Why do we use personal pronouns for brands… they, their, them? Personifying brands helps give them a unique character. They can grow and adapt and speak in many forms. It’s this speaking part that has got me thinking lately. Just as brands must have their own unique identity and presence in the market, a successful brand voice is one that speaks with an identifiable personality. But how do you know when it’s the right time to find your brand voice?

I reached out to a few people in our office who have designed for organizations at all stages of development; Eric Kuhn, Associate at Bergmeyer, weighed in:

Brands can develop their voice at their inception or at any point during their lifespan. If they lose their way, brands should re-evaluate their voice to…

  • Clarify their offer, service, or product
  • Differentiate their own-able value
  • Define their distinguishing values and what they stand for
  • Add continuity across channels
  • Connect on an emotional level with their audience

Identifying and defining your brand voice will give you the tools to build a deep and emotional connections with your audience. Below, we dive into how brands can find their voice and be their true selves.

Know your brand touchpoints

First, you need to know and identify your brand’s touchpoints. Where does your brand come into contact with customers? Every touchpoint is an opportunity to build upon that relationship. When establishing a set of guidelines for how brands communicate, we must consider every potential channel that is impacted, from wayfinding signage to customer service calls. This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but these are some of the touchpoints a brand might have with their customers:

In locations:

  • Brand signage
  • Wayfinding
  • Product category information
  • Benefits and promotions
  • Policy statements

In digital:

  • Website
  • Digital product interfaces
  • Email communication
  • Social media channels
  • Videos

In analog:

  • Packaging
  • Direct mail
  • Catalogs and magazines
  • Stationery
  • Vehicle wraps

and the intangibles:

  • Customer service
  • Word of mouth
  • Vendor relations
  • Services
  • Employees and their actions  

Uncover your brand personality

Who is the brand? Yes, who? By asking who the brand is, we can personify the brand and uncover the personality traits and characteristics that identify with the brand. And because brands are in constant conversation with their customers through various touchpoints (see above), it’s also important to understand who is on the receiving end.

Who is your audience and what are they like?

  • Is your brand speaking to amateur home cooks? Should your brand personality have the passion, exuberance, and drive of a professional chef?
  • Is your brand speaking to the wellness-conscious consumer? Should your personality be calm and collected like a yoga instructor, or disciplined and energetic like a fitness trainer?
  • Or, is your branding speaking to the crafts community? Should your personality be witty, charming, and humble?

Of course, these are generalizations, but understanding who you’re speaking to will impact your messaging. One approach is to think about who might be narrating your brand writing; imagining your brand spokesperson as a popular TV celebrity or movie character can help craft the personality and voice.

When I asked our teams which brands have an identifiable voice, Mare Weiss—Principal at Bergmeyer and an avid outdoors enthusiast—pointed to Patagonia, a brand that truly understands their customer. With a strong commitment to environmental preservation, they’ve built a community of people who share those same beliefs. Since their founding, Patagonia’s narrative has resulted in powerful expressions of their purpose, including these two memorable campaigns:

Finding Your Brand Voice

In 2017, Patagonia made an announcement on their home page that said they would sue the President for his policies surrounding the Bear’s Ears National Monument. In 2011, Patagonia’s controversial campaign “Don’t Buy This Jacket” acknowledged the environmental costs of their products.

Define your brand voice

Once you uncover the personality of the brand, and who you’ll be speaking to, then you can define the brand voice. So, what is brand voice? Brand voice is a combination of what the brand is saying (the message), how the brand saying it (the tone), and why the brand saying it (the purpose).

Brand identity guidelines are common. Brands will develop entire books on appropriate uses of logo, color, typography, etc. … but what’s often missing is a guide on how to communicate the message. How brands speak is equally as important as how they look. Eric adds, “Continuity of voice is an absolute; it’s critical that it lives in every channel and touchpoint internally and externally.” Establishing one editorial voice and a guide on brand communication will lead to consistency; consistency will lead to memory, and memory will lead to strong positioning for your brand.

Establishing one editorial voice and a guide on brand communication will lead to consistency; consistency will lead to memory, and memory will lead to strong positioning for your brand.

Adjust your tone of voice, as needed

While your brand voice remains consistent as an identifiable part of your personality, the tone of your voice can vary depending on the situation. Think back to your brand as a person; while our personalities might largely remain intact, we all have emotional highs and lows. If we’re making a presentation at an industry event or mingling with coworkers at a happy hour, our conversation and tone adjusts to those circumstances. Yet, we’re still the same person with the same personality. Likewise, your brand can adjust its tone for different types of communications:

  • Brand stories might have an inspiring and sincere tone to help develop emotional bonds to your customers
  • Educational product information might have a down-to-earth and friendly tone to describe how a product or service can benefit your life
  • Policy statements might be direct with straight-forward language to help make them immediately understandable while avoiding legal jargon

These types of messages are all coming from the same “mouth” – all from one brand. But because they are very different types of messages, the tone in which they’re delivered can vary.

Connect to your brand purpose

Everything communicated through the brand’s voice must connect back to the brand’s purpose. Why does your brand exist in the world? Besides selling your product or service, what drives your brand, and what do you stand for? As Mare suggests:

A brand’s purpose comes from deep within. It isn’t pressured, pushed on, or made up… it comes from the passion from the founding of the brand. A brand’s voice embodies that essence.

All communications are opportunities to reinforce this message and drive greater loyalty to your brand through your purpose – not necessarily your products. After all, if your messaging isn’t aligning with your brand’s purpose, what are you really saying?

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Need help finding or developing your brand voice? Get in touch with us.

Adjust your tone of voice, as needed

While your brand voice remains consistent as an identifiable part of your personality, the tone of your voice can vary depending on the situation. Think back to your brand as a person; while our personalities might largely remain intact, we all have emotional highs and lows. If we’re making a presentation at an industry event or mingling with coworkers at a happy hour, our conversation and tone adjusts to those circumstances. Yet, we’re still the same person with the same personality. Likewise, your brand can adjust its tone for different types of communications:

  • Brand stories might have an inspiring and sincere tone to help develop emotional bonds to your customers
  • Educational product information might have a down-to-earth and friendly tone to describe how a product or service can benefit your life
  • Policy statements might be direct with straight-forward language to help make them immediately understandable while avoiding legal jargon

These types of messages are all coming from the same “mouth” – all from one brand. But because they are very different types of messages, the tone in which they’re delivered can vary.

Connect to your brand purpose

Everything communicated through the brand’s voice must connect back to the brand’s purpose. Why does your brand exist in the world? Besides selling your product or service, what drives your brand, and what do you stand for? As Mare suggests:

A brand’s purpose comes from deep within. It isn’t pressured, pushed on, or made up… it comes from the passion from the founding of the brand. A brand’s voice embodies that essence.

All communications are opportunities to reinforce this message and drive greater loyalty to your brand through your purpose – not necessarily your products. After all, if your messaging isn’t aligning with your brand’s purpose, what are you really saying?

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Need help finding or developing your brand voice? Get in touch with us.

Published Feb 20, 2018