Article courtesy of Bluevale Writing
A few months back I received an email from Apple telling me I needed to login in and fix something in my account. And they nicely sent me a link to said place I was supposed to go.
I was immediately suspicious.
You know why? Because the branding voice was off. As I read through something didn’t sit right. Like getting a weird letter from a friend, this just didn’t seem like Apple.
And as I reviewed the email a second and third time I started to see other things that didn’t fit the Apple brand.
I immediately contacted Apple’s phishing department and sent the email onto them to take care of.
What is the takeaway here? Brand voice matters. It mattered to me. I knew immediately that this email wasn’t Apple. And it matters to Apple because their audience can recognize and trust them like an old friend when the real stuff shows up.
Brand voice is one of the hardest things for businesses to nail. Most businesses think that their online presence must sound professional and that tends to mean, well . . . generic and professor-y.
Why You Need a Brand Voice
Using big words, long sentences and fluffy ideas does not create trust in your audience. And it is kind of boring to read. You might find your audience is leaving before they even begin, wandering off into the internet to find more interesting places to explore. Like to see who Wendy’s Twitter account is roasting today.
Trust is built when you are recognizable and consistent in all the spaces you show up. When you sound different across your marketing your audience asks “is this the same company?” They get confused and confusion leads to skeptics <—- this is bad for your marketing.
Think about the blogs and brand you read and relate to? Whether it is social media, blogs, their website, brochures, the sign in the parking lot - what sticks out to you?
Suzanne Gunelius, writing for Forbes, explains it like this:
“Brand stories are not marketing materials. They are not ads, and they are not sales pitches. Brand stories should be told with the brand persona and the writer’s personality at center stage. Boring stories won’t attract and retain readers, but stories brimming with personality can.”
Your brand copy is matchmaking between you and your customer. It connects the heart of your brand with the heart of your prospect and creates true fans <—- this is good for your marketing!
What is Brand Voice?
First, think of your brand as a person. Humans connect with other humans and while your brand is an artificial human it needs to sound like a REAL human. It represents a personality.
Examples of this are the Chester Cheetah for Frito Lay’s Cheetos brand. In 1986,
Frito Lay developed Chester for their Cheetos brand. Originally, bumbling and gruff he is now evolved to be more irreverent and rebellious. The brand voice changed as Frito Lay aimed their advertising at adults who love to snack. Everywhere Chester Cheetah speaks - boxes, website, advertising, videos, radio, etc - Chester Cheetah’s brand voice is consistent and recognizable.
The list of brand voices can go on and on. Tony the Tiger, The Cool-Aid Man, Mr. Clean. The Trix Rabbit that never could get a bowl of Trix to himself.
These are all personifications of brand. People relate to other people (or people-like characters) that display a personality they can connect with. Even brands like Apple and Nike have brand voices. While not directly connected to a character Apple is informal, declarative and slightly smug with short punchy (mostly ungrammatically correct) sentences that say “our products are easy to use” while giving an “of course we are high-quality how can you doubt it” vibe.
How Do You Create a Brand Voice?
There are three elements that make up your voice: tone, cadence, and vocabulary. These work together in everything you write and create for your brand. Everything.
You don’t need to have a cute cartoon character to create a brand voice. What you do need is to identify how your brand relates to your customer and write consistently in that voice everywhere you put brand words to the metaphorical paper.
You need a voice that intrigues, resonates and connects with your audience. Think about the brands that compel you. They are telling you stories about who you are and how they can help you find solutions to your problems.
Steps to Creating a Brand Voice
First, think about who you want to be. This means delving into your Why. Mind mapping helps (don’t know what this is? Google tells all). Keep digging deeper into your why until you think you are at the bottom.
Next, identify your audience. No, not everyone is your audience. Be like the Grateful Dead who appealed to a relatively small audience and focused everything on them. They gave their fans lots to talk about and stand for. Who are your people? Who are the people that connect with your Why?
Now, you have laid the groundwork for your brand voice. There are 9 major brand voices or archetypes - they go by different names in some circles but they are pretty much the same basic personalities:
Voice of God
A Friend at the Bar
Learning as We Go
These voices are all defined by vocabulary, tone, and cadence.
Tone is how the author is feeling. Empathetic? Sarcastic? Funny?
Cadence is the length of your sentences. Are they long or short?
Vocabulary is the words you use. Do you use bigger words or simple vocabulary?
Each of these voices has some overlap and not everyone is one thing only. You should hybrid your voice to some extent because you (and your business) are unique. But you typically will have a primary voice and a couple of secondary voices that will blend to create your brand voice.
Once you have found your voice then it is time to codify everything. This means creating a system so that everyone on your team knows how you sound in all the places you create content (yes - even content for video - everywhere).
What words do you use?
What do you not use?
How do you use punctuation?
What emotions do you evoke?
Write it down in a Google doc. Add to it as you discover things. Make it work for you.
Feeling overwhelmed and need help?
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s chat about solutions.
As a lover of stories and brand storyteller at Bluevale Writing, Valerie Hooks is a writer on a mission to stamp out website gobbledygook on the internet. She also has a thing for reading and hiking (not typically together but occasionally you have to multitask).