Understanding How to Express Your Brand Voice
This is an updated version of a post that was originally published in Sept. 2017.
Your Brand is Always in Dialogue, Whether You Realize it or Not. Make Sure You’re Taking Part in the Conversation, by Understanding How Your Brand Voice is Expressed.
Your brand voice needs to encompass how your brand’s core values come to life through all modes of expression. Hint: It’s more than the voice you select for your radio ads… although that certainly is one avenue!
How well you understand your brand voice – and how much of an effort you make to incorporate it throughout your organization and beyond can quickly become a powerful predictor of success.
After all, we know that audiences are more apt to trust authentic brands – just like we are more trusting of authentic people. We build trust and give authority to those who are consistent and transparent.
How to Find Your Brand Voice in 3 Steps
Step 1: Hone in on how you want to make audiences feel
Ask yourself what business you’re in and why. Go back to your founding story. Remind yourself what the company has set out to accomplish, what problems you’re solving with products and services and why you feel that those are the best options for your customers. As you do so, the elements of the brand will begin to emerge, from grit, gumption, determination, to empathy, and a desire to make the world a better place, etc. Write those down.
Step 2: Reflect on your brand values
Honing in on your brand voice qualities requires that you don’t just ask who your brand is, it’s also about how you want to make audiences feel. These emotional ‘goals’ can help you understand the voice qualities that will be effective in generating those feelings. Jot these end goals down too.
Step 3: Put your goals and values together
Now that you have a firm handle on your brand’s personality, as well as the effect you’d like your voice to have, you can start designing a voice that will represent your brand as well as inspire audiences in the right way. By defining and designing this voice, you will be able to clearly direct the voice actor.
Alina Morkin, the VP of Marketing at Voices.com explains how this is a crucial step by stating, “It is really important to get alignment on both the vision of the brand personality, as well as the creative direction.” Having this alignment ensures that your brand image is clear and consistent.
For example, for a brand that has been founded to promote social justice, but wants to inspire audiences to believe in their cause, may wish to opt for voice qualities that are professional, smooth and authoritative. You can even go one step further and define the pitch. For this brand, it would be important to note that lower-pitched voices are perceived to have more integrity, competence and physical power. This deep and authoritative voice, is a voice that is scientifically proven to build trust.
Doing this exploration helps you to get a handle on the non-negotiable parts of your brand’s real personality, thus giving you a better idea of how this personality will come to life.
Bringing Your Brand Voice to Life
It may seem simple to say that just like a person, your brand will behave differently in different situations, and the brand voice may follow suit.
Expression works on a spectrum – one that encompasses different forms of communication, including writing and verbally, internally and externally.
In this way, designing how the brand voice comes to life is similar to how many companies already approach their color palate. Each color has its own unique properties and can stand alone in an iconic way for your brand, but put together with the others in the guideline, creates a complementary, pleasing experience.
Similarly, your brand voice may come across slightly differently throughout different channels, but at the core, the audience still experiences a consistency.
An Example of How Brand Voice is Expressed
To illustrate the concept, let’s take the fictionalized example of the manufacturer of a pickup truck, we’ll call the brand ‘Carters.’
Carter’s was founded on the belief that vehicles should be made well, and made to last. Today, they continue to use the same quality materials that the first model was built of, by their founder, John Carter. This company’s core values include a commitment to quality – which means never cutting corners, and standing behind their product 100 percent.
Carter’s may express their voice in different ways throughout different channels, but the end result should always point back to these brand core values.
Brand Voice Expressed Through Commercials
The voice they assign to their brand in their commercials may sound tough, rugged, male, and as though the speaker is in in his mid forties to early sixties. This expression hails back to the company’s dogged commitment to an original vision, their founder, and the durability of the product.
Brand Voice on Social Media
This same manufacturer’s social media channel may engage with customers in a no-holds-barred manner, that is unapologetically honest, while conveying a viewpoint that swings on the conservative side.
The transparency they use falls in line with standing behind their product – as it extends to include being comfortable with taking a stance and expressing their honest opinions, even if not everyone agrees with their more conservative values.
Brand Voice on Your Phone System and Via Customer Service
If someone calls the customer service line, the automated phone system that directs them to the right department may be authoritative, brief and direct.
Meanwhile, the scripting used by the customer service department may incorporate policies and procedures that include being helpful, direct and empathetic.
Although the brand may dictate that its personality is tough, that doesn’t mean that it’s tough on its customer base. In this instance, the best commitment to quality – another core value – is to ensure that they are seriously regarding any complaints or concerns for quality, and guaranteeing to follow up on customer feedback.
Your Brand Needs to Engage Your Audience – Not Abandon Them
While a brand voice becomes literal when someone is hired to voice a part for you, in most companies, the brand voice is not embodied by any one person. It is expressed everywhere, from the employees in your customer service department, to your national television advertisements. It truly touches every part of your business.
In the end, an effective brand voice is one that leaves the right impression on all those it touches, and it’s up to your brand to define what the ‘right impression’ is. How do you want people to feel after they’ve interacted with your brand – whether passively through advertising or actively via a sales call?
Every brand interaction should have the goal of helping that person in your target audience, as well as demonstrating the true expression of your brand in that context.
No matter where your brand voice comes to life, there is always an opportunity to direct it via employee training, careful voice actor selection, as well as brand guideline materials you supply to your agencies, for example.
Always make sure that no matter how your voice is realized, you are always clearly communicating who your brand is, what you are doing, the outcome you want, and how you can get there, no matter what kind of brand ambassador or communication vehicle you’re using.
Real Life Example of Brand Voice in Action: The Ritz-Carlton
One of the world’s finest brands, Ritz-Carlton, states on their website, “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” Ritz-Carlton makes it their mission to put the customer first, giving those in their care a dignified level of treatment and attention rarely found anywhere else.
Throughout the customer experience, those interacting with the brand receive the echoes of the brand voice, embodied into each interaction.The staff is confident in who they are, what they are capable of doing. Minute-by-minute, employee-by-employee, customers feel the Ritz-Carlton anticipating their needs and taking the Golden Rule to heart. In fact, one could say they’ve included it in their gold standards.
When a brand is clear about its vision, it is able to integrate it into each touchpoint; when a brand lives out its values, it becomes incredibly trustworthy in the eyes of those it is trying to win over.
Hearing how the Ritz-Carlton treats their customers is inspiring to say the least. While their in-person services are tops, they’re also paying attention to a prospect’s experience online, via telephone and email.
Three Steps of Service
Ritz-Carlton steadfastly observes their ‘Three Steps of Service,’ being:
- A warm and sincere greeting.
- Use the guest’s name. Anticipation and fulfillment of each guest’s needs.
- Fond farewell. Give a warm good-bye and use the guest’s name.
For our purposes, we can see this as taking extra care with first impressions, personalization (or customization) and finishing each engagement well with warmth, respect and familiarity.
Company Culture Expressed Through Brand Voice
The way a company serves comes from its culture. Whatever rests in the heart of an organization invariably courses through all touch points on the customer’s journey. The brand voice truly comes ‘alive.’
The Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast has an excellent episode (one of many!) featuring Horst Schulze, Chairman and CEO of Capella Hotel Group. Schulze also bears the distinction of being the former President and Chief Operating Officer of Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. The conversation focuses on what it takes to create a world-class service that inspires loyalty and excellence. If you’d like to hear the two-part interview, find it in iTunes; release dates are January and February 2017.
During his time at Ritz-Carlton, Schulze focused on the personal and data driven sides of customer service. In fact, it was Schulze who coined the hotel’s motto, “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” Under his thoughtful leadership, Ritz-Carlton grew from 4 hotels to 40 hotels in the United States.
Despite having left the organization in 2011, Schulze’s leadership style continues to this day at Ritz-Carlton. It comes from the heart.
Are You Looking to Find a Voice Actor to Help You Express Your Brand Voice?
Look no further. With over 200,000 voice actors from around the world, there’s no language, dialect, or personality that’s out of reach for those who join Voices.com.
See how our full-service option can help you build a shortlist of top quality auditions for your specific project.