Your brand voice encapsulates who your company is and how you communicate with your potential customers, clients, or users. This step-by-step guide will teach you how to create an accurate brand voice.
- More often than not, brand voice is directly inspired by the company’s founder.
- Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, and any customer-facing role should be involved in the creation process.
- You need to validate your brand voice by surveying your customers.
- An accurate brand voice requires a thorough understanding of who your buyer is and why they buy from you.
Need help identifying your brand? Download our brand voice worksheet!
Think about your favorite brand. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a fashion brand, a tech brand, a food brand, or anything else. Think about the last marketing email you received from them, the last ad of theirs that you saw, the last social posting or blog post. Better yet, pull one (or multiple) of those things up in front of you and read the messaging to yourself, silently, in your head.
How does it sound? Whose voice do you hear? How does the messaging make you feel?
If the brand has a strong, clearly developed brand voice, you’re probably hearing those words in that voice instead of your own. And that’s a powerful thing: It means that that brand has infiltrated your thoughts in a way that can be surprisingly difficult for many businesses, increasing the potential that they can influence you in a way that’s beneficial to their business.
Talk about powerful stuff.
Do you want to learn how to create a strong and brand voice for your company so that you can leverage it to influence your audience and meet your marketing goals? Below, we’ve defined the concept of brand voice, explain why it’s so important, outline the key steps involved in identifying your brand voice, and provide some tips that will help you be successful.
What is brand voice?
Brand voice refers to the unique personality that a company exhibits in their marketing materials and communications. This personality will influence everything from the words and phrases that you use, to the kinds of images and graphics that you create, to the layout of your website, to the general tone of your communications.
One of the best ways to think about brand voice is to literally imagine your company as a person. What would they sound like? What would they look like? How would they dress? How old would they be? In short, what is their personality?
While there’s no single definition for “personality,” it is often understood in terms of the “big five” personality traits, or five key factors:
- Openness to experience: How inventive or curious is your brand? How consistent or cautious is it?
- Conscientiousness: How efficient and organized is your brand? How easy-going or carefree is it?
- Extraversion: How outgoing and energetic is your brand? How solitary or reserved is it?
- Agreeableness: How friendly and compassionate is your brand? How challenging, prone to argument, or detached is it?
- Neuroticism: How sensitive and nervous is your brand? How secure or confident is it?
Understanding these five key factors, while not a requirement for creating a brand voice, can help you conceptualize it and make sure that what you come up with accurately represents your business.
Why is brand voice so important?
Simply put, people do business with companies they like. This means that if you want people to buy your products or services, then you need to make sure that you’re speaking to them in a way that they enjoy and that matches their expectations.
A highly effective brand voice which is tailored to your buyer persona will help you feel relatable to them, which will go far in helping you establish strong and meaningful relationships with them—which you can then leverage to achieve your business goals.
Your brand voice is one of the basic, primal components of your corporate identity. Brand voice, company culture, company mission—these three components should influence and reinforce each other, and together inform all of your sales, marketing, and customer service policies and practices. Every email, every blog post, every website page, every ad, every social posting, everything should carry a unified and consistent brand voice.
How to Define Your Brand Voice
If you’re ready to start defining your company’s brand voice, we typically recommend that you follow the steps below. You can also download our Brand Voice Worksheet, which will help you frame your discussion and organize your thoughts.
1. Conduct an initial brainstorm.
In our opinion, a company’s brand voice should closely reflect the voice and characteristics of the company’s founders. That’s why Apple’s brand voice is Steve Jobs. It’s why Disney’s brand voice is Walt Disney. There’s simply no surer way to build authenticity directly into your brand than to channel your founder’s voice.
If you’re responsible for developing your company’s brand voice, we recommend that you bring together three or four people who work very closely with the founder of the company (or, if these people are inaccessible, people who have the closest ties to the company mission).
Once this group is formed, you’re going to ask everyone to think of 15-20 adjectives, qualities, or attributes that describe the founder of the company. Define that person’s traits and personality. Then, circle the qualities that everyone agrees with, and use those basic qualities to form the bedrock of your brand voice.
2. Validate your conclusions with a larger group.
Once you’ve written up your brand voice based off of the conclusions above, you need to validate your conclusions with the broader company. Your goal in this phase is to ensure that everyone is in agreement and aligned. If there is any disagreement, you should discuss it and determine whether or not the brand voice needs to be adjusted.
This is also the phase where you will need to get final signoff and approval from any key stakeholders, like department managers, directors, and even the CEO themself. Because brand voice will influence all customer-facing policies and activities, you want to be sure that the Powers That Be agree with your conclusions.
Company retreats or all-hands-on-deck meetings can be a great time to conduct this review.
3. Survey your customers.
After you’ve fleshed out your brand voice and validated it internally, it’s critical that you take those initial conclusions and validate them with your customers. Otherwise, it’s possible that the voice you settle on internally is not actually a voice that speaks to the concerns or viewpoints that are most important to your buyers.
For this step, we recommend that you identify a small group of loyal customers and survey them. Ask them: Which of the following attributes do you like most? Which are the most important to you? Which do you like the least? Which are the least important to you? If you were to describe our company’s voice, how would you do so?
Hopefully, you’ll find that your customers agree with the conclusions you’ve drawn. If you find that this is not the case, it will be important for you to revisit your voice and adjust it accordingly.
4. Crystallize your messaging.
Once your brand voice is developed, you need to make sure that everyone understands what it means and how they should be leveraging it in their roles. Your goal here is to crystallize your messaging and gain buy-in internally so that you can prevent backsliding or the development of competing voices.
To accomplish this, anyone who creates content will need to be deeply familiar with your brand voice. To facilitate this, we recommend that you bake your brand voice into internal assets like your editorial guidelines and mission statement, and distribute those materials to your writers, editors, and marketers.
Similarly, your sales team and customer service teams need to be familiar with brand voice so that they sell to and support customers in a way that is consistent with it.
5. Regularly audit your marketing materials against your brand voice.
Just because you’ve developed your brand voice doesn’t mean you’re done. Over time, especially as new team members are added and the number of people responsible for content creation grows, it isn’t uncommon for a brand’s voice to begin to “shift” or “drift.” While this is nobody’s fault, it does need to be recognized and corrected, or else you risk a muddled brand voice that no longer connects with your customer.
To prevent this from happening, we recommend that you regularly conduct an audit of all of your sales, marketing, and customer support materials. Do all of these materials align with the tenets of your brand voice? If not, it’s important that you take steps to a.) correct the issue and b.) identify the cause of the divergence so that you can prevent it from happening in the future.
As mentioned above, this should include all marketing and sales materials: Web copy, blog posts, emails, social posts, advertisements, print collateral, sales templates/scripts, etc.
Brand Voice is Critical to Business Success
Without a clear and easily recognizable brand voice that speaks to the value you bring your customers, it will be incredibly difficult—if not impossible—for you to build the relationships and connections required for long-term business success. At its worst, this might mean that your marketing materials damage customer trust; that your sales processes push leads away; and that your customer service policies fail to retain customers.