. What would it look like? How would it act?
If you’re a fan of the former TV show Community, you might appreciate this clip that puts an example to this point.
How far can you take your voice?
We all have certain things we wouldn’t say in public—the same goes with your brand voice. For example, knowing just how far you can go with humor can help you determine to what extent you can add some lighthearted doses to your content delivery.
What don’t you want your brand voice to sound like?
Think about how you don’t want your brand to be perceived or portrayed. If your company’s principles and values form guidelines you need to adhere to, bring those characteristics and qualities into the way you speak about your brand in public.
Naturally, these questions aren’t the only ones you need to ask yourself when you’re trying to hone the voice for your brand, but they’re a good place to start.
Each time we at YRK Creative get to shape the tone and voice of a brand, we talk about the brand out loud. We ask each another what the brand stands for, and we ask our clients to tell us the story behind the brand. These methods offer great ways to help give a brand its distinctive persona. And if you get stuck in the process, we’re here to listen and help you hone the voice.
What your brand says about you is just as important as what you say about your brand.
Microphone image: Image via Flickr by www.ilmicrofono.it
Brownie photo: YRK Creative for YRK Magazine