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.
On the face of it, the term ‘brand voice,’ can come across like yet another jargony marketing term – another component to tack onto your brand guidelines, buried somewhere in paragraph 4, section 16 – where few read it, and even fewer understand what it means.
In actuality, your brand voice is not a prescription on how your company interacts through one mode of expression – like commercials. Instead, it actually encompasses 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
Honing in on what your brand voice is, often requires inward reflection – you need to ask who your brand is.
Often, the best way to get to the heart of the brand is to get back to your core values. 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 the above, elements of the brand will begin to emerge, from grit, gumption, determination, to empathy, and a desire to make the world a better place – to everything else in between (e.g. Sometimes, you just want to create the world’s best-tasting burger and make the most money, and that’s okay too -as long as it’s authentically your brand).
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 – but sometimes the simplest way to put a concept into perspective is the best.
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 a Consistent Brand Voice
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.
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.
Through 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 the Phone System and 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 Can Either Engage Your Audience or 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.
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