Standing out from the crowd is what gains the attention of your target audience. More importantly, it’s what keeps them around once they’ve found you.
But the world of business is getting more competitive, both online and offline. Finding and defining the unique personality behind your business is more difficult than ever. However, a strong brand voice can generate attention for your website and online channels and cultivate customer loyalty.
Spending time defining your brand voice enables you to make a strong and positive first impression so your customers keep coming back for more. With that in mind, here are 10 tips for finding and defining your unique brand voice.
1. Identify Other Brands You Like and Dislike
The first step in identifying and defining your brand voice is finding others who have done it well. Spend some time identifying brands that resonate with you before you start working on your own. They don’t have to be related to your niche, product, or target audience. Instead, the idea here is to figure out which brands you like and why.
Determining why you like these brands and how well they convey their unique voice can also help you identify brands that you don’t like and why you don’t like them.
This exercise will give you some initial food for thought before you take more concrete steps in defining your own brand voice.
2. Research Your Competitors
Competitor research is an important part of identifying the right brand voice for your business. Take a look at your industry and the most well-known brands within it, and identify why your target audience finds these brands engaging. For example, you could list out some typical attributes or attitudes of their target audiences and see which elements of your competitor’s brand voice (tone, language, etc.) reflects them.
You can also develop a competitor branding matrix by using an Excel spreadsheet or an online tool like Creately. The matrix can list out the colors, tone of voice, and brand personas that your competitors use, which you can identify by describing the attributes and tone of voice they use as if you were talking about a real person.
The purpose of this exercise is to ensure that your own brand voice is unique within your niche.
3. Develop Your Brand Voice as a Real Person
Once you’ve done your research, you can begin outlining your own brand voice and identity. The best way to start honing in on your brand voice is to define it as if it were a real person, just like you did when you identified other brands’ personas in the previous step.
Some exercises to use at this point include:
- Making a list of what your brand persona likes and dislikes
- Writing out conversations they would have with a peer
- Making a list of attributes your brand has using adjectives such as intelligent, helpful, or quirky
As you complete these exercises, you’ll start to see an initial outline of your brand voice starting to form. These exercises are more than a way to create your brand voice—they ensure that you’re creating a genuine and realistic persona that will resonate with your customers and target audience.
4. Spend Time on Brand Design
The way you write on behalf of your brand is critical to developing a unique persona and voice. But how your brand looks and feels to customers is equally important. Once your brand voice is defined in terms of writing style, you can turn your attention to the visual elements that best represent that voice.
The initial impact of your social media aesthetic or your website design is what makes a first impression on your target audience. They take it in subconsciously before they’ve even had time to read the words on the page. In fact, a study published in Behaviour & Information Technology shows that website visitors form an opinion on your website in 0.05 seconds (or 50 milliseconds).
Part of what creates that first impression are elements such as your:
- Brand color palette
Your visual brand elements should create a cohesive effect alongside your brand voice. They should communicate the same attributes and qualities as your brand voice so that everything works in harmony to convey your core brand persona to the target audience.
5. Be Authentic
It’s tempting to let your imagination run wild when developing a strong brand voice. But being too out there for the sake of uniqueness isn’t always the best idea. The most important factor of your brand voice is authenticity. It should feel as though you or anyone in your company could naturally adopt this persona when creating marketing materials or interacting with customers.
Authenticity can directly impact the success of your brand. Research from Stackla shows that 86% of consumers list authenticity as a key element in their decision to support a brand. If consumers sense that a brand persona is overly forced or inauthentic, it can discourage them from doing business with you.
6. Establish Consistency
Consistency is important to brand success. It’s not a good look for your customers to receive one impression from your social media channels and a different one from your website.
Brand consistency equals a consistent customer experience, and this can have a direct impact on your bottom line. One report from Lucidpress states that brand consistency can boost revenue by up to 23%.
Leverage your detailed brand guidelines to ensure that the look and tone of your brand is consistent across all points of contact for your customers, including:
- Advertising and marketing materials
- Social media channels and website design
- Customer communications and support messages
7. Match it to Your Company Mission
Part of establishing a consistent and authentic brand voice is making sure it encapsulates what your business is all about.
For example, an insurance company that values trust and reliability as part of its corporate mission is unlikely to present a brand persona with a whacky or overly casual tone of voice. It wouldn’t make sense for its customers or employees.
When creating your own brand voice, ask yourself if it aligns with your company’s mission. If your brand’s persona was stating your company mission to a prospective customer, what kind of tone and language would they use? This is a great starting point for aligning your brand voice to your company and to the values of your target audience.
8. Match Your Brand’s Voice to Your Target Audience
While your brand persona should be distinctive and stand out from the crowd, it should also resonate with your target audience. How your brand communicates itself to the market should make sense for the type of interaction a customer wants to have with your company.
For example, cosmetic and clothing brands can leverage emotive language and empowering content to define their brand. Media companies can use wit and snark in humorous content to engage their audience. But the same target audience for these types of companies may want an entirely different type of interaction and value system from brands in industries such as healthcare or insurance.
Your brand voice not only has to resonate with your target audience but also with their expectations from a company within your niche.
9. Test Your Brand Voice
Once you’ve started defining your brand voice, you can put some testing in place to see if you’re on the right track. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and practice some interactions to see if your brand voice is hitting the mark.
The most useful and practical way to do this is with writing exercises. Write different types of content in your brand voice, such as website pages, customer support emails, social media post, and employee communications.
There are several ways you can test your brand voice. You can keep track of your social media analytics for individual posts that you’ve written in a different tone of voice. Higher engagement levels are a good indication that your brand voice is resonating with your audience. Similarly, interactions such as open rates and click through rates on your marketing and customer service emails will quickly paint a picture of the right voice for your brand.
10. Create a Brand Persona and Guide
Creating a brand persona and guidelines ensures that anyone in your company can instantly understand what your brand represents and how to create communications using your brand voice.
Your brand persona and guidelines can include:
- A bio of your brand persona including likes, dislikes, attributes, and communication style
- Some samples of communication pieces written in the brand tone of voice
- Guidelines for writing in the brand tone of voice, including do’s and don’ts
- Explanations of how the target audience should feel when hearing the brand voice and what they should take away about your company from it
- Explicit rules on the grammar and writing styles that your brand uses
Once you have brand guidelines, formulate them clearly and store them somewhere convenient for everyone who needs them in your company. Make sure they are referred to frequently by writers, designers, customer support agents, and anyone who communicates on behalf of your brand.
Setting the Tone With Your Brand Voice
Creating a distinctive and consistent brand voice isn’t always easy, especially when incorporating it into elements such as an existing template through a website builder. But if you start with these ideation tips, you’ll be able to take it step by step and find the brand voice that best suits your business and resonates most deeply with your customers.