Can You Hear Me Now? Developing Your Brand’s Voice
If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does your brand’s voice still make a sound? So goes the (somewhat) age-old question that pits observation against perception and speaks to the effectiveness of the language you use to talk about your brand.
Regardless of industry, a brand voice is one of your company’s most important assets, and also one of the most deceiving, as it encompasses both what you can and cannot control.
For the following post, we’ve employed both sides of the fence – or in our case, the ping pong table – to talk shop about brand voice.
On the creative side of things:
If your business was a person, what would they be like? One of the most efficient approaches to developing your brand’s voice from a creative standpoint is to consider its personality: as it stands now, as well as where it can go. The language you use to talk about your work should essentially be specific enough to give your brand a Myers-Briggs type.
Does your brand sound like a person you’d want to grab a drink with after work? Or is it someone who makes you sit up straighter in your chair when they walk by? Linguistically speaking, most people don’t (or shouldn’t) want to grab a metaphorical – or literal – drink with their insurance agent.
A good example is the way that approachability has become one of the most sought-after undertones in modern business; it represents a departure from the traditional black-tie formality of professional speak. But our current understanding of branding pits industry-specific jargon against approachability – the resolve is that businesses should not use specialized language if they’re looking to come off as conversational.
A hypothetical Company A may choose to employ refined “language of the trade” in order to convey their expertise on a particular subject; while Company B, perhaps targeting a ‘common’ demographic – working mothers, families with young children, college students – might favor a more conversational voice and tone. Those with needs similar to Company B would perceive identifying with their customer base as crucial to their line of work, and wonder if coming off as detached would impact a person’s likeliness to do business with them.
From a social perspective:
The immediacy factor that comes into play digitally makes social platforms ‘right-at-your-fingertips’ vessels to access your brand voice. For that reason, remaining consistent with your established branding is one of the rules of thumb to observe when speaking on these channels. Fun, current platforms – especially Twitter and Instagram – make users more susceptible to entering a gray area when it comes to how a business may sound. That is, these channels can often tempt marketers to produce content that has somewhat of a “wow” factor – so entertaining, so humorous, so political – that it ends up being inconsistent with your brand. Add in all the new keyboards you’re given with emojis, hashtags, retweets, trending topics, photos, and videos, it can be difficult to know how to translate your brand voice.
The voice you adapt to speak on social media should neither differ nor be the same as your regular brand voice – rather, it should function more like a dialect. And in the same way that you might not want to grab a drink with your insurance company, the dialect you speak on social platforms should never stray too far from your established branding.
A brand voice also includes that which you cannot control; sometimes it’s what you’re saying without saying it. Therefore, consider the larger conversation that your brand voice is making you a part of on social media. Extend your social content to live beyond matters that are exclusive to your line of business by tossing support to clients, the community, your industry, political news, or local sports teams. Decide which may be the most relevant to your business model by studying your primary and secondary markets, then determining if some trend within might link to human interest. At the same time, refuse to be a wallflower with your brand voice by thinking organically and producing original blogs or photography/videography to kick-start it.
For example, @19IDEAS on Twitter, we never miss a chance to show our #buffalove or to comment on digital ads and marketing ploys that catch our attention. At the end of the day, the brand voice you employ on social platforms should be a more humanized form of your business model; you make jokes (sometimes), you form opinions, you learn things.
Bottom line: It’s not only what you say, but the way that you say it. Brand voice occupies a set territory within the world of nuanced words, dotted i’s, and crossed t’s. If this sounds like hell to you, or perhaps it never even crossed your mind, it might just be time to work with us.