Establishing a brand is essential to effective marketing, whether traditional or digital. However, memorable branding isn’t always easy to create. Plus, the proliferation of digital channels has made it even harder for any one brand to set itself apart.
In the fight for brand differentiation, brand voice is a key element. To shape a unique and competitive brand identity, you must define a brand voice- and a consistent one at that.
Brand voice and brand tone
Brand voice is the foundation of your brand’s verbal identity. Voice is the overarching personality that comes through in your marketing, communications, and advertising. Crafting a consistent brand voice involves setting standards for word choice, writing style, and humor (or lack thereof).
Your brand voice determines whether your content employs slang and colloquialisms (think: most fast-food companies on Twitter) or professional, to-the-point wording (think: Intercom). It also determines whether your brand personality is friendly (like Payless), clever (like Dollar Shave Club), snarky (like Cards Against Humanity), or something else entirely.
Brand voice and brand tone are not the same. Tone allows your brand to adjust its voice to convey a particular message or mood in a particular context.
Like a person, a brand should have a clear self-image and convey consistent ideas about what it values and what it has to offer. But also like a person, a brand should change its tone to be appropriate to the situation.
If a brand were to vacillate between different voices, consumers would be confused about what the brand represents and might not recognize it from one interaction to the next. On the other hand, if a brand never adjusts its tone, it risks being irrelevant at best or offensive at worst.
Varying your brand tone from one media channel to another can keep your content on point without appearing to be in the throes of an identity crisis.
Importance of a consistent brand voice
Despite the difficulty of maintaining consistency, there are several benefits to doing so.
Strong first impressions: As the saying goes, you only get one. A consistent brand voice lets consumers absorb your brand quickly and easily, allowing you to capture attention in the few seconds before the consumer chooses to keep scrolling.
Brand recognition: Your brand voice should lead consumers to subconsciously connect certain words, ideas, and emotions with your brand. Shifts in brand voice may cause confusion about your brand identity, preventing consumers from ever making that emotional connection. In contrast, a consistent brand voice makes a brand memorable, sticking in the consumers’ minds until they’re ready to make a purchase.
A competitive edge: In the digital age, brands face ever more competition for consumer attention, interaction, and loyalty. Your brand voice is your chance to quickly and persuasively tell consumers why your brand is different (and better) than every other brand out there.
Customer loyalty: When a brand voice is ever-changing, it loses the opportunity to prove to consumers that they can trust the brand to understand their pain points and reliably deliver solutions. A consistent brand voice convinces consumers that the brand is living up to the company’s mission and following through on its promises to the customer.
Company confidence: An authentic, dependable brand voice can inspire employees to more fully buy-in to the company culture and vision. Moreover, maintaining a clear and consistent brand will give your marketing team confidence in your brand strategy over time and across channels. When your team is confident in who you are, your customers will take notice.
Challenges of brand voice
Maintaining voice while adjusting tone is not easy, though. In the digital age, there is pressure to constantly churn out content. This pressure can lead content writers to fall back on their own personal voices for the sake of immediacy. With members of the team interpreting brand voice in their own ways, brand managers are left scrambling to unify the disparate messages the business is creating.
That being said, different media require different messaging approaches and writing styles. The way you write a tweet should be different from the way you write a landing page, which should be different from the way you write a white paper, and so on. Yet knowing how to apply brand voice for such different media requires great skill, patience, and experience.
Even for large brands with lengthy branding guidelines, marketers struggle. Trying to funnel 70+ pages of brand guidelines into a single Instagram caption can tempt even the most talented professionals to throw in the (appropriately branded) towel.
Striking the balance: an example
Take Seamless as an example. Their website uses simple, clear, and friendly language to convey company values of convenience, comfort, and unapologetically enjoying food. Here’s a quote from the “About Us” section of the website:
On Twitter, however, Seamless produces content with more humor, adapting to the platform even while maintaining its friendly personality and embodying its same values. Here are a few examples:
In these tweets, Seamless shifts from the casual, helpful tone of its website to a humorous and rather silly one. This adjustment allows Seamless to employ the kind of dry humor that is characteristic of Twitter in an authentic way, effectively connecting the brand and its values to cultural references and consumer emotions. While these jokes would be irrelevant on the website, where consumers mostly just want general information, they attract Twitter users who want to laugh and appreciate clever memes. On both its website and its Twitter account, though, Seamless maintains a laidback, self-assured, and empathetic voice, which allows the brand to vary its tone in ways that appear genuine to loyal customers.
In one last example, Seamless further proves its skill in adjusting its tone to context:
Here, consumers would have swiftly rejected a humorous tone as offensive and ill-fitting. Seamless correctly chose a more serious tone for this tweet, all while sticking to its confident, compassionate, and personable brand voice.
Seamless executes a strategy that other brands should adopt in their own ways: proving to consumers that it can adapt to different contexts while staying true to its brand voice.
When marketing professionals talk about the importance of finding your voice, it’s not some life coach cliché. A successful, long-term brand strategy requires a successful, long-term brand voice.