Every brand has a personality – a unique set of attributes that makes it recognizably different from competitors, lovable to loyal customers and intriguing to prospects. As companies spend more time communicating directly with consumers, “voice” is an aspect of personality that has become increasingly important.
But what is “voice”? Just as its true that every person has a unique way of communicating, the same is true for a brand. Voice encompasses the attitude, language and style that a brand uses to craft messages and write compelling copy.
Pick any adjective from the dictionary, and it could potentially describe a voice: whimsical, trustworthy, honest, and uncompromising are all qualities that a company could choose to strive for in its writing. But what makes a voice effective in the first place?
How Voice Helps Your Brand
The key to branding in general is consistency. While it’s important to craft an identity well-adapted to your target audience, any consistent identity is better than none.
A voice helps to build a consistent brand in four specific ways:
- Define customer relationships – the kind of voice you adopt tells customers what kind of service and interactions they can expect from you. A “friendly” voice, for instance, encourages private conversations while an “authoritative” voice might encourage more public engagement.
- Guide messaging choices – a brand’s voice will impact the content of their message in obvious ways and subtle ones. For instance, a “humorous” brand will be more likely to share less serious news articles, while a “professional” brand will do exactly the opposite.
- Reinforce brand values – a voice encodes values, and – in many cases – voices are values. An “irreverent” brand will usually style itself as unorthodox, skeptical of authority and open to new perspectives. A “helpful” brand will style itself as benevolent, caring and interested in its customers.
- Enhance advertising – research clearly indicates that most prospects must be exposed to a brand several times before they convert. But repeat exposure is maximally effective when a prospect sees similar messages each time. A consistent voice ensures that the memory of a brand will carry over to future engagements.
While there are many different voices to choose from, there’s no “right or wrong” answer – even businesses in the same industry and niche can have radically different brands that require radically different approaches. Nevertheless, there are some general rules which hold true on the Internet today.
Negative and Positive Voices
A poll conducted by Sprout found that social media users tend to prefer “positive” voices to “negative” ones. What that entails might seem vague, but – put simply – there are safe voices that play well with a crowd, and others that risk alienating your audience.
Here we’ll share examples with descriptions:
- Professional – a professional brand emphasizes quality, avoids casual language, and generally adopts a serious tone to describe its products and services while relating them to customer needs.
- Authoritative – an authoritative brand inspires confidence, taking on the role of “teacher” for its customers and even other brands. While it won’t be afraid to speak in the imperative (“you should…”) it’s also not bossy: experts have nothing to prove.
- Friendly – friendly brands are “down-to-earth,” likely to use casual language and responsive. Their advertisements are “inviting” in the sense that they draw prospects using pull, not push.
- Snarky – a brand that users describe as “snarky” is likely to satirize other brands and use humor in its advertisements. While some brands can absolutely use sarcasm effectively, it can easily be interpreted as unprofessional or insulting to prospects.
- Trendy – a “trendy” brand is likely to be viewed as one that draws too much on pop-culture references and dated humor in a misguided effort to reach younger generations. There are ways to be relevant without pandering, as we’ve explained in another article.
- Irreverent – irreverent brands buck established values, but – unless executed carefully – the voice can step on your audience’s toes and project the image of a company that has no values of its own.
It should be clear that there is a place for negative voices; but they must be executed with caution, bringing a brand in alignment with its customers and exuding more than pessimism.
With all that being said, how can a brand determine which voice is best for itself and its target audience?
Picking the Right Voice for Your Brand
In many aspects of business development, looking at competitors is a great way to find inspiration. A good voice is so individual to a brand, however, that developing one should always begin by looking inwards.
- Define your message and your values - first and foremost, choosing the right voice for your business means aligning your brand with your target audience and deciding what values you want to promote. Values and voice are inseparable.
- Create a “style guide” – to maintain consistency across social media, advertising and email, a brand should always maintain a style guide with sample text that turns an abstract concept like “voice” into a concrete reality. When bringing new employees onto the team, a style guide will also provide a concrete introduction to the ethos of your brand.
- Measure audience reaction and revise – publicists and social media gurus often talk about “feeling” the crowd - but stable businesses are built on facts, not feelings. Use analytics to measure the success of your messages to develop and mature your voice with time. Your audience will thank you, and so will your bottom line.
- Aim for unified CX – your brand’s voice doesn’t stop with social media. It should extend to FAQs, customer representatives, support hotlines and more. Share your style guide throughout the company and ensure that no matter who a prospect is talking to, they are met with a unified approach.
Conveyance Marketing Group is a team of bright, innovative and talented veteran marketers dedicated to big ideas, fresh insights and measurable results. We pride ourselves on taking challenging marketing issues and turning them into opportunities for our clients, on pointing brands in the right direction, and on getting our customers noticed both online and off. From branding to websites to digital marketing, and public relations, we handle all your marketing communication needs! Web Design and Development | Brand Strategy | Inbound Marketing | Social Media | SEO | PR