Brand voice. It’s an essential tool that communicates brand personality and most importantly, helps ensure a brand earns the reputation it desires. When a brand voice is well defined and consistent, it allows the world to understand who the brand is and what the brand stands for. In other words, a brand voice gives a brand focus. And it helps the brand tell stories in a compelling, unique way. It allows people to get to know a brand, like a brand, and want to connect with a brand.
Below are five things to keep in mind if you want to create a powerful brand voice that cuts through clutter, resonates with consumers, and also helps you achieve your strategic and business goals.
One: Consider the reputation you want to earn.
Before you create a brand voice you need to have tightly defined brand architecture. This brand architecture is your director—so listen to it. What does your brand stand for? In other words, what reputation do you want to earn? Find the brand essence and positioning statement in the architecture—your brand voice should reflect this. Let’s say your brand stands for inspired simplicity. In that case, you probably want a conversational voice that excites people—so you need to create a voice that will do this. If you have a jargon-filled voice that speaks in long, complicated sentences, you are not going to earn a reputation for inspired simplicity.
Two: Allow the brand personality to inform the voice.
What is the personality of the brand you are creating the voice for? Brand personality is an important consideration because the brand voice should embody it in the way it communicates. For example, if the brand personality is intuitive, luminous, and warm then how do you break these down for a voice? Well, to be intuitive you might use language that’s conversational, yet intelligent. To be luminous, you might use language that appeals to the senses and creates a feeling of atmosphere. And to be warm, you must use optimistic language that inspires the heart and mind. By creating voice principles like these, you’ll help the the brand personality shine.
Three: Make sure the voice engages on an emotional level.
Think of your brand as a character. Do you have a clear vision of who your brand character is and how they speak? For example, Apple had such a strong vision of its voice that they could hold a casting call for it. In the “Mac versus PC” ads, the voice of both Apple and Microsoft is represented by characters that couldn’t be more different from one another. And a differentiated voice is exactly the kind of voice you want to develop for your brand. Think about whom you would cast if you had to choose a person to represent your brand and allow that to help you define the voice.
Four: Write well.
A brand voice, no matter how well intentioned and constructed, will not come to life if the way it’s communicated doesn’t follow the basics of good writing. This means showing and not telling, using active verbs, writing tightly, and using fresh language. A brand voice that uses passive tense and that speaks in clichés and puns (unless done so on purpose to make a point) will not elevate a brand. But good writing that follows well-constructed guidelines will.
Five: Create guidelines for consistency and style.
Speaking of well-constructed guidelines, every brand voice needs them. Because if the people who need to bring the brand to life don’t understand how to do that, the voice won’t be used consistently. And inconsistent does not a good brand voice make.
Brand voice guidelines should detail the overall strategy behind the brand voice, include voice principles and writing tactics (the dos and don’ts of the brand voice) and the guidelines should also give examples of the voice principles in action. Ideally, as many examples, and in as many different deliverables as possible, should be included. At the very least, examples of headlines and ad copy should be written in the guidelines. But sample email messages, social media messages, and even customer service conversation examples can be useful in making the guidelines as specific and easy to understand as possible.
Finally, remember: A brand voice reflects a brand’s attitude as well as its heart and mind. It should feel natural –and this can only happen when the voice comes from a well-defined set of instructions otherwise known as the brand architecture. Respect the architecture, allow it to impact your voice guidelines, and you will create a strategic way of communicating that will help the brand earn its desired reputation.