When it comes to marketing, it’s often not about what you say but how you say it. A brand voice can make the difference between memorable and forgettable content.
So let’s get right into it…
What’s a Brand Voice and Why Is It Important?
Your brand voice is the equivalent of your personality, whereas your tone of voice is your content’s emotional quality.
Your core personality won’t dramatically over time, whereas your tone can change from one moment to the next, depending on the situation and your mood.
It’s important to have a brand voice for the same reason it’s important to have a personality. It makes you unique, memorable, and attractive (or repulsive, if you’re unlucky).
Without a personality, you’ll be like Mark Zuckerberg:
On the flip side, here’s the much more awesome Elon Musk:
As you can see, Elon Musk is like the honey badger, while Mark Zuckerberg is whatever strange lizard creature hides beneath his artificial skin.
And that’s why it’s important to have a brand voice.
Unless you have a product or service that sells itself, then you’ll need a bit of personality to attract customers and get ahead of your competition.
It’s also important to have a clearly defined brand voice if you’re working with other content creators. If you’re working with a style guide, which we’ll get to in a bit, then your brand voice should be included in it.
That way, your content looks uniform to your audience regardless of who creates it.
How to Define Your Brand Voice
Google around for articles on how to create a brand voice. You’ll find authors telling you to focus on your company mission, your vision for the future, and blah blah blah.
That doesn’t matter. Here’s what matters…
1. Identify Your Target Audience
I try to hammer this point home as often as possible because it’s easy to lose sight of despite being so obvious.
Your brand voice should mirror the language of your ideal customers. (Read my article on how to identify your target audience if you haven’t already.)
Think about your friends.
Chances are that you all use similar terminology and have a shared sense of humor. That creates a connection between you, which helps you relate to each other.
If you don’t have that connection, then you need new friends.
Your potential customers are your potential friends, so research where they hang out. Reddit is a great place to start because there’s a subreddit for almost any topic you can imagine.
Make a note of how they communicate:
- What language do they use?
- Which emotions does it convey?
- Do they use internal jokes?
- Can you spot any particular terms?
- What questions do they ask?
These are all critical questions to answer when you definite your brand voice. But it’s not enough because someone else has already done the same thing: your competition.
2. Look At Your Competition
Unless you’ve established a brand new niche and crowned yourself the undisputed king (or queen!) of your market, then you’ll have competitors.
The good news is that they’ll have done much of the heavy lifting.
So head over to their websites and social media, and take the same notes as you did when researching your target audience.
This time, however, also note the following:
- How do they engage with their audience?
- Which questions are they not asking?
- Which angles are they not covering?
That’ll help you identify a clear gap in their communication that you can capitalize on by filling it with your content.
3. Create a Brand Style Guide
Now that you’ve stalked your potential friends, as well as your archenemies, it’s time to put it all down into a comprehensive brand style guide.
You can find free templates if you Google around a bit, but a simple document with the guidelines will do the trick just fine.
How much detail you go into depends on your team.
If you work alone or with a small team, then you may only need to cover the basics of your brand voice because you’ve all made a mental note of your findings.
However, if you work with a larger team, it might be wise to go into as much detail as possible, so there are no misunderstandings regardless of who works on your content.
The Dangers of Having a Brand Voice
The downside of branding, and targeting a particular audience in general, is that you’ll alienate some people. That’s fine because you can’t please everyone.
You only need to please your target audience because they’re the people who’ll buy from you.
For example, I’ve made the conscious decision to swear in my writing and videos because that’s what I do in real life. That’s authentic to me and the people I work with. Granted, some readers and viewers might be put off by that.
But guess what? I don’t give a fuck.
You know why? Because some people fucking love it — and those people are my existing or potential clients.
Need an Example?
Let’s look at Good Fucking Design Advice. They’ve made the f-word an integral part of their brand voice: it appears in their business name and every piece of content they publish.
Personally, I think it’s tacky, annoying, and a poor attempt at being edgy.
Remove the f-word from their statements, and all you’re left with are the usual “believe in yourself” platitudes.
But it’s not important what I think — I’m not their target audience.
Their target audience obviously loves their content, because they’ve amassed over 300.000 followers on their Instagram.
Need Another Example?
Check out Jimmy’s Famous Seafood. They’ve made a point out of trolling vegans and PETA in their social media posts.
Several of their posts have gone viral because of the shitstorm they’ve caused with their inflammatory statements. Needless to say, vegans and animal rights activists have decided to boycott them.
And that’s fine.
Not only would those people never have eaten at a seafood restaurant in the first place, but anyone with a sense of humor is now flocking to Jimmy’s restaurant.
Your brand voice can and should change over time as your business evolves.
You’ll notice that I didn’t bring up Apple or Coca-Cola as examples, even though some would claim these companies have unique and distinct brand voices.
They obviously don’t.
Apple, Coca-Cola, Nike, and so on, all have incredibly bland and boring brand voices because they’ve reached a level where they just try to appeal to as many people as possible. In other words, they can’t afford to offend anyone because it’ll piss off their shareholders.
The fact that you’re reading or watching this means you’re probably not at that stage yet. And as a startup, you can likely afford to take risks that bigger companies can’t.
Should you eventually reach the level of Apple and Coca-Cola, then go ahead and change your brand voice into something generic. It won’t matter at that point because you’ll be filthy rich.