How to Find Your Brand Voice
Connect with your audience through authentic communication
When thinking about your brand, you’ll probably find it pretty easy to define what it looks like. But how clearly can you define what your brand sounds like? This intangible aspect of your brand is known as your brand voice.
Your brand voice is the translation of your unique brand personality across all channels of communication. It’s the way you write or speak as a brand and is an incredibly valuable tool for connecting with your audience – so long as it’s developed strategically and executed consistently.
Just like a person, your brand should have consistent personality traits and patterns that are utterly characteristic of them. It’s one of the ways people become familiar with each other – and the same is true for your brand.
And ultimately? People connect with people. So to encourage your audience to form a meaningful connection with your brand, as they would a person, you’ll need to develop a really strong personality and brand voice that resonates with them.
How do you go about this? We’ll cover the hands-on process in the five steps below:
- 01 Know your audience
- 02 Know your values
- 03 Know your purpose
- 04 Develop your personality and tone
- 05 Start talking!
01 Know your Audience
If you’re not sure who you’re talking to, there’s no way of knowing whether your personality, brand voice and content is resonating with your desired audience.
Even if you’ve got a fair handle on who you think your audience is, how much do you really know? People respond to content in different ways depending on their values, interests, life experiences and location (to name a few). This is why a key part of any brand foundation is to understand the subtleties of your audience.
As part of our brand-building process, we always start getting to know our audience with a generous dollop of consumer research. If you’re new to the process, some useful data points we like to dig into includes:
Where they live, age, gender, race, occupation, annual income, education, living status, family and dependants, etc
Hobbies, interests, brands they love, platforms they’re on, content they consume, etc
Attitudes, opinions, lifestyle preferences, distinguishing characteristics, risk appetite, sense of humour, etc
How do they behave in relation to your business? What are their typical behavioural tendencies in general?
What does your current audience think of you? What do they say about your brand when you’re not around?
The thing about data….
The fact is, data is supposed to inform, not dictate, your brand and content strategy. And the thing about data is, it’s only ever as useful as your ability to analyse it. The goal here is to dig for insights that might not be so easily visible on the surface; that’s where the gold is.
Having a list of goals to help you analyse your findings is the easiest way to avoid overwhelm and make the most of your time in the research phase. We like to work with the following principles in mind:
- Does your consumer data reflect who you want to serve, or who you’re serving now? If you’re in the process of focusing on a new audience, current customer research will be insightful to a point, but it won’t help guide you forward. Look for data that helps you understand your aspiration customers, and use that as the basis for your future plans.
- Have you defined what is qualitative versus quantitative data? Qualitative data (i.e. emotions, attitudes, expressions) can paint a very different picture to quantitative data (i.e. hard numbers) and can sometimes be taken out of context.
- Leave bias at the door. Assume nothing and back up your insights by at least 2-3 data sources before confirming it is indeed a gold nugget.
Make your insights accessible and relatable
Now that you’ve sifted through the data, you should have a tidy pile of tasty insights about your audience. But those insights will mean nothing if you don’t share them!
A handy way to make this information accessible and easily understood is to create user persona charts. Depending on your audience breakdown, you may have just one key persona, or you might have several. If you’re just starting out on your brand voice, it’s probably easier to have one primary persona. Over time, as you get used to writing on-brand, you can start to introduce others that might represent different segments of your audience.
As a plus, distilling your findings into their simplest, purest form is a great way to re-process what you’ve learned. So even if you’re the sole writer for your company, we recommend not to overlook this exercise.
02 Know your Values
In just 5 years, the millennial generation will comprise three-quarters of the global workforce – which means they will soon be the largest group of consumers with income to spend. And if there’s one thing you need to know about millennials, it’s that they love brand authenticity.
They love it so much, in fact, that it’s one of the most significant influences on how they choose to spend their money.
How does this relate to brand messaging, you ask? Well, the only way to communicate authentically is to have something meaningful to say in the first place. And the best way to do this is to use your brand values as your guide.
Building Brand Values
Your brand values live at the core of your brand. They are your foundation, your bedrock, your why.
When clearly articulated, your brand values have the power to provide alignment, clarity and motivation to all who interact with your brand (both internally and externally).
Values should thread through all areas of brand communication. From the themes you talk about and your writing style, to the unique phrases and tone of voice in which you deliver them, brand values act as your goalposts for a winning game.
03 Know your Purpose
People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Now that your brand values are set, build on those foundations so you can share your purpose (why you do what you do) in the form of a brand story.
A narrative writing style helps the human brain retain information better and recall it faster, which is why brand storytelling is hugely successful in the business space.
Common kick-starter questions we often ask our clients are:
- Why does your business exist? Why did you choose to start it?
- What keeps you coming back every day?
- How are you solving the problem your customers face?
- Why are you passionate about helping them?
- What’s your vision for a brighter future?
Telling your story gives your brand a point of difference where one previously might not have existed. It also encourages your audience to recall your brand more easily and quickly than other industry competitors.
04 Develop your personality & tone
Now we’ve covered brand foundations, let’s move to a more practical phase of the process. Developing your personality and tone of voice is absolutely critical. It’s the final piece of the puzzle for creating a unique and memorable brand voice that builds a connection between your audience and the values and ideals you stand for. It’s where the magic happens.
You’ll want to cover a few things in this area, such as:
- Characteristics that describe your brand personality (4 – 6 is a good number)
- Charting out these characteristics to translate them into copywriting guidelines
- Key message examples and writing samples
Identifying your brand personality
Your brand personality should reflect all the work you’ve done thus far. It can help to imagine your brand as a real person; how would you want your brand (person) to be described by others? What are the quirks or significant characteristics that make them unique?
Come up with a big list of attributes that describe your brand personality, then refine it until you’ve settled on the top 4-6. Each word should bring something new and informative to the mix, giving your copywriters the ability to mentally map out the nuances of your brand character.
Charting it out
Once you’ve got your list of brand attributes, map them out in a chart or table. Each attribute should have a brief explanation (to avoid the assumption that everyone interprets that word the same way), as well as the practical dos and don’ts on how it manifests in terms of writing style.
It’s great to have a chart and all, but how do you use it? Just like real people communicate, your brand needs to have the ability to tone up (or down) the level of personality to suit the environment.
We like to use a visual spectrum chart to guide our writers as to what level of personality they’ll be using for each channel of communication. We typically include:
- Marketing collateral
- Social media
- Content marketing
- Internal communications
- Educational content
- Policies and procedures
Key Message Writing Samples
Last but not least, if there is ONE thing you take away from all this, it’s that leading by example is the most effective way to gain traction with an idea. Not just in writing, but in life (but that’s another story).
If you’ve got the time on your hands (if not, make the time), provide samples of copy for each segment of your personality spectrum. At the very least, make sure you cover examples that sit at the polar ends of your spectrum, and one in the middle zone for good measure.
05 Start Talking!
Now that you’ve got clarity on how you want to communicate, it’s time to stop planning and start doing. While it might feel foreign to not write from ‘the heart’ in your own personal way, the more you practice writing in your brand voice, the more it will come naturally.
Need a little help?
Helping clients develop unique and authentic brand voices is central to what we do in the brand and marketing space. Our brand strategists and copywriters have spent years refining their process, working collaboratively with our clients to guide their brands on the path to success.
If you’re in search of a team that can help you build your brand, we’d love to meet you.