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Communication Coach: Brand voice is the backbone of your marketing

June 27, 2018 -  By

If your brand were a person, how would you describe its personality to a friend?

Does it have a distinctive voice that people will remember?

Brand voice is a powerful quality because nowadays marketing is an increasingly human experience.

People naturally communicate with human language. And now Google (and other search engines) are using AI to communicate that way, too.

Marketing must still convey useful information with relevant keywords, but it won’t move people to action if it doesn’t get noticed.

Voice is the brand personality

Personalities get noticed.

What are three words that describe your brand personality? Such as:

  • Fun-loving;
  • Analytical; or
  • Earthy-crunchy.

Your customers are a great source for coming up with these attributes.

One of my landscape customers called me a neatnik. It’s a distinctive word that suggests a lot of things, including getting everything just right before calling a job complete. The more I thought about it the more I liked it.

Try this:

  1. Write down three words that capture your brand personality.
  2. Describe what each word means and why that matters for your customers.
  3. List a few meaningful words and phrases that your brand personality might use with customers. Include strong verbs like, to burst (with color or fragrance) or to brighten or sharpen (the appearance of a space).

Congratulations. You’ve just created your Brand Voice and Style Guide.

Keep it handy, update it regularly, and have everyone who touches your marketing use it. It will keep your content true to its signature personality and style.

You should know that few organizations commit to perfecting their brand voice. That’s why it’s always a fresh new voice that catches buyers off guard—and gets the business.

Tone it up or down for the right feeling

Personalities don’t change. They adapt to new situations.

When personalities are not adaptive they are called out as “tone deaf” or out of step with the current political or social climate. You see or hear this a lot these days.

Thus, you’ll always want to consider adjusting the tone of your brand voice to accommodate special circumstances. Be mindful of adapting it to your respective marketing platforms and channels, too.

For example, the brand voice can be light-hearted on a website About page, but it should be respectfully toned-down for an FAQ page where customers may be concerned about resolving issues.

On our tenth wedding anniversary, I surprised my wife with a trip to Martha’s Vineyard. While we were navigating the tourists at the local airport, a casually dressed gentleman in plain clothes, clearly a local, bumped into me as he was hurrying by. “Excuse me, sir,” he said, apologizing as he quickly moved on.

Recognizing that voice I turned around and caught the eye of the actor Christopher Reeve, who used those exact words in the role of Clark Kent in “Superman II.”

You may recall the scene. After an earlier encounter with a bully in a diner, he returns (now with his full powers) to stand his ground.  “Excuse me sir, but I believe you are sitting in my favorite seat.”

In that scene, and in my encounter, Christopher Reeve was a complete gentleman. That was communicated with a voice that was congruent with the words he used.

That’s the power of a distinctive voice. It’s instantly memorable, like a familiar piece of music. And when it adapts to new situations it reinforces the identity of that personal, celebrity or business brand.

According to Ann Handley, author of “Everybody Writes,” “Voice is the backbone of the overall look and feel of your content. It informs the overall experience you deliver to people—even in things we don’t traditionally think of as marketing.”

When it comes to marketing, people usually focus on what they want to say, but we know from countless studies and YouTube videos that it’s how it’s said that matters most.

The classic example of marketing that desperately needs a voice is the corporate mission statement. It lacks the emotion necessary to convince stakeholders that it means what it says.

Maybe that’s a good place for any business to give this a try.

Words are the backbone of your sales, marketing and service communications. That’s a big canvas that offers abundant opportunities for experimentation, tracking and testing.

Have fun with this. It’s the only way to coax out that engaging brand voice.

Follow your instincts, but also trust customer data to inform your communications. Because in the end, it’s customers with direct experience that can most accurately describe the brand voice.

Jeff Korhan

About the Author:

Jeff Korhan is the author of Built-In Social, founder of Landscape Digital Institute, and a Duct Tape Marketing Certified consultant. He helps green industry owners, marketers and sales teams craft and communicate branded customer experiences that sell. Learn more at www.landscapedigitalinstitute.com

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