Close your eyes and imagine your brand’s voice. What do you hear? The smooth, iconic pipes of Morgan Freeman narrating your products and services? That would be AMAZING, but likely not the case. If you’re not sure what you hear (or more importantly, what you think your customers hear) you should spend some time tending to the vocal box of your company’s voice.
Focusing on your brand’s voice can be a huge differentiator when you’re head to head with the competition. In fact, simple word choices can change the whole vibe of what you’re saying as well as your overall brand perception.
You can convey the same message in completely different ways. Example:
See? Both completely different (and ... unique?) voices. So, does your company have a brand voice? If not – how can you find it?
One of the best ways to determine whether your brand has a voice is what we refer to as the “logo test.” This exercise was created by Ann Handley, a thought leader within the content marketing industry (shameless plug, check out her book Everybody Writes).
To do this, gather some content from your company as well as your top four or five competitors. Taglines, slogans and big headlines on the homepage of the websites are a great place to start. Now, mask the logos of each respective company and read all of the content. Does yours sound like the rest? Handley simply asks, “if the label fell off ... would people know it was you?”
If your company’s description is interchangeable with your competitors’, it’s an indicator that your brand’s voice could use some attention. Remember; this realization is not necessarily a bad thing. If everyone sounds the same, that means there’s a real opportunity to differentiate.
To discover your new voice, it’s important to get your company stakeholders together to determine how your voice should sound. What makes your company different than the rest? What’s your company culture like? Why do customers choose you? What is your brand’s mission and promise? Answering some of these broad questions will help you discover your appropriate voice. That way you won’t be saying things like, “we’re so totally stoked to find our brand voice, bro” unless you’re a laid-back company that makes surfboards.
After answering those big picture questions about your differentiators, it’s important to agree on a set of adjectives that accurately describe your voice. These could be pairings like “welcoming, intelligent, witty,” or perhaps “trustworthy, honest, caring.”
Once you have your adjectives, you can take it a step further and brainstorm a “this not that” list. This is simply a grouping of comparisons to further clarify your voice. For example, a “this not that” list could include:
Now that you’ve gone through some voice discovery, it’s time to take a look at the current state of all of your content to see what could use some shoring up in the voice department. You might find that some pieces of content are waaaay off, while others might align with your direction and only need minimal tweaking.
It’s important to comb through all of your content to make sure the same voice runs throughout for brand consistency and increased recognition. During the auditing process, you may even see new opportunities to infuse voice, like weaving clever microcopy into the footer of your website, for example.
While many think of logos and website design as some of the main elements of branding, perfecting your voice and tone will take your marketing efforts to the next level. Get going on these steps, and you’ll arrive at your brand’s voice in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. That’s kind of a weird saying, isn’t it? Maybe I should revisit my voice too…