Voice is a foundation of brand building. It expresses a clear idea of who you are, what you stand for, and who you’re talking to.
If you hid a brand’s logo, scrapped the product shots, changed fonts… could you recognise it from a few phrases? Like ‘It’s not just food’ or ‘greatness is scary until it isn’t’? Would they still make you smile, nod, try, buy?
If you’ve been struggling with your brand’s voice – you’re not alone.
Even the most experienced writers can find writing in a unique tone/voice for a specific company difficult, let alone if you don’t have much experience in brand voice definition.
We’ve put together this extensive guide on how to develop a company’s unique brand voice to help you communicate your value, expertise, and core beliefs to your ideal client.
Each member of The Content Lab has contributed their own take on exploring, finding, and using brand voices – so settle down, get comfortable, and enjoy this extensive look into the wonderful world of branded copywriting.
Without further ado, let’s get stuck into our ultimate guide to brand voice and tone for digital agencies (and their clients!).
How to create a distinct brand personality with a unique brand voice
Some brands have an unmistakable brand voice. A voice you recognise immediately. A voice that feels familiar, likeable, and relatable.
It may seem like those companies with prominent brand voices have some sort of marketing magic. But there’s no shortcut to a powerful brand voice. Every brand, including yours, had to put in time and effort into defining and honing its own voice.
That may seem like a lot of hard work (and it is!), but there’s something freeing about the idea, too. Because with focus and attention to detail, any company, big or small, can have a brand voice that speaks to its target audience and captures their attention every time.
What is a brand voice?
Let’s start with the basics.
A brand voice is the distinctive personality your brand presents to its customers through written text.
It’s the voice used when creating marketing content or branded content.
Why is a strong brand voice essential?
A unique brand voice makes your company instantly recognisable to your target audience, and people are more likely to buy from a brand they recognise. Familiarity breeds trust, and when people get a consistent vibe from your consistent brand voice, they’re most likely to feel your brand is familiar and trustworthy.
A well-honed brand voice can also help distinguish your brand from the competition. With so many companies selling similar products and services online, customers can find it overwhelming to discern one brand from another. Your brand voice sets your company apart from the competition.
Your brand voice can offer in-house benefits, too. If you have implemented a solid definition of your brand voice, it will be easier for your team members to create on-brand content and copy. Employees from other departments will find a brand personality they can rally behind, and the company can build a positive reputation internally and externally.
Here are some great examples of brand voice
Inspiring – Nike
Nike’s “Just Do It” has remained one of the most uplifting and inspiring business slogans. Summing up the brand voice, the slogan is inspirational, positive, and powerful, encouraging both athletes and non-athletes to strive for greatness.
Elegant – Tiffany and Co
Elegance, class, and luxury are the words that spring to mind when one thinks of Tiffany and Co. This is because the iconic jewellery company has cultivated a brand that is all these things and more. As of writing this piece, their current tagline personifies this perfectly: “Explore Covetable Designs Made for Turning Heads”.
Humorous – Netflix
For Netflix, brand voice is all about getting into the mindset of its customers. With a broad target audience, it speaks to the thing all its customers have in common: a love of entertainment. Netflix places itself close to its customers by being friendly, fun, and humorous.
Quirky – Barkbox
Barkbox offers everything you would expect from a brand centred around dogs. The monthly subscription box’s brand voice almost feels like a dog’s personality. Fun, cute and quirky, it works great for its target audience.
Sarcastic – Oatly
Oatly is one of the most self-aware brands on the market. It appeals to its young consumers with a sarcastic and irreverent voice. Although not everyone is a fan of the brand’s cheeky marketing style, it stands out from the crowd. Oatly’s copy doesn’t read like it is trying to sell you something, which consumers appreciate.
Gritty – Harley Davison
Harley Davison’s voice is gritty, aggressive, and bold. It’s not the obvious choice for many brands, but Harley Davidson proves that when done right, this voice works. It sells its customers a lifestyle – one of danger, edginess, and time spent on the road.
Serious – Concern
Charity organisations like Concern deal with sensitive issues like crisis, hunger, and conflict. They display a serious personality and a voice that is formal and informative. The organisation keeps people updated on the latest news from impoverished areas while sharing several helpful charts and statistics that highlight their efforts.
How to define your brand voice
Every company has a unique personality and way of presenting themselves to the world.
To determine your brand voice, think of your business as a person. How would they talk to your customers? Would they be funny, witty, and friendly, or serious, factual, and formal? If they walked into a meeting, what would they wear? Would they bring snacks or a leather briefcase?
When choosing words to describe your brand voice, think of these four elements of your tone of voice:
- Humour – whether your brand is funny or serious
- Formality – where your brand falls between casual and formal
- Respectfulness – whether your brand is respectful or a bit irreverent
- Enthusiasm – if your brand exudes enthusiasm or speaks matter-of-factly
It helps to create a brand voice chart, like the template provided below.
So our brand is:
Our language is:
Open and engaging
Welcoming, inclusive of all
Pretentious, snobby, or sneering
Tasteful, rich, ornate
Boring or everyday
Your brand voice and tone are important because it gives your company character and identity. It’s also how your consumers come to recognise you as a credible brand they can trust.
For it to be effective, your tone of voice must be consistent across all your communication channels – social media, websites, blogs, landing pages etc.
Four simple steps to creating your brand’s voice
Here is a list of simple strategies to help you create a brand voice that accurately represents your business and sets you apart from the competition.
1. Define your core values
Your brand’s core values determine its identity, message, and personality. Before you define your brand’s tone, you must first determine what your business stands for.
Along with being unique, your company values must be memorable and easy to understand. Keep in mind, customers want to buy from brands whose values align with their own.
An example of a company with well-defined core values is IKEA, which prioritises:
- Caring for people and the planet
- Renewal and improvement
- Difference with meaning
2. Identify your target audience
Another essential element of creating your brand voice is identifying your target audience.
Conducting market research is the best way to identify your audience and compile useful information such as their location, hobbies, careers, consumer behaviours, buyer motivation, and more.
All of these factors should converge to create a user persona. For example, your target audience might be a dad in his forties living in New England interested in running. He respects and connects to brands that are to-the-point and authentic.
3. Create a brand style guide
A great way to stay consistent with your brand voice is to create a style guide that all members of the company can use. Follow these five steps towards creating an effective one:
- Choose a format – print, PDF, interactive, etc.
- Create a table of contents – outline everything you plan to include.
- Build your style guide – Outline company guidelines. Include dos and don’ts, examples, checklists, tools and resources.
- Proof your style guide – Is it clear? Is there anything missing?
- Make your brand guidelines easy to access – eg. keep it in a Dropbox folder everyone in the company has access to.
4. Measure your success
After implementing your voice across all written channels, it’s time to measure its effectiveness. If customers are not responding in the way you hoped, then it may be time to make some changes.
Creating your brand voice is not a one-time deal. Language changes over time, and phrases used five years ago may no longer be relevant today (anyone else remember YOLO?). Without a consistent check-in, you risk sounding out of touch with current trends.
What is the difference between brand voice and brand tone?
Although similar, brand voice and brand tone are not the same thing.
As pointed out, your brand’s voice is a reflection of its overall personality. It should be consistent and unchanging. This consistency allows your brand to be instantly recognisable across multiple channels.
The brand tone is different as it incorporates brand voice as well as word choice, communication style, and emotional tone. In this way, it can change depending on what’s appropriate for a particular situation.
For a welcome email, your tone may be chipper and friendly. For a fundraising appeal in response to a natural disaster, your tone would be serious and earnest.
How do brand archetypes affect your brand’s tone and voice?
Having a brand archetype for your agency, preferably two is necessary for the success of your brand.
When it comes to building the perfect personality that truly represents what your company stands for, then having brand archetypes for your brand will help you and your team out when developing the rest of your branding, especially content.
What are brand archetypes?
A brand archetype is a depiction of your brand as a personality type based on 12 key human desires and values. The 12 brand archetypes as we know them today were derived from psychiatrist Carl Jung’s personality archetypes which he outlined in the 1940s.
Adding human characteristics to your brand is a great way to attract an audience, as it emphasises your shared values.
By thinking of your brand as a character with its own individual personality, it becomes easier to develop your brand’s voice.
What would this character say, and how would they say it?
What are the 12 brand archetypes?
By familiarising yourself with the various brand archetypes, you will be able to determine which works best for your brand. They are:
- The Innocent – wants to do things the right way, uncorrupted and working towards real good.
- The Sage – seeks to educate and empower the customer with their knowledge.
- The Explorer – is looking for adventure and new challenges in unchartered territory.
- The Outlaw – is all about being an individual, rebelling, and going against the grain.
- The Magician – all about performance, playing with the imagination, and exciting the customer.
- The Hero – exist to save the client from issues. Their products are built to fix a problem.
- The Lover – passionate about what they do, enjoy luxury and the finer things in life.
- The Jester – has a very unique sense of humour and they are extremely creative.
- The Regular Person – They are the friends we grow up with, the colleagues that we work with, and the family members that we share our holidays with.
- The Caregiver – care deeply about nurturing trust and safety for their clients/customers.
- The Ruler – always in control, dictating the rules, and are the boss.
- The Artist – has the desire to craft something meaningful and special.
Why being consistent with your brand voice is so important
Consistency breeds trust. Without trust, your audience won’t be interested in working with your digital agency. Trust and credibility are crucial to gaining more clients online; without them, you won’t get very far.
Simple: there are so many scams and dodgy online companies these days that people have lost faith in many online sellers. They want help for their businesses, not to be scammed by a company built on false promises and too-good-to-be-true advertising.
The more people trust your agency, the more you’ll be able to charge for your services. 46% of people say they’d pay more for a service from brands they trust.
Brand consistency helps to grow your company
Consistency doesn’t just improve trust, though. Take a look at these three other benefits of improving consistency and how they will help you charge more money for your services (and grow your business).
1. Improves customer retention
Your clients will come to expect a certain level of service from you, and they’ll keep coming back to work with you when they get it. Not only this but if your clients find your services exceptional, they’ll recommend you to others and bring in more clients.
The more people trust and respect your business, and the more they rely on you for that consistent service, the easier it will be for you to raise your prices. Your clients don’t mind paying a little extra for your services because they know they’ll get quality every time.
But, if you offer inconsistent results, you’ll look unprofessional. Nobody wants to work with somebody if they’re unsure whether the results will be the same.
If you’re inconsistent with your work, you’ll find it hard to retain clients if you increase your prices. If your digital agency is unpredictable and you decide to charge more, your current clients might jump ship and go elsewhere.
2. Allows for measurability
Consistency with your branding also allows for measurability because if you’re producing consistent work, it’s easier to track your progress.
So, not only does consistency help build trust and keep your clients interested in your business, but it also makes it easier to reach your goals.
How is this important when it comes to charging more?
Well, we’re glad you asked. If you know you’re smashing every goal and reaching new heights with your outstanding services. You’ll also know when it’s the right time to charge more.
But, if you’re inconsistent, your workload will become hard to rely on – falling into a feast and famine cycle of sales. This means you won’t be able to gauge how much you should charge your current and future customers to keep the doors open.
3. Helps improve your marketing strategies
The best way to market and advertise your business is with success stories, and what better success story than your own company?
Your potential clients want to see how you’ll help them reach their goals, so by being consistent, you’ll build a legacy of work that these interested parties can look back on.
Consistency is key to backing up everything you say about yourself and your marketing services. Without consistency, you won’t be able to develop a marketing strategy that works.
Your brand is your identity online. If it’s not consistent, it won’t come across as professional, and your marketing won’t get you the leads you deserve.
It will take some time to find and define your company’s unique brand voice. Using the above strategies will help you take the first steps towards building a recognisable brand with a strong personality and a clear set of values.
If you want some help creating successful, powerful, trustworthy, and consistent content for your brand that always meets your brand voice, we’re here to help.
Need help definining your voice? We offer brand voice workshops that clearly define your mission, values, goals, target market, and main messaging.
At The Content Lab, we love helping digital agencies create high-quality content for themselves and their clients.
Get in touch with us today to discuss how to improve your agency’s business processes through effective branding and content creation.