We all have our own unique personality. How would you family and friends describe you?
Friendly? Down-to-earth? Approachable?
But what about brands? How would you describe your brand’s personality? If you’re struggling to answer, then it’s time to roll up your sleeves. But how do you define a strong brand voice for your company? Sure, it takes time to develop, but it’s also crucial part of creating the best multilingual content marketing strategy and stand out from the rest.
Why? To ensure that your brand’s personality is always consistent and true. Whenever you write, talk, post, comment, email. Your customers should reconise your brand and resonate with your communication, every time.
How do you define a strong brand voice?
To make things clear, let’s look at the difference between brand voice, style and tone:
- Brand voice reflects your brand’s personality and purpose: friendly, approachable and down-to-earth? Or perhaps serious, professional and traditional? Your brand voice should never change, no matter who you’re writing for.
- Style is the way you communicate your voice, the words you use (formal, slang, informal, etc). Your brand style should always be consistent.
- Tone of voice: the emotional inflection that’s suitable for each piece of communication (fun, helpful, warm, ironic, angry, etc). Your tone can change depending on which buyer persona you are writing for, or the topic you are writing about.
So, we’ve established above that your brand voice shouldn’t change, no matter who you’re writing for. But who are you writing for? Who exactly is your audience?
1. Create your buyer persona(s)
Before you can define your brand voice, it’s vital that you know exactly who you’re talking to.
First, look closely at the data you have. Data is the answer to discovering who your existing customers are, and to identifying your buyer personas.
Demographics: if your main customers are aged 45 and over, then you may not want to sound too “young, hip and cool.” This may work well with the under-25s, but a mature audience requires a different approach,
Psychographics: does your audience share certain values, attitudes and interests? Even within the same age group, people can have totally different outlooks, just as people from different age groups can share the same views. A brand selling ecological technical sportswear may appeal equally to a single, eco-conscious 22-year old woman, as they could to a 50-year-old married man who enjoys sport and has the same environmental concerns.
There are a range of tools to help you create visual buyer personas for your brand. Here are our two different buyer personas created using HubSpot’s Make My Persona Tool.
2. Ask your customers
One essential step to defining your brand voice is to find out what your existing customer think of your brand. Send them a simple survey to get a feel for how they perceive your personality, why they buy from you and what they expect from you as a brand.
Your brand is what your customers say about you when you’re not in the room
– Jeff Bezos
If you have a customer database, send them a simple survey via email. There are many different software platforms around, although soe of the most popular and user-friendly include SurveyMonkey or SurveyGizmo.
Another approach is to automate surveys from your website, which are triggered according to customer behaviour. One company that offers this functionality is Survicate.
3. How do your customers communicate?
Customer demographics, for example, may heavily influence which communication channels will work best. Younger audiences might prefer Tic-Toc, Instagram and Whatsapp, whereas an older audience may respond better to email or Facebook.
To get even more out of your social media marketing efforts, you can also define specific buyer personas for each social media channel. By creating an audience-aligned social strategy, you can personalise your communication and adapt your brand voice even further across each channel.
Facebook generally attracts an older audience than Instagram, for example. But by observing each channel’s analytical functions, you may find that there are even different buyer personas within each channel. That’s where segmenting comes into play, where you can produce different content or ads, targetted to different buyer personas and post them at the most suitable times for that segment.
Read more about how to use social media personas to boost brand engagement, in this in-depth article by Sprout Social.
4. Keep your brand promise in mind
Remember your brand story, or your “WHY,” when defining your brand voice.
As Simon Sinek advocates: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
Your personality is rooted in your brand story, and this is the foundation of all your marketing efforts. Define your brand personality in a three carefully selected adjectives. Take a few examples of some well-known brands:
- Apple: innovate, inspire, dream
- Red Bull: adventure, try, adrenaline
- Skype: generous, interested, proactive.
LIDL Ireland also did a great job of communicating their brand promise “From our house to yours”, in their Christmas advert in 2016. A family gets the country house ready for Christmas supper for their recently widowed Grandad as guest of honour. This one-minute ad with now words deliver their brand message perfectly, touching customer emotions and strengthening the brand in their hearts and minds.
5. Perform a brand audit to analyse your current brand voice
Set set aside some time to assess the content you already content has performed, the consistency of your brand voice and whether any improvements can be made. This means all your public-facing communication, such as website, press releases, social media channels, video and audio content, brochures, trade material, presentations, and even recruitment websites where you advertise to potential talent.
Is your brand identity clear? Are the adjectives you use to define your brand being represented in your content? For example, if your brand is “trendy, upbeat and informative”, is this reflected in your video voice-overs, word choice and visuals?
Look at the best performing pieces of content to gauge what resonates with your audience the most. Their a great source of information for nailing your brand voice across all channels.
6. Adapt your brand message in times of crisis
It’s not always plain sailing. At the time of writing, the world is going through an unprecedented crisis: COVID-19. A radical shift in behavioural trends has altered consumer position from acquisition to protection. We’ve yet to see how this will shape customer perspective in the coming month, or years. It may even change things forever.
Brands that take on a commercial stance during this time will not be welcome. It’s time to adapt to the times, and your brand voice accordingly:
Be true to your purpose: your purpose as a company is on your DNA. Stay true to this and adapt your message so that it’s relevant to the current moment. Nike have done an awesome job of reacting swiftly, while remaining rooted in its purpose to innovate and inspire by fostering physical and mental health through its vast digital network.
Do good and share it: a radical change in demand and consumer behaviour has led many brands to refocus their production to help the community. Louis Vuitton transformed its French workshops into hospital gown and mask-making factories.
Crocs, already a mainstay in the medical profession, offered a free pair to every healthcare worker in the US. It has aldo given them some positive user-generated content to share, like this post on their Instagram account:
Make sure your voice is appropriate for the times: you may have worked hard to establish your brand voice, but it may not be wise to continue with it right now. Customers will expect a more thougthful, human and transparent approach from you.
You may be able to go back to your original, more upbeat brand voice when its all over. Maybe not. The key is to step up social listening and tracking your customer behaviour to ensure you stay on course, in touch with your audience’s emotions whilst straying true to your purpose.
7. Document your brand voice guidelines
In the fast-paced world of content marketing, brands rely on any number of content writers to contribute to their content marketing strategies. But how can you ensure that they all “think“ and “talk” the same way? Or guarantee that they all “sound” like your brand.
Create brand editorial guidelines that clearly define your brand voice, and how it should be communicated in any type of content. By putting the rules in writing, you ensure consistency from writer to writer (and save time explaining it over again). It’s also extremely useful when onboarding new members and helps them quiackly adapt.
Check out Skype’s clear and simple brand book for some inspiration.
Perform a “Do’s and Don’ts” exercise to really nail your brand personality and transmit this to everyone in your content marketing team. Let’s look at this example from the Content Marketing Institute, using three adjectives that could be used to describe a brand:
- Passionate – expressive, enthusiastic, heartfelt, action-orientated
- Quirky – irreverent, unexpected, contrarian
- Authentic – genuine, trustworthy, engaging, direct.
8. Check your internal branding strategy
Companies often focus only their brand’s external image and forget how important internal branding can be.
Does your brand voice resonate with your employees? Internal branding can directly improve morale, culture, productivity and revenue. Employees who identify with your brand values and are excited to come to work will become ambassadors and in turn, enhance your external image.
- Internal communication: infuse your brand voice through all communications. Convince employees of your brand’s power and give them a reason to care.
- Create an office culture in line with your brand values: communication, company outings, décor, perks, etc. If teamwork is an important brand value, then organise sports activities or an outing to an event. Remind them of your core brand values through well-organised actions. When things return to “normal”, of course.
- Recruiting best-fit talent: good internal branding will help you attract potential talent who identify with your values.
Hopefully this article will have helped you get better idea of your brand voice. Remember to review your brand voice on a quarterly basis. Check for consistency, for content that has worked, and what has not. Arrange a meeting with your content writers and marketing team to gauge their opinions and whether any adjustments should be made…its an ongoing process.
Need help to get down to the nitty-gritty and dig into your brand voice? Drop me a line.