A lot of small businesses are running around out there with multiple personalities or worse, no personality at all.
In marketing, a business’s personality is known as its brand voice. Done right, brand voice tells audiences everything they need to know. It establishes the company in customers’ minds as a friend or expert they want to engage with.
A business that ignores its brand voice flings unintentional messages into the wind like confetti. Audiences have no idea what the business is all about – or worse, they have the wrong idea.
Brand voice is not optional. It exists with or without your input. Your business is sending messages by its very existence, and audiences are interpreting those messages as they will.
And if your solution to that is to clamp down and make sure all your messaging is as neutral and vanilla as possible, you’ll be about as memorable as a water cracker in a five-star buffet.
Know yourself, know your brand
To start, it helps to think of your business like a person. Not just an extension of yourself, but its own person separate from you.
Some companies personify their brand as a character or spokesperson – like Flo from Progressive Insurance, the Trix Rabbit, or Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Man in the World. You can create a character if it helps you, even if you never make it public.
With your person in mind, ask yourself these questions. Write down your answers.
- How old are they?
- How do they dress?
- What kind of music do they like? Favorite song?
- What kind of movies and TV shows do they watch?
- Do they read? What?
- How do they spend their free time? Hobbies?
- How educated are they?
- What is important to them?
- What feeling or idea do they love?
- What feeling or idea do they hate?
- How do their friends describe them?
- What are five words they use all the time?
- What are five words they would never use?
- What is the best gift they could ever receive?
- What celebrity or historical person do they admire?
Give your character goals and values that mirror the goals and values of your business. For example, Flo is obsessed with being helpful and with saving money. These reflect Progressive’s positioning as a high-value, low-cost insurance provider.
Ask yourself why your business exists. (It’s not just to make money.) What is its purpose in the world? And what drives it to pursue that goal?
Know your audience
To create a brand voice your customers relate to, sound like someone they trust. Think about your customer personas. How do they talk? What do they talk about? What is important to them?
Use words your customers use in their everyday speech. If they say, “grab a bite” and you say “dine,” you create a disconnect. Colloquialisms, slang, even profanity can fit the way some brands talk to their customers. It’s about matching the voice you created in step one with the way your audience is comfortable being addressed.
Common voice types are voices of authority (like a teacher or parent), voices of accessibility (like a friend or mentor), and voices of outlook (like optimist or rebel). Don’t try to sound exactly like your customer; they have to see enough value in your expertise to buy what you are selling.
Don’t be a robot
Just because you have a brand voice does not mean your messages all sound exactly the same.
Think of your own voice. You have the same voice all the time, but your tone changes. You use a different tone when you’re excited than when you’re sad. Your tone when you’re making your friends laugh is different from your tone when you’re giving them advice.
Your brand voice has a variety of tones as well. Tone can change based on the situation, the subject, and the goal of the communication. But it still rings true to the way your personified business would speak.
Having a well-developed brand voice makes creating content infinitely easier. From blogs to ads to social media, you have a clear sense of the topics to address and the language to use.
Carefully document all of your insights and guidelines for how your brand communicates so everyone who creates content for your company can speak in a consistent voice.
Need help figuring all this out? I’m your huckleberry. We can start with an audit of what you’re doing now and talk over some ways to improve. Drop me a line.