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How to find your brand voice

November 28, 2023

Elise Johnston

By Elise Johnston, Director, Strategy and Content, Breakout Studio

  • Insights
Brand Voice

What is brand voice, and why is it important?

The way your brand communicates with your customers—from your leading messages to the tone and style of your written voice–is foundational to how users (and the market) perceive your intentions and the quality of your products or services. Here, I’ll guide you through a brief exercise to help you and your team start thinking about these concepts in relation to your own content.

Defining brand voice
When we talk about brand voice in the marketing world, we’re often grouping a few distinct elements together: voice, tone, and messaging. Although tightly intertwined, it’s helpful to unravel these components as you begin to think about defining your own brand identity. 

Let’s first think about a brand or an organization as a real person engaged in a conversation. Their message is the content of what they’re saying—the facts and information they’re conveying to the other person. Their voice is the manner in which they convey this information—the specific word choice, mannerisms, and cadence they’re using to support their message. It’s what makes this person sound like themself. Their tone is more about attitude—how do they view the person they’re talking to, and how does that impact the conversation?

The same definitions can be applied to a brand’s personality. A brand’s message is the core information about what they do, their voice is the character they use to convey it, and their tone is their attitude toward their audience. Every brand has a voice, whether intentional or unintentional, and an effective brand voice takes some introspective, strategic planning. 

When should you be thinking about brand voice as part of the branding process?
Consider a full exploration of voice and messaging early in the branding process, alongside and in connection to the development of your visual identity. At Breakout, we also recommend periodic monitoring of web and print materials for all of our clients to ensure that their team is continuing to present the brand clearly and consistently across all relevant content.

An exercise for finding your own brand voice

Here’s a simple branding exercise to help you and your team better understand your brand’s current voice and determine how you want to shape that voice to match your goals. It’s important to gather a small team together for this exercise. This process is typically improved by group discussion among team members who know your brand best.

1. Explore brands you like.
Begin by making a list of brands you like. This isn’t just about comparing yourself to your competitors. The goal at this first step is to consider why you connect with some brands more than others. Visit websites or open a few marketing emails from companies that stand out. Clothing, tech, sports, wellness, restaurants. Read their messaging and ask yourself how you would describe their voice. How does their branding make you feel? Intrigued? Empowered? Safe? Curious? Take note.

2. What if your brand were a person? A dog breed? A city? Describe it. 
These are some of our favorite questions to ask our clients during the branding process. The answers always surprise us, and the discussion they spark can help a team find unexpected insights. Is your organization a cool older sister or a distinguished professor? Do you have golden retriever energy or are you more of a manicured poodle? Are you Times Square or a sleepy beach town? The answers to these questions can help clarify the way you want your brand to sound and how you want customers to feel when they interact with you.

3. Make a list of the personality descriptors that resonate with your team.
Based on your conversation to this point, make a list of the adjectives or descriptive phrases that stand out to you and your team. This could include words like playful, direct, inviting, academic, joyful, bold, authoritative, encouraging, etc. Do any of the descriptions you’ve identified match your current brand voice? Are there descriptions you want to achieve in the future? As a group, try to pare down the list to no more than five.

4. Consider your audience. 
What do you know about the perceptions and potential misconceptions held by your target audience? What do they need from your business? Based on your user research findings, does your list of personality descriptors match the needs of your audience? Will you be speaking their language? Incorporate these considerations into your list of descriptors. This step is critical for identifying your tone, or your attitude, toward your audience. 

5. Try on a new voice.
Now that you have a sense of the voice and tone you’re striving for, try it out. Write out your company mission statement or a brief description of your products and services. Then, rewrite these statements as if you are the personality defined in the descriptors you’ve identified. How formal or informal can you be? How does your word choice change the tone of your message? 

A branding team with experienced copywriters can help guide this exploration, and even more importantly, can help you codify and implement a strategic brand voice and tone. Ultimately, the key to building an effective brand voice is consistency. Ensuring that every channel and campaign, from web to print, speaks to your audiences with a clear, consistent voice and tone is how your team builds brand presence and recognition among users.

An agency partner to guide you
Identifying and implementing a brand voice that matches who you are and what differentiates you from the competition is a critical component of building an effective brand identity. An agency who can listen well and guide you through this process can be a truly impactful partner. At Breakout Studio, it’s what we do every day.

Our full-scale agency partners with leaders in every industry to rethink and rebuild outstanding, scalable, and effective brands. We’ll help you figure out where you stand in the industry, and we’ll design, write, develop, build, and launch a brand and website that can grow alongside you into the future.

Let’s chat.

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