The concept of brand voice has existed in one form or another for as long as humans have been doing business.
In ancient Athens, merchants would promote their products to consumers in the agora. Due to the sea of competition that existed, all in the same location, they’d have to find ways to distinguish themselves. Most often, this would result in a match of who could scream the loudest.
That’s one way to approach brand voice.
Today’s agora is the internet; Its consumers are the roughly 4.7 billion people using it daily across the world.
And since screaming over one another isn’t an option in the digital marketplace, companies have gotten creative with their language in an effort to stand out. This is what we call brand voice in the modern world.
And if you’ve been wondering how to craft or refine your ecommerce store’s brand voice to stand out from the competition, then you’re in the right place.
In this article, we’ll review what brand voice is and how you can find yours.
What is brand voice?
Brand voice is defined as the language, word choices, and tone that companies use to communicate with their audience. It’s the distinctive vernacular that a business adopts, which consumers learn to associate with that business.
There are no rules when it comes to brand voice. Successful brand voices have been humorous, functional, and even aggressive!
There’s only one question you need to answer before crafting yours: How does it serve to promote what your business is offering?
Here are some examples of established companies that have nailed it in the brand voice department:
3 established companies that get brand voice right
What are some classic examples of successful brand voices?
We’re going to look at Disney, Uber, and Netflix as our prime examples of companies that got their brand voice right.
Disney’s brand voice is magical and whimsical. Phrases like “where dreams come true,” litter the company’s website and advertisements. Its language and tone on all official communications further the notion that Disney, and by extension all its media and products, is synonymous with childlike happiness. Ask any Disney employee what the company is in the business of and 9 times out of 10, you’ll be met with the phrase “We’re in the business of happiness”
To the contrary, Uber is simple and direct in its communications. Its brand voice reflects the company's mission of getting people from point A to point B without any hassles. Even the font that Uber uses across its app and website is clear and legible. It leaves no room for misinterpretation. And that makes sense for Uber, as its offerings are quite straightforward.
Finally, Netflix is clever, concise, and reliable. After all, the streaming company wants to appeal to viewers as a dependable, yet cutting edge, service where they can access all their favorite titles. The Netflix brand voice reflects exactly that. It is appealing, but not flashy, with a bit of clever humor sprinkled into its advertising and Twitter feed.
These three major companies demonstrate that there is no exact template or formula to creating your brand voice. It’s possible to take your brand voice in any direction and still be successful, as long as it remains true to your company vision and values. Slogans and Repetition
You’ll notice that slogans and repetitive phrases are also an integral dimension of brand voice.
A properly crafted slogan can work wonders in the way of making your brand feel familiar which leads to a greater feeling of trust from your audience.
Repetition is also key, both internally and externally. Think about the slogan “15 minutes can save you 15% or more on car insurance.” Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past two decades, you’ll immediately attribute this line to the car insurance company, GEICO. GEICO makes a point to repeat it in every brand communication, without fail. That said, you can be sure that GEICO also repeats that message to their employees to create a culture in which they all live by that message when communicating with customers.
Does brand voice matter to consumers?
Developing your brand voice takes time, focus, and energy. It is not something that can be created by using a name generator, phrase match, or any other clever system you may find online. But by being deliberate about creating your brand voice, the results will be proof that it was worth it. Brands that have a strong brand voice and brand identity see more traffic, more repeat customers, and more sales.
So how about consumers? What do they think about brand voice? Will a properly executed brand voice drive them toward making more purchases?
Without hesitation, Yes.
Presenting a brand consistently across all mediums has proven to increase profits by 23%.
Brand identity elements like color, which really does fall under the umbrella of brand voice, have been shown to improve brand recognition by up to 80%.
Crafting a solid brand voice is, without a doubt, one of the best things you can do for your bottom line.
Enough of the explanation, what you really want to know is “How do I create one?”
How to find your company’s brand voice
The first step you should take is to define what your company offers consumers. Then figure out what your brand’s personality is and how it fits in with those offerings.
Most companies can tell you what they do, so this should be a fairly easy step to start with. Let’s say, for example, your ecommerce store sells clothes (simple, right?).
Dive a little deeper and ask yourself questions like What types of clothes do I sell? Are they upscale? Are they made with fine fabrics? What does my customer profile look like?
As you answer these questions, you’ll notice the reality is that you’re probably selling your customers a lot more than clothes. You’re selling a lifestyle. If that profile looks like a sophisticated, on-the-go individual with a large budget, your brand voice should reflect that.
Once you can define what your brand offers consumers, as we did in the above example, then you’re ready to craft your brand’s personality.
What’s your brand’s personality?
There are several dimensions of brand personality to take into account. There are countless resources out there that have different formulas to narrow down your brand personality. For our example, we will reference Ebaqdesign who outlines four dimensions:
Each of those dimensions operates on a scale.
Brands that are easily identifiable exist on the far sides of the scales, it’s your decision how close to the edge your brand should be.
On the humor scale, you can either be funny or serious. GEICO is an example of a company that’s gone all-in on funny. Think about it - At some point, a marketing exec was sitting around lamenting that car insurance is SOOO BORING and decided to do something out of character for an industry that is supposed to be reliable and serious - they made it completely silly. Clearly, it worked. We could say “15 minutes could…” and you would, without missing a beat, finish the slogan (see, that works too).
Then there’s a level of formality, which at its extremes can be either casual and formal. You might decide that your store’s products and your audience are more geared towards a casual tone in brand communications, and as mentioned before, as long as it is true to your brand, you should go with it.
The respect dimension can range from bold and irreverent on one end to respectful on the other. If you have never seen Wendy’s Twitter feed, we can’t express the urgency of going there now.
We’ll wait. It’s that good.
We were right, weren’t we? The personality and voice they have created is nothing short of branding gold - but it works for them, and it stays true to who they are as a company.
Finally, enthusiasm can be a highly effective component of brands that sell an image of high-stakes or extreme lifestyles. Think Red Bull, GoPro, or Patagonia. Each has a tie to extreme sports, unique experiences, or lifestyles not for the faint of heart - and yet each of them, in different ways, finds a way to highlight enthusiasm for life as an integral part of who they are. On the other end of the scale, something like a financial or legal services company would probably err on the side of caution with a more matter-of-fact tone (unless, of course, you are living on the edge, like GEICO).
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Author: Michael Arnold
Michael is a freelancer from New York City. When he isn’t writing about how Kliken unleashes the marketing, you can find him reading, writing for pleasure, or traveling the globe.