How and Why to Develop a Brand Voice
First things first. As a branding agency in Nashville, everything we do is done with the purpose of shaping perceptions.
In order to shape the perception that people form about your organization, you've got to be consistent. For those who have been following us for a while, you probably knew we were going to throw that in there.
Say it with me: consistency is key! Consistency absolutely must guide the creative direction of both visuals and verbiage created for your company.
So, with that in mind, before tapping a single key on that keyboard of yours, you've got to establish a voice for your brand. This voice and the guidelines that describe it will become the basis for content creation on behalf of your brand.
What is Brand Voice?
To put it simply, your brand voice is the written personality of your brand.
Brand voice is used by companies to communicate a distinct personality and established company values through all of its content.
Ok, that makes sense, right? And since brand voice conveys your company's personality, you've got to first figure out what that personality is.
Assuming you read the above posts (yes!) and you've got your list of defined brand attributes and your positioning statement sitting in front of you (go you!), let's talk voice.
Brand Voice Examples
Just as each person has a unique perspective that informs their communication, including their voice and tone, your company should have a specific manner in which it connects with people.
Brand voice allows your communication to hone in on your target by utilizing language and style that resonates with that target. For example, the brand voice for Old Spice is super-cheeky, irreverent, and comical. It literally 'speaks to' the guys Old Spice looks to target.
As a more general example, imagine you’re reading two ads for school registration. Both ads communicate the same info: the registration deadline, the application fees, the location of the school… the whole nine yards. Content-wise, they’re exactly the same.
But what if one is for a pre-school and one is for a college? How would you be able to tell? The visual direction and brand voice would be vastly different. The pre-school would use bright, primary colors and a happy, welcoming, and kid-friendly brand voice, where the college would likely use a more academic, inspiring brand voice.
The brand voice allows you to instantly convey to the reader not only what you're offering, but also who your brand is meant to connect with, and what the organization values.
Developing Brand Voice
Now that you’ve got a handle on what brand voice is and why it matters, let’s take a stroll through the process of creating a brand voice for your business.
Step One: Research
At our branding agency in Nashville, when we start developing a brand voice, our first step is discovery. Getting to know the heart and soul of the company is key in determining how that company will communicate.
Some clients come to us with market research in hand, and others come empty handed. When we started our discovery process with our client, PetSense, they shared extensive research with us that they had conducted internally. This research revealed in-depth information about how their employees and customers thought about PetSense: what their personality was, what traits they identified with, and what the essence of their brand was.
The research revealed that PetSense has a friendly, helpful, and knowledgable personality. Their identity as a company is based on convenience, service, and value. Finally, the essence of their brand is this: "Your local pet store where you'll always find good value delivered by friendly, genuinely helpful, and knowledgeable people."
Most of our clients do not have this research in place when they reach out to us to develop their foundational branding, and that is okay! Our goal is to get the heart of your company through our brand voice development, even if we are starting from scratch. So, more often than not, we will conduct a deep dive discovery session to get to the root of the matter before jumping head-first into Brand Voice.
Step Two: Define Brand Attributes
Next, we determine and define a list of brand attributes. Create a list and write definitions for each of the descriptors. Again, if you need more info on this portion of the branding exercise, you can click over to our post on how to assign and define brand attributes.
Step Three: Get In Position
Then, craft your positioning statement. Your brand attributes together help us craft the final positioning statement for the brand. And luckily now you have your attributes determined and defined.
Your positioning statement declares your position in the market: it's your driving force, the purpose behind who you are as a company. The positioning statement backs everything else we develop for your brand.
While the positioning statement won't be part of your brand voice guide, it will certainly inform your voice. We've put together a handy dandy formula, and we've included it in our positioning post here for your reference. As an example, here's one that we created for PetSense.
Step Four: Make It Real
To take it one step further, we then write out what the business would be like as a person. We reference the brand attributes (there they are again) and write a sentence about what that person would be like. We ask ourselves: What would a friendly, happy, energetic, and helpful person be like? What would it feel like to communicate with them? How would they write and speak?
Step Five: Chart It Out
Once we have a strong grasp on the personality of your brand through research and attribute assignment, we create a brand voice chart.
The chart allows us to ensure that the voice characteristics align with the brand attributes we’d previously defined. Additionally, we can include a description of each voice characteristic to ensure that there’s no confusion on meaning. Finally, we include some do’s and don’ts to further educate the user about how to and how not to use the brand voice.
Here’s an example of the brand voice chart we created for one of our clients. You’ll see that the information is clear, concise, and easy-to-digest. This chart shouldn’t be rocket science. Anyone who communicates on behalf of the brand should be able to read the chart and understand how to craft content in the brand voice.
Step Six: Grammar + Mechanics
Now, on to the fun stuff. Creating a grammar and mechanics guide to accompany your brand voice chart will allow your team to use grammar to your advantage. Grammar, believe it or not, can help you to further create a custom and identifiable brand voice.
You might be thinking that there are hard and fast rules for grammar, and no matter what your "branding" says, you should abide by the rules. Well, yes and no. Grammar, believe it or not, can be tweaked depending on your brand voice. There are some black-and-white grammar rules, but other grammar choices fall in a grey area.
For example, some companies use the ampersand, while others spell out the word "and." Some use the oxford comma, and others don't. And there are some companies that have a brand voice guide that dictates that contractions are too casual, while they're just fine for other companies.
Grammar also goes a little deeper than that. A big part of grammar is consistency. You want to be sure you’re writing things the same way all the time. For example, how do you write out dates? Do you abbreviate long months like November? How do you type out your phone number, with dots or dashes? The list goes on.
Write down your grammar guidelines, including even the most obvious things, for future reference as part of your brand voice chart to keep it consistent.
Step Seven: Stick to the Script
Okay, so once you have your brand voice chart and grammar and mechanics guidelines laid out, the most important thing to remember is to stick to the script.
Consistency is the strength behind your brand voice — and your brand overall. Consistency makes your brand memorable and impactful. It’s imperative to make the same impression at every touchpoint.
Sending one message doesn’t make the connection. In order to create an immersive brand experience, you’ll have to reach your customers a few different times, a few different ways. But all with a consistent voice and visuals.
Having a hard time nailing down your brand attributes and spinning them into your brand voice? Let us help you find your voice. We love digging deep into the hearts of businesses and creating compelling, unique brands.
Contact the Best Branding Agency in Nashville
We would love to tackle your foundational branding and help you use that to develop your brand voice. Our foundational branding process aligns your positioning statement, brand attributes, and visual direction to represent your core values and advance your goals. Call our branding agency in Nashville today to get the conversation started: 615-905-9936.