How to Find Your Brand Voice

Have you ever looked at a brand on social media and felt something was off? Maybe it’s a law firm that handles serious cases yet shares goofy videos and uses slang. Does someone at the company think social media should always appeal to a younger audience or are they letting the intern with no training handle social media? Whatever the cause, it’s clear there is a serious disconnect between the brand and the way it comes across on social media. This is a common occurrence for a company that hasn’t clearly defined its brand voice.

A brand voice is a lot like a person’s voice. In this case, your voice is the expression of your thoughts and feelings and interests and desires (not the actual sound emanating from your vocal chords). Your brand voice should reflect your brand’s personality – whether your brand is spirited and adventurous or demure and sophisticated.

Disney is imaginative. Apple is confident. Chanel is refined. These brand personalities come across in the products, the packaging, the websites, the advertisements, newsletters, emails, social posts and more. Just as your personality is revealed each time you interact with someone, your brand’s personality should shine at every customer touchpoint.

Your brand voice tells customers what your company is all about – what you value, what you stand for and what you offer. It’s the lifeblood of your brand, and it should be the cornerstone of all your sales and marketing efforts. A consistent voice will clearly define your brand, prevent confusion and allow your brand to stand apart from the competition. For example, you might find three companies that offer interior design services in your city. When you compare their websites, you immediately know which company you’ll hire because, while two of the sites show mostly images of modern office spaces, one shows an eclectic portfolio with a whimsical style, which is right up your alley. That website speaks to you because the brand’s strong and unique voice comes through loud and clear.

To keep your brand voice consistent in every place your brand appears, you’ll want to create some brand voice guidelines. First, make a list of the key personality traits that make up the core of your brand. (If you need some inspiration, here’s a list of words to get you started). Keep the list concise by removing any synonyms or closely related descriptors and by including only the traits that are essential to your brand. For example, our company, WilsonMcGuire Creative, is passionate, creative, insightful, personable and confident. We can also be funny, entertaining and bold, but those traits aren’t necessarily what makes us, well, us. And you won’t pick up on them just from looking at our website because they aren’t crucial to our brand voice.

Once you’ve narrowed your list to four or five personality traits, you’ll need to answer some questions about each trait. First, how would you explain it? Describe the trait in detail. Second, what does this part of your voice look or sound like? List the do’s and don’ts of this trait. For example, if your brand is friendly, that might mean you do use contractions and speak colloquially, but you don’t use bad grammar or slang. And if your brand is youthful, that could mean your photography only shows models under the age of 30, but your designs avoid handwritten fonts (like Marker Felt) that would look more juvenile than trendy. Remember, your brand voice does not exist only in the language you use, but also in what you choose to talk about and demonstrate visually.

When you’ve answered these questions for each of your brand’s personality traits, you’ll have a grid of brand voice guidelines that will steer you in the right direction for every post, ad and email your company sends out. Like your company mission statement, your brand voice guidelines should be imprinted in your brain and should direct every sales and marketing effort. So print them out, blow them up and tape them to your wall or stick them on your computer desktop for easy access. And, by all means, follow them – your brand depends on it.