Brand voice can change everything.
It’s a powerful piece of your brand strategy — another whole dimension of your business that your audience can adore and talk about.
But finding that genuine and distinctive voice to signify your brand is a big challenge, and the universal tips and advice you find out there — speak it out first, use customer language, etc. — seem to be missing an important piece of the equation:
They’re really only helpful for honing and refining your brand voice after you’ve already figured out what it is.
Your issue right now isn’t whether you should say “ya’ll” or “dudes” or “dearies”. Those are tactic decisions — useless, if you haven’t figured out your general strategy yet.
That general strategy is a personality decision.
And, if brand voice is an ongoing challenge for you, I’m going to bet that that’s where you’re actually getting stuck.
“Deciding on” a personality is a pretty serious deal, so it’s no wonder that many blogs conveniently breeze over the subject. But if there’s a visionary behind the brand, there’s good news: there’s likely already a voice, too.
A brand voice is not learned, it’s unlocked.
How do you unlock it?
Here’s one technique that I use with clients for uncovering the authentic voice behind their brands. It’s pretty infallible; as they talk, I listen very carefully for signs of a particular brand voice treasure trove:
Their strongest, most original beliefs.
Want to have a voice? First, have a point of view.
Beliefs aren’t really given a spotlight in the conversation on brand strategy, but I consider them worth gold. Innovative business strategies are often born from the strong and unconventional beliefs of a company’s founder.
Nike believes that “If you have a body, you are an athlete.”
Google believes “It’s best to do one thing really, really well.”
And here’s one of mine: “Branding is not a project, it’s a way of thinking.”
When you’re sharing your strongest beliefs about your industry and what you do, your brand voice is present in its purest form.
It shines through in your attitude and delivery — in the way you express your passion about these ideas.
- Does it come out with a healthy dose of bluntness, exasperation, or possibly even anger about the status quo?
- Do you convey your point of view with a sense of awe, reverence, or a natural curiosity to go deeper?
- Do you bubble over with optimism and enthusiasm that you just can’t contain?
All of these can be engaging ways to express your message. All can form the basis for an unforgettable brand voice. But only those closely tied to your natural expression will ring with authenticity on the page.
I find Gordon Ramsey incredibly entertaining, but if I tried to use an F-bomb in my writing, it would stick out like a sore thumb. Even though I might swear sometimes in other situations, I more naturally approach branding with wonder and positivity. That’s an important distinction.
Find your brand voice treasure trove:
1: What are some of the strong beliefs you carry about what you do as a business? If you’re not sure, use these questions to dig some up:
- What are you doing differently, and why?
- What do you wish would change about how business is done in your industry?
- Why does the world need your industry?
2: How would you describe your tone and attitude as you express these beliefs? Ask colleagues how they would describe it.
3: Give that voice a name, and start writing with it as your anchor. You should still give yourself some room to play — this is where the additional writing and voice refining exercises will come in handy!
This exercise is a 2-for-1, because identifying your beliefs alone can open up a world of strong messaging ideas and substance for your brand. Share in the comments below: what beliefs are driving how you do business, and with what kind of voice do you talk about them?