How to find your brand voice

Setting the right tone for your business

Hey bae! Ever received an email that sounded totally ‘sus’ from a company you thought was ‘fam?’

Seriously. We’ve all seen them. Those emails that suddenly change their tone overnight to try and capitalise on a trend – the luxury brand using emoticons in its subject lines or the corporate brand jumping on the slang bandwagon.

How did that make you feel? Did it come across as disingenuous? Did it make you think less of the company sending the email?

When your business communicates with its customers, you need to use language that not only conveys your brand’s personality, but that also connects with those customers and makes them feel that as a brand, you share values and understand their needs. The words you use need to back up the story you are selling about your brand and the tone of those words has to appeal to your target audience.

For example, if you are a recruitment business, should you really use text speak to address job candidates in your email campaigns? If you sell fast fashion, you certainly wouldn’t want your email campaigns to come across as stiff and corporate. Your customers simply wouldn’t believe that the communication in either of these instances was genuine.

When brands fail to communicate with customers in an authentic way, they run the risk of alienating their target market. In a recent survey we conducted, 64% of respondents said that they either dislike or hate brands using slang terms like ‘bae’, ‘babes’ and ‘totes’ mainly because they believe that the brands using them are trying too hard to sound like their customers while actually coming across as though these communications are ‘written by a 37-year-old white man’.

Just because your customers speak in a certain way, it does not mean your brand voice should imitate them; instead you need to determine what tone of voice you should use in order to get them to trust you and then use this voice consistently across all communications channels.

How do you create a brand voice?

Your brand voice should be informed both by who you are, and what message you want to convey, and by your audience and what they need from you. Start by answering four simple questions:

  • who are your current audience?
  • Who are your desired audience?
  • what do they need you to be in order to trust you?
  • what do they need you to be in order to notice you in a crowded marketplace?

Once you understand who you’re trying to reach and what they expect, you need to think about who you are as a business and what personality and message you want to convey through your tone and choice of words.

Write down the personality traits you want to convey. For example, are you friendly and professional? Upbeat, youthful and laid-back? Authoritative and straight-talking but approachable?

You should also write down the traits you do not want to convey. So you might be friendly and professional, but never corporate or prone to jargon. Or, you could be authoritative, straight-talking and approachable, but never flippant or comical.

Once you’ve decided on your style, you need to give examples of how the brand voice should sound – as well as some examples of what not to do.

Finally, you need to explain your reasoning. Tell your team exactly how the brand voice you want them to use relates to your overall brand, along with what you’re trying to achieve and why you think it will connect with your audience. This way everybody who is expected to communicate using your brand voice understands exactly how they are meant to speak.

To help you with this process, we’ve created a handy template for you to fill in.

Getting it right for email

Having a strong brand voice is particularly important in your email campaigns because if you can gain the trust of your existing customers you can turn them into advocates. In order to do this, however, they need to develop a personal connection to your brand, which they won’t do if they don’t trust the communication they receive.

Your email communications can establish a long-term relationship and make people feel like they’re having a two-way conversation, especially when you personalise that communication using automation. But if you get the brand voice wrong, they’ll disengage entirely and you will lose them as customers.

Defining your brand voice may sound like a daunting task, but if you understand your brand story and you know your customers then you should be able to develop a meaningful way of communicating with them.

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