You’re on a first date with an attractive looking person.
Naturally, you want to find out more about them and ascertain if they are a good fit for you. Whether they share your interests, have a good sense of humour, are smart and fun etc.
The person responds pleasantly enough but something is missing. Their language is completely neutral and generic. They speak in short, bland sentences and convey information in a mechanical, uninspired way. In short, they seem rather dull and uninteresting.
You are left feeling dissatisfied and curiously disengaged. You like this person and want to spend some time with them, but they are not giving you the feedback you need to strengthen the bond and progress the relationship.
An awkward silence falls between you. Shortly afterwards, you make your polite excuses and leave.
The scenario I’ve described above is a commonplace one in the world of dating. But, sadly, it is also commonplace in the world of brand marketing.
You see, customers generally connect with a brand in the first instance because they like the look of the product(s) it offers. No surprises there.
But they stay with a brand because they like what it stands for, how it speaks to them and shares their values and worldview.
Beauty is only skin deep
Sadly, and all too often, brands fall into the trap of believing that being visually appealing is enough.
To this end, they spend huge amounts of money on their brand guidelines, making sure that everything from colour palettes to logos looks immaculate and alluring.
But unfortunately, a meaningful relationship is not built on looks alone. Yes they are the initial connection, but if there is no substance to back them up, then the relationship will not, indeed cannot, progress.
And that’s why it’s crucial that brands develop a distinct and original voice. Think of this voice as the personality of the brand. It is the crucial component that allows consumers to form a bond and take the relationship from the merely transactional to something much more meaningful.
From bland to brand
So, how do you go about giving your brand a distinct voice? One that makes it stand out from the digital chatter of a million brands all clamouring for our attention.
Well, there’s loads of different ways of going about it. But here’s a few key ones to get you up and running.
1. Turn your brand into a person.
Start by imagining your brand as a dinner guest. But not just any old guest. One that stands out for their amazing storytelling ability. One with the rare skill of being able to tell a story with humour, empathy, intelligence and self-deprecating charm, using expressive and evocative language to paint a vivid picture for the assembled company.
Now ask yourself this. Does your brand currently do the above? And if not, then what steps can you take towards making it happen?
Well, here’s a few questions to help you get your brand on the right track and start making it relevant, entertaining and engaging to your target audience.
Who am I?
Who am I communicating with?
What am I looking to achieve?
How will I go about doing it?
How can the way I use my voice support that outcome?
Am I authentic and convincing?
Now, don’t worry. If your brand is not currently at Ryan Reynolds levels of entertainment, that’s o.k. Remember, this is a journey, not a destination and it takes time to build a brand into something more relatable and engaging.
2. Do a brand voice audit.
Maybe you’ve been noticing a lot of ‘off-brand’ content being published recently. Or you’ve hired new people who aren’t aware of your brand values. Or maybe you just haven’t had a good close look at your marketing in ages.
Whatever your reasons for having one, a brand voice audit is a great way of evaluating your content against existing brand voice guidelines.
By doing an audit, you can quickly see whether your content is relaying a cohesive message and whether it is, in fact, an accurate reflection of your brand as a whole.
Start by pulling together all your communications across every touchpoint and analysing them to ascertain which pieces have been performing best.
Once you’ve done this, try and work out what made those pieces so successful.
Do they have common themes and features?
Are they speaking your target audience’s language?
Are they tapping into current trends?
Do they match your brand purpose and values?
Are they more interesting or better written than the others?
What aspects could you replicate across your brand?
Once you’ve established clear answers to these questions you should be able to get a much clearer picture of your brand voice and be able to work out whether it still resonates with your target audience.
3. Create a brand voice document.
Brands evolve, objectives change, and employees come and go. And that’s why you need a brand voice document.
A brand voice document provides a fixed reference point in the shifting sands of brand marketing and ensures that all communication remains constant and sounds like it comes from the same source.
This document should contain everything from brand values and mission statements to personality traits, common phrases and vocabulary used.
A new employee, unused to your company’s values and ways of working, should be able to look at this document and immediately understand the voice and tone of your brand.
To help this happen, make sure you include plenty of examples of your brand TOV in action so that they can get a clear taste of how it works. Also, make sure that you include examples of how it rolls out across different touchpoints such as webpages, eDMs, landing pages, blogs, posts, emails and the like.
4. Finding the right voice.
Your language needs to adapt itself to your target audience. Or, to put it another way, you need to speak the same language they do.
That doesn’t mean that you slavishly change your TOV to suit every different target audience. But it does mean that you need to settle on a communication style that appeals to a broad swathe of the population.
We suggest making it friendly, trustworthy, empathetic, slightly humorous and self-aware. Rather like a best mate.
Be mindful of current trends and don’t be afraid to use elements of your target audience’s speech in your communication. It shows that your brand is contemporary and switched on.
Also, ensure your voice is sufficiently flexible to lend itself to multiple communication strands. Your tone for a big brand sale won’t be the same as it will be for responding to a customer complaint. But you still need to use the same elements to ensure consistency and familiarity of voice.
In a world where communication is key, a brand voice enables you to create a distinct persona for your brand to enable it to stand out from the rest. And if this voice is authentic and connects with your audience at a meaningful level, you will find that you have built a stable and fulfilling relationship that can last for a lifetime.
If you need help finding your voice, or with any other aspect of your brand, then contact email@example.com.
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