In this article, I take a look at what Brand Voice is, why it is important and give 5 easy steps to a winning Brand Voice strategy. What is Brand Voice? I took a look at what some prominent sites and bloggers were defining as Brand Voice. Joel Klettke writing on Why is Brand Voice Important? For brands (large and small) reaching out to existing customers and trying to woo new customers, the language that they use on all marketing communications is becoming as important as their visual identity. For a long time, brand was considered to be the logo and the symbols that were used to represent your brand. Then commentators started talking about brand values. I would argue now that Voice is as critical as a logo or the values it represents. Consider this. If you have a window cleaning business and there are 3 other window cleaning businesses that you compete with locally. How are you going to stand out from the competition and win new business? You can have a nicely designed logo and some glossy flyers printed up to put through doors. All 4 businesses have a facebook page. All 4 businesses have a logo. All 4 businesses have flyers they have printed up to put through doors. All 4 businesses might advertise in the local paper or on the local radio. So how you “speak” becomes a key way to differentiate yourself and as well as that, nowadays you have to be able to communicate quickly and consistently on social media, so brand voice becomes a way to stand out from your competitors and a way for your audience to recognise you. It doesn’t matter if you’re communicating via printed material or your website or Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn or any other social media, your audience should be able to know you by your voice. Remember, people want to connect to other people (not to corporate blandness) and your brand voice becomes critical in delivering personality to the end audience and enabling them to make a connection to you. How do we go about finding what our Brand Voice is? Here are some things you can do to establish your brand’s voice: Ask yourself “What do we stand for?” “Why was the business started?” “What are the core values?” Your values should always shape your messaging. Examine again who you are targeting. Your target customer will also define how you talk to them. Look at examples of brands that you have engaged with and try to examine why their voice is successful. Are there any that you particularly like? Consider no-no’s. As part of the thought process defining your brand’s voice are there things you would not do as part of your communication? E.g. swearing or talking about adult themes such as sex because your business targets families. Talk to your customers. Joel Klettke says “You might want to be perceived a particular way – but what matters more is how you’re actually perceived by customers. This is something you can easily test – just ask new customers (as briefly as possible) what few words they’d use to describe your brand.” There are some useful tips in this Forbes.com article Game of Tones: Finding Your Brand’s Voice article. When you have established some of the principles about your Brand Voice, you might also consider writing voice guidelines for your organisation that covers language and tone for different communication channels. Here are 5 Simple Steps to a True Brand voice #1. Be Authentic It’s true that if you fake it, you won’t make it. Your brand voice needs to be authentic to your values, to your company, to the products and services you deliver, and to your audience. When we started our Mykidstime facebook page, we tried to copy other parenting websites that were on social media. Some used little kisses after each post text, some used salacious celebrity story links. We quickly realised that wasn’t us, that wasn’t our brand and, more importantly, that didn’t reflect how we wanted to represent our brand. When we changed our tone, it started to work for us, delivering new fans to our facebook page. #2. Be Honest The best brand voices are honest. Kate Kiefer Lee writing for Uxmag.com points out “When an organization’s content is rooted in truth, its voice and tone tend to fall into place.” Boasting about your product or service as in “it’s the best thing since sliced bread” comes across as dishonest and fake”. Don’t focus on comparing your products/services to competitors as in “We’re better, we’re faster, our widgets are stronger”, why does the customer care about that? Think about why you are different, why are your products and services different, and then talk to those strengths without egging them up. That lends credibility and gives prospects confidence. When your company makes a mistake, don’t panic, stay calm and respond. Social media screw-ups are well-known. Just put your hands up if they occur and apologise straight away. Greggs Bakers in the UK handled a potential social media crisis recently by responding honestly and humorously to the crisis and gaining themselves huge engagement and exposure as a result. This example shows their Brand Voice very clearly as well as showing how to handle such a situation well. Hey @GoogleUK, fix it and they're yours!!! #FixGreggs pic.twitter.com/d5Ub7qtrLG — Greggs (@GreggsOfficial) August 19, 2014 #3. Be Different I don’t need to tell you why you need to be different. If you copy a competitor’s voice, how can a prospective customer tell you apart? Dare to be different and the results will show. Have confidence in your brand’s values and voice. Hairy Baby, a themed t-shirt company based in Cork, Ireland has built up a distinctive and different voice tapping into Irishness, the Irish language with a conversational and humourous approach that matches their t-shirt captions and style. This ad for vouchers shows their conversational tone very clearly: Adweek highlights American breakfast chain Denny’s, as a good example of brand voice, describing how they have used a signature snarky tone on social media to give a personality to their tweets and facebook posts. Here’s a tweet that shows their brand voice and personality and clearly their audience loved it: Microsoft Accidentally Spends $2.5 Billion On Minecraft Pancakes, Denny's Celebrates pic.twitter.com/2uxjfE3bNj — Denny's (@DennysDiner) September 15, 2014 #4. Be Clear Define how your organisation will communicate key concepts about itself, its products or its services. Avoid jargon (who likes jargon?). Make sure internally and externally that you describe things in the same way. Customers may have multiple touch points to your business – are they hearing the same descriptions for your solution? By having clarity you avoid your customers feeling like they are wasting their time. Remember that being clear with your voice and your communication also helps your customers to become your advocates. If your brand voice is confused, customers will be confused. If they can describe you quickly and easily that can make a huge difference in them referring other people to you. Whole Foods is a good example of a clear Brand Voice that positions the brand as a leader in healthy living. They come across as having knowledge and authority but also with a personality. Their twitter profile description is “Delicious tweets from Whole Foods Market HQ in Austin, TX.” In that one sentence you can start to feel their devotion to high quality food as well as provenance. Their facebook page About Us section also continues that clear voice and tone: #5. Be Consistent Make sure there is consistency across images, communication, social media. What your customers see on your social media and website should reflect what they can expect from your physical store, office or outlet. Every communication should be consistent. Mailchimp are a good example of a brand that are consistent in their Brand Voice. It comes across in all their communications. As you go through the process of sending email campaigns using their service, there are little quirky phrases that reinforce their voice: Whether your organisation is large or small, I hope this article has demonstrated the need for a true Brand Voice and given you some tips towards achieving that. What are your thoughts on Brand Voice? What’s your experience? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 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