We engage with hundreds of brands a week, whether online or in-person. Each of those brands has their own voice and tone of voice that draws in a target audience and helps define who they are as a product or service provider. We may not immediately notice brand voices, but they have the power to influence purchase decisions, lifestyle choices, and emotions.
As powerful as a brand voice can be, businesses will want to take extra care in crafting their own brand voices and making sure content, messaging, and the look and feel of their brand are all consistent with their voice.
There are many brands with strong brand voices, some that are so well-crafted they have become synonymous with certain tones of voice. One great example is Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Everything about Harley screams ideas of individuality, freedom, and maybe just a bit of danger and rebelliousness. Their messaging — through advertisements, content, and even branded clothing — all supports this tone of voice.
It has taken the Harley company over a hundred years to solidify their strong brand voice into the global zeitgeist. While your own brand may not be at the level of Harley-Davidson, you can still work towards crafting a brand voice that resonates with your target audience.
Here are some tips to guide you toward finding your own brand’s tone of voice and using that to successfully scale your business and reach the right audience for your product or service.
Think of Your Target Audience
It can be difficult to craft an effective tone of voice if you don’t know who your audience is. If you’re not clued in to what your target audience wants to hear or see, you have no hope of reaching them. You’ll simply be screaming into the void, hoping someone will hear you. Businesses should look at what type of people are most likely to want to use their products or require their services.
Is your target audience busy blue-collar workers who enjoy watching NASCAR on the weekends? If that is the case, the brand voice will be different than if your target audience was upper-crust ladies who lunch. Your audience will guide your brand voice, as it needs to speak to them, and it needs to be something they understand and resonate with.
Understand Your Identity
When we look at brands with strong voices — Nike, Apple, or Starbucks to name a few — they all have something in common: They know who they are. When developing a strong tone of voice for one’s business, understanding the business’s identity is key. Who are you as a business? Are you the champion of the little guy? Are you a laid-back oasis for hard-working corporate types? Perhaps you are a cool, minimalist tech company who can always be counted on to be on the cutting edge.
Whatever your identity may be, it must be identified and understood before a brand voice can come from it. Founders should think about why they started their brand in the first place. What problems did they want to solve and who did they want to serve? Answering questions such as these will help the business find their brand identity and get them closer to creating a brand voice that resonates.
Know Your Team
The people who work for you are part of your brand voice. They are on the front lines of representing your voice, and are often part of why the tone of voice of your brand is what it is. When you think of the employees of certain companies with a strong brand voice, they often have similarities in speech, look, personality, and how they approach their jobs. It’s a part of brand culture that absolutely influences the brand voice.
When you have hired a team, take the time to get to know those people as individuals. Those people will often help guide you, as the founder, to the development of the brand’s tone of voice.
Analyze Past Content
It’s been said that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. This also rings true for brand voice — the best predictor of future brand voice tone is past tone. Take a look at past content, such as blog posts or social media posts, to see if there are words, phrases, images, or a general feel that run consistently throughout the past posts. You may have already formed a brand tone of voice without even realizing it. Those consistencies are your natural brand voice, and if they have been successful in attracting the audience you wish to attract, it should be something that you stick with as a brand.
Your brand voice speaks in a number of ways: through social media, packaging, logos and colors used, and through your products and services. With a well-defined brand voice, you can count on attracting your target audience and define your uniqueness outside of your competition.