7 Golden Rules for Establishing and Nurturing Your Brand’s Voice
From your Twitter handle and the colour of your logo to the language used on Instagram and the terminology used in your website copy, every single time you carry out an action on behalf of your business, you’re giving off an impression. Sounds a bit scary when you put it like that, eh?
But the truth is, your brand’s voice is the beating heart of your business. It’s your message, and it’s how you communicate that message. Not sure where to start? Allow us to help.
1. Define what you are and what you aren’t
If you’re serious about establishing a brand voice - and you should be - you’re going to need to know who you are. Without this fundamental understanding, how can you expect anyone else to understand who you are or buy into your vision?
You need to start off by thinking about what you value. If you’re struggling to get off the mark, try thinking about your brand as a person. Are they funny? Professional? Young? Creative? If you can’t answer these sorts of questions, how can you ever get your audience to understand who you are?
It’s important to think about what you aren’t, too. This will help you pin down the sorts of language you’re comfortable using and what you want to steer clear of. We’re sure we don’t need to tell you that social media is a hotbed of disapprovers and complainers - and that’s fine if they’re complaining about something you’re happy to put out there, but you’ll want to have your guidelines established from the get-go.
2. Get to know your target demographic
With your definition of who you are nailed down, you need to start thinking about who your audience is. This is really important. Most marketing quotes are terrible, let’s be honest - but there’s the odd gem you should pay attention to. Exhibit A: “When you speak to everyone, you speak to no one.”
Meredith Hill had a point, didn’t she? How can you reach anyone when you’re trying to appeal to everyone? You can’t. So don’t. Don’t be afraid of focusing on the people your brand - and indeed your product or service - is designed for.
Identify who these people are, and devise your marketing strategy around getting them interested in what you’re saying and doing. As mentioned in point 1, knowing your brand’s personality will make it that much easier to speak authentically to the people you’re interested in gaining buy in from.
3. Speak directly to your audience
Since the inception of social media, one thing’s for sure, when it comes to online content, you need to speak directly to the people you intend to target. You can’t impress everyone, and nor should you try. As we’ll talk more about in point 6, you need to be talking to the people who care about what you care about.
This point goes hand-in-hand with the one above. Once you understand your demographic, you’ll learn more about how to appeal to them and how to speak in a way that resonates with them - whether that’s funny video content or emotional written copy.
With this mapped out, you’ll want some sort of measurements in place. What’s working well and what isn’t? Why did online users spend 8 minutes reading a 400-word blog post about your team but bounced straight off the long form copy you wrote about business practices? This data will be the holy grail when it comes to giving your audience what they want and ultimately growing your business.
4. Stop seeing it as a competition
When it comes to imitation, it’s true what they say: the original is better than the copy. So, if your game plan relies on replicating someone else in your industry, stop. You’ll never win this way - and why would you want to?
Think back to the reason you wanted to create your business. Was there a gap in the market? Did you think you could do something better than someone else? Use the internal fire that got you started to help you build your brand. Identify your USP, and then make sure everyone knows about it.
Whatever makes you different to the others operating in your industry is the thing you need to be shouting about. Whether this is a logo that displays your ethical commitments or a tagline that establishes family values, make sure this is prominent across all marketing channels so that people begin to recognise your brand in its own right, not a would-be replica of an already successful business.
5. Consistency is king
Uniformity is a key aspect of branding - and this is the thing that will be the decider between whether or not your business is instantly recognisable. We only have to see the glow of yellow arches on the horizon to know that there’s a McDonald’s up ahead - and what would Christmas be without the heartstrings-tugging John Lewis adverts?
Brands become synonymous with how they look, what they say and what they do - and this means that from your website interface to your Instagram story, you’re going to need to be consistent. We’ve mentioned the power of thinking of your brand as a person, and if this ‘person’ does something out of character, your followers will know.
Remember when Walkers decided to swap the colours of their cheese and onion and salt and vinegar crisps (even though they claim they didn’t)? Even as recently as 2016 people were still saying they’d gotten it wrong. We doubt this did much to harm their profit margins, but better to be safe than sorry, eh?
6. Sell the ‘why’
One of the most fundamental aspects of selling to an audience is understanding why they want what you’re selling. Simon Sinek explains this is in perfect detail in his TED talk: How great leaders inspire action - seriously, watch it. He discusses the success of brand’s like Apple and what we can learn from that Martin Luther King speech (even more than you’d think, as it goes).
Sinek talks about concentric circles, with the ‘what’ on the outside, then the ‘how’ and finally, the ‘why’ at the centre. He argues that most businesses work outside in, and this is what’s letting them down. According to Sinek, starting with the ‘why’ is the thing that will really make the difference.
Come back to your USP here. What is it about your vision, product, skillset, experience or service that you’re really passionate about? Why should other people care? If you’re confident and clear about what you believe, like MLK, you won’t need to convince people your way is best - they’ll already believe what you do.
7. Embrace the human element
In an increasingly digital world, being heard above the din of a saturated market is no easy feat - especially if you don’t have your brand voice nailed down. But if you’ve followed steps 1 to 6, you’re ready to tackle this one.
Yes, AI is becoming more popular and yes, it can do wonders for the way businesses operate - there’s no denying the power of personalisation and 24/7 service - but there has to be a line. People still want “real” conversations and to feel as though they personally matter to your brand, and why shouldn’t they?
Hopefully the values, personality and voice you’ve already established will be the things that help you here. These things, along with your USP should be enough to motivate your team and place your brand as something your target audience can believe in. If you genuinely have this pinned down, the human element will be no problem at all.
When creating a brand from scratch, you have total autonomy over what that brand becomes - what they say, what they do and how they behave. But it won’t stay this way for long. Once you’re in the public spotlight, people will start to form their own opinions of your beliefs, ethics and values - so get it right from the off.
If you take one thing away from this post, let it be this: people buy the ‘why’.