Whether you’re developing a personal brand or you’re trying to develop a corporate brand, you need a strong, consistent brand voice if you want to get the best results. When most people think of a brand, they think of a logo or specific colors, like the Golden arches or red/gold coloration of McDonald’s restaurants. However, a brand is much more than that—it’s a complete set of characteristics that comprise your brand’s identity. How that identity is perceived by your audience can shape your potential interactions dramatically—for better or for worse—so you need to make sure your “voice” is in line with your other brand standards.
The trouble is, a voice is intangible. Unlike a logo, which can be drawn and externalized, a brand voice is hard to create and embody. Fortunately, I’ve had more than a little experience in this area, and I’ve developed a handful of stupid tricks you can use to flesh out your brand voice in greater detail.
How to Build a Brand Voice
First, you need to know what your brand voice actually is, so let’s start at the ground level. There are only a few things you need to know to start building a brand voice:
- Know your customers. First, you need to know who your audience is so you can speak to them directly. How old are they? Are they men or women? Where do they live? How educated are they? What do they like and dislike? This should dictate a number of qualities about your voice; for example, you wouldn’t use the same level of vocabulary for someone of high education than you would for someone of low education.
- Know your competitors. This may seem strange at first, but you also need to know what your competitors’ voices are like. On one level, this can provide you some degree of inspiration; how do they talk to your shared audience? On another level, this can help you differentiate yourself; how is your brand voice going to be different?
- Know yourself. Think about what your brand is, and what it means to you personally. What do you “feel” about your brand? What kinds of intrinsic qualities help you consider your brand in your own mind?
- The big question: what makes you uniquely appealing? All these considerations can be boiled down to one big question—what is it that makes your brand one, appealing, and two, unique? These are the characteristics you should focus on when sketching out your brand voice.
With these bits of information in mind, start making a list of all the different characteristics you think your brand would embody. Are you formal or informal? Funny or serious? Masculine or feminine? Welcoming or elite? These are just introductory considerations; feel free to explore this as robustly as you can.
Some Ridiculous Exercises
I’ve found that a simple list of brand qualities doesn’t help you find or wield an actual “voice,” the tone and vocabulary you use for your brand. That’s why these exercises are valuable:
- Create a fictional character for your brand. This is the most fun I’ve had in the branding process. Here, instead of thinking of your brand as a “brand,” you’re going to think of your brand as a fictional character. This is great if you’re into creative writing at all. Start outlining your character, giving him/her a name, a list of identifiers, and even a background. What does this person like? What do they dislike? What kinds of people do they usually hang around with? Over time, your sketch will become more detailed, and your character will start popping off the page. You’ll get to know your brand on a personal level, and eventually, you’ll be able to pinpoint quirks of phrasing that sound like (or unlike) this character you’ve created. This is a great baseline for your overall brand voice, and it’s something you can refer to whenever you get stuck on how to present yourself.
- Translate your favorite pop culture lines into your brand voice. My first exercise was all about cementing your brand voice in a semi-tangible way. This exercise is about practicing the execution of your brand voice. Here, you’ll make a list of some of your favorite lines of dialogue, excerpts, and passages from pop culture, preferably spoken by well-written fictional characters. Then, you’ll work on “translating” that list through the voice of your new brand. This can take some getting used to, especially because the lines you choose probably won’t have much to do with your industry, but it will be fun—and it will be a good challenge that forces you to think outside the box. For example, Don Corleone has a suggestive, distant, yet authoritative way of speaking: “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” dopplepop, on the other hand, speaks bluntly, conversationally, and with a tinge of humor: “I’m about to intimidate the shit out of him.”
- Role play with “customers.” You’ve got your brand “character” sketched out already, so why not put your acting chops to the test? Find a coworker or colleague and together, sketch out a character for your “average customer.” Hopefully, you already have a handful of customer personas you can draw from. Have your colleague role play as a customer, while you role play as your brand. Experiment with different scenarios, some real and some imagined, to see the dynamics between the two. This will help you get “in the head” of both your customer and your brand for future reference.
Hopefully, you’ve found some use from my admittedly silly brand voice exercises. Despite the playful and informal nature of these exercises, creating and maintaining a consistent voice truly is important for your brand, so don’t take it lightly. If you need some help getting started, or if you need an experienced professional to help you apply your voice in some stellar content, be sure to contact us at dopplepop.