Technology has made it easier to start a business, build a product, and grow an audience. While that has made entering a field with your product easier, it has made standing out in that field much harder.
In a world where information, products and advancements can be easily matched by competition, brand personality matters a lot more. It can be a defensive moat that, once cultivated, is hard to replicate in an authentic way. But brand voice isn't just something you can turn on. It has to be researched, developed and systematized across your company's style guide and culture.
If you are unsure of your company's brand voice or find that it is unevenly executed across your company's marketing and communications, this guide will help you develop and fortify it.
What is Brand Voice?
Brand voice is the distinct personality and tone that companies use in their communications, including marketing messaging, social media posts, and customer service interactions. It should create a unique and memorable identity that resonates with its target audience.
Consistency is key for a brand voice to reinforce a business's values, vision, and mission, inspire customer trust, likability, and loyalty. Employing a well-defined brand voice can help companies stand out in digital interactions, connect with customers in a meaningful way, and be a reliable guide for employees.
Why Does Brand Voice Matter?
In an era of generative AI, where it's easier than ever to create content and communicate information, brand voice and personality takes on new importance. A strong brand voice helps to distinguish your company from competitors and quickly communicate what it stands for. It also helps to build trust among customers, providing them with a sense of familiarity and comfort when engaging with your business.
Examples of consumer companies with a strong brand voice.
Apple has maintained a consistent brand voice since its inception in 1976. The company's brand messaging emphasizes simplicity and minimalism, which is reflected in its products, marketing materials, and customer service interactions.
Apple's brand personality is professional yet playful, and it uses both technical precision and creative flair to convey its message.
Dove's brand voice was first truly developed under its Real Beauty campaign, a long-standing brand campaign which focuses on empowering women and celebrating self-love. The brand's messaging is inclusive, body positive and encourages individuals to accept themselves for who they are.
Dove uses optimistic language and visuals that emphasize beauty in all forms, not just the narrow standard of perfection perpetuated by most modern beauty brands.
Taking its first flight in 2000, JetBlue needed to stand out as a new entrant to an established field of airlines including American Airlines and United. It did so by taking a decidedly distinct tone in its marketing. JetBlue's brand voice is distinctly different from its competitors in the aviation industry.
Created in 2000, JetBlue's marketing strategy sought to make the company stand out as a new entrant in an established field of airlines such as American Airlines and United. JetBlue's brand voice is marked by a playful, witty, and approachable tone that reflects its company's innovative and adventurous nature.
JetBlue's brand messaging often emphasizes their exceptional customer service, which is conveyed through optimistic language and visuals. Their marketing campaigns encapsulate their playful brand personality, featuring bright colors and bold statements, which have helped to define the company's unique identity.
Through developing a strong brand voice, JetBlue has managed to stand out in a highly competitive industry, earn customer trust, loyalty, and admiration while also setting a benchmark for brand personality and authenticity in the aviation sector.
Examples of B2B companies with a strong brand voice.
The brand voice of Maximum Effort, an advertising agency founded by Ryan Reynolds, is a reflection of the actor's wit and humor, which is apparent in the agency's name itself. The brand voice is irreverent, playful, and often self-deprecating, which allows the agency to connect with its audience in a more personal and relatable manner.
Maximum Effort's brand personality emphasizes creativity, risk-taking, and a willingness to push boundaries to deliver exceptional results.
Boston Dynamics is a technology company known for creating advanced robots. The company's brand voice is characterized by its scientific and innovative nature. Boston Dynamics' messaging focuses on its cutting-edge engineering and robotics technology, which is evident in its product design and impressive capabilities.
The company's brand personality is serious, professional and technical in tone, emphasizing its expertise in robotics and engineering.
Known for its email marketing products, Mailchimp's brand voice is creative and inviting, which is reflected in its colorful, playful design and messaging. The brand's quirky and fun tone resonates with its audience, making it appealing to small businesses, entrepreneurs, and creative professionals.
Mailchimp's messaging emphasizes simplicity and ease-of-use, which is evident in its platform's user-friendly interface and step-by-step guides.
Steps to Developing Your Brand Voice
Developing your company's distinct personality is no simple task, but there are a few steps you can take to ensure success.
1. Start with a clear brand positioning and differentiation.
Aligning your company around a brand positioning architecture is a critical precursor to developing your brand voice. Don't just select a playful tone because you like the sound of it, select a playful brand tone because it's the best fit for the audience you're going after and the most differentiated tone from alternatives in the field.
A typical brand positioning statement has the following clearly identified areas:
- Your target audience
- Their biggest problem or pain point
- Your solution to that problem
- Why your solution is better for that audience than any other alternatives in the field
2. Audit your existing website and successful content for any brand voice that is already occurring in your writing and design.
Even though it may not be consistent, odds are your most successful content already has an underlying tone. Use a free tool like FindYourVoice.ai to help surface those tones to give you a starting place.
- Select a brand voice that reinforces your audience's needs and your differentiation. If you sell security software, know that your audience is looking for brands they can trust. So demonstrating trustworthiness in the way you speak, create and design is key. That said, there is more than one way to convey trustworthiness so you don't need to sound like every other security software out there (and you shouldn't). If your nearest competitor establishes trust by speaking formally and professionally so as to show sophistication as "the trusted expert", you may want your brand voice to be more approachable so as to be "the trusted friend."
- Develop some deliberate range within your brand voice: The best and most defensible brand voice has some depth to it. It is more complex than a single trait like "formal" or "casual". Typically a brand voice is an overlap of a few different key tones that together make a piece of content sound like your brand's values and positioning. These layers can serve to balance each other out or give you some range to adapt to different channels and campaigns. For example, generative AI company Jasper describes its brand voice as the intersection of Pioneering, Practical and Playful. We'll dissect this more in the next section.
- Communicate your brand positioning and voice internally. Go on a roadshow within your company to share the new positioning and brand voice when you first formalize it. Incorporate your brand positioning and brand voice into onboarding materials for any new employee. Put editorial checks in place in your content development process to make sure the brand voice. Store a central style guide and brand positioning document where anyone in the company or any vendors that work with your company can access it. Finally, if you use a generative AI platform, upload your style guide and brand voice into the tool so even your AI-assisted content sounds authentic to your brand.
- Audit your existing content and gradually update it to your new established brand voice. Typically brands will cut over new content and key pages along the purchase path to the new brand voice first and then clean up older content as a longer-term project. You can evaluate the best pace for your company and audience.
- Establish the different scenarios in which you would use different aspects of your brand voice. Even within a core established brand voice, you'll need some variance for different scenarios and channels. Your crisis communications should be the clearest and most helpful form of your brand voice possible. Your social channels may be able to be more relaxed while still sounding cohesive with your onsite content. Figure out and document the spectrum of when you emphasize different level of abstraction in your brand voice as a final step.
Dissecting a Brand Voice: Jasper
Jasper is a generative AI platform that helps marketing teams keep up with content demands without losing their brand voice. Let's take a look at our own brand voice as an example and be transparent about what went into it.
Jasper was one of the earliest generative AI applications and among the first to tailor AI specifically for marketing. In addition to being proud of that history, Jasper is in a field that is rapidly evolving with new capabilities every day. Maintaining that sense of fascination and early adoption in the ways that we build the product and in the manner in which we communicate is paramount to our brand.
The downside to a pioneering brand is that it can get so far into the future that it loses touch with its audience. While there is a ton you can do creatively with AI, Jasper has always built its product to be practical for businesses. So we ground our pioneering tone in a sense of practicality. In practice that means helping to demystify terms like autogpt and explain complex concepts simply like intellectual property.
Playful helps us speak to people, like people. AI needs human perspective, human judgment and yes, human tones. In much of our content we reflect the creativity and wonder of this space, and the humanity that should always accompany it, by being playful in our tone at times.
Adapting to different scenarios
Having these overlapping tones allows us to have some range, being more playful in social content, more pioneering in keynote speeches, and more practical in our customer communications. Often we are leveraging the intersection of two of the three tones for our perfect brand voice.
Integrating brand voice into our tools
We have uploaded our brand voice into our AI platform to help make sure the full company is trained on it as well, so no matter where we're creating content, we can speak as one brand.
Developing a strong and distinctive brand voice is key to standing out in a competitive field. It takes research, planning and dedication to create a brand voice that accurately reflects your company's values and resonates with your target audience. With clear direction, alignment among employees, and thoughtful execution across channels and platforms, you can create an authentic and memorable identity that sets your business apart.
Once you have established a strong brand voice, take the time to measure, audit, and refine it over time to ensure that your message is consistent and effective across channels. Doing so will help you build trust with customers, inspire loyalty, and develop an enduring connection with them.