July 18, 2023

How to Create Your Brand Voice Guidelines

Understand the importance of brand voice and how you can ensure your content resonates with audiences.

Developing an effective brand marketing strategy is a great way to supercharge your customer base and grow your business. As well as building loyalty and trust in your clients, an easily recognizable brand identity represents the character, vision, and ethos of your business. In the long term, this identity will help you reach target audiences and distinguish your business from competitors. 
So, what does successful brand marketing involve? As well as developing a striking logo and visual identity, you’ll need to maintain a unique and compelling brand voice. A brand voice represents the unique personality and tone you’ll need to use in your company’s customer-facing communications, including social media posts, website content, marketing emails, advertisements, product descriptions, and messages to customers. Maintaining a consistent style of language, vocabulary, and grammar across these channels will ensure customers enjoy a consistent user experience with your brand and will want to come back for more. 
Of course, you’ll need to ensure your brand tone and messaging align with the needs of your target audience(s). Say, for example, you want to target a tech-savvy, Gen-Z audience. These customers will benefit from a casual, playful tone that speaks to their youthful nature and keeps up with the latest trends. A luxury brand, on the other hand, will need to employ a more sophisticated tone to convince customers that its goods and services are worth a significant investment. 
Maintaining a robust brand identity and tone of voice can get tricky if you have multiple team members creating marketing content. After all, everyone has their own preferences regarding style and grammar. Fortunately, you can help marketers and copywriters produce consistent and compelling across various channels by developing brand voice guidelines. 

How to create your brand’s tone of voice in five steps

Wondering how to help content creators nail your brand's voice? The following steps will help your team build deep connections with potential customers and prevent them from defecting to competitor brands:
1. Identify your audience
It’s virtually impossible to generate coherent brand voice guidelines without identifying your target audience. Start by analyzing your existing customer base, identifying common demographic groups that account for age, gender, occupation, income level, education, location, and more. 
If you’re unsure about who is engaging with your brand, conduct market research such as customer surveys and interviews. As well as asking questions about their needs and core values, it’s worth asking them to provide feedback about your existing content. Does the brand voice speak to their needs, and what aspects would they tweak? Similarly, is there anything your competitors are doing that would help you create a unique brand voice? 
Once you’ve collected enough information about your customers and competitors, you can develop buyer personas – detailed, fictional representations of your ideal customers. Say, for example, your target audience members are young parents living in middle-class areas. One buyer persona could be a young, working mom with a couple of kids and a part-time job. Perhaps she’s college-educated and is interested in building her professional career while spending time with her kids. What are her primary motivations, challenges, preferences, and purchasing behaviors? And how does your brand improve her life? Addressing these questions will help you develop an empathetic, relatable brand voice with which customers will connect. Just remember to create as many buyer personas as necessary and refine your audience profile as your brand grows and evolves. 
2. Define your mission and traits
Defining your company’s primary mission and traits will help you develop coherent brand messaging that ensures your marketing campaigns resonate with target audiences. Start by crafting a short manifesto or mission statement that encapsulates the purpose of your brand, the problems it solves, and the value you provide to customers. Keep it clear and inspiring, motivating content creators to develop content that meets your audience’s needs.
Next, you can start defining your brand personality. Think of your brand as a person and identify its key personality traits. Is it witty? Cheeky? Empathetic? An avid user of emojis? Remember to include these personality traits in your style guide, providing several examples. 
3. Describe what those traits mean to your brand
There’s no point in assigning personality traits for the sake of it. When creating brand voice guidelines, explaining the reasoning behind your choices will help content creators make sense of your company story and develop compelling narratives that reinforce your brand personality. For example, if your primary personality traits are innovation and professionalism, you’re probably interested in reaching a skilled and ambitious career-oriented demographic. Perhaps you’re also interested in pushing the boundaries of your industry and asserting your brand as a maverick pioneer. Explaining this aim will ensure everything in your marketing strategy aligns with defined goals.
4. Make a ‘Dos’ and ‘Don’ts’ list
Writing a list of ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ represents one of the clearest ways to tell content creators what you’re looking for and help them avoid mistakes. Key questions to ask yourself when creating this list include:
  • What’s your stance on humor? Will your audience appreciate light humor or even strong sarcasm?
  • Can writers use jargon or acronyms? If your audience is highly skilled, they may understand technical language. If your audience is very general, simple language is more appropriate. 
  • Are there any grammatical issues you would like writers to avoid? Many brands discourage the use of overly long sentences, excessive exclamation marks, and too much use of the passive voice.
  • Are there any grammar and language conventions you would like writers to follow? Remember to include rules surrounding capitalization, sentence structure, and punctuation. For example, some brands prefer to use the Oxford comma, while others avoid it. Some brands use sentence case for their article headings, while others use title case. Setting out these rules will ensure your copywriting looks consistent and professional.
5. Establish a message architecture
A message architecture is a template designed to structure the communication of your brand’s primary messages, ensuring consistent and effective copywriting that supports your overall brand marketing strategy. Most message architectures include:
  • A value proposition that encompasses your company’s core values and what you offer customers.
  • Key messages that convey this value proposition, including your brand’s features and benefits.
  • The story of your brand, providing the context underlying its purpose and mission.
  • Customer pain points and solutions that help writers align their messaging with customer motivations and position the brand as a provider of solutions.
  • Differentiation guidelines that explain what sets your brand apart from competitors.

Main difference between brand voice and tone of voice

Your content should always convey your distinctive brand values and personality in a way that customers will recognize. However, maintaining a consistent brand voice doesn’t mean all your communications should sound exactly the same. So, what’s the difference between brand voice vs. tone? 
In short, brand voice encapsulates the personality and character of your brand across various channels and touchpoints. It guides the brand’s communications strategy and helps establish a cohesive company identity. Tone of voice, on the other hand, is a subcategory of brand voice that may change in specific contexts. For example, the tone of voice may adjust the style or language of the brand voice to create the desired emotional response in the audience or convey a particular message. 
So, you can modify the brand tone of voice to suit certain situations. For example, an email to a customer about their order will require a more formal tone than a promotional paid advertisement. As such, it’s worth providing guidelines for different channels and purposes, such as:
1. Social media
If your brand voice is friendly and tailored for young people, you may wish to employ a highly conversational tone on platforms such as Facebook and TikTok. Using emojis, slang, and colloquial language could make your brand feel authentic and encourage people to reach out to your social media team. 
Naturally, there are certain platforms where this language could be deemed inappropriate, such as LinkedIn. For the most part, however, even highly professionalized and/or luxury brands can afford to adopt a slightly less formal tone on social media. If your voice is authoritative and sophisticated, loosening your brand guidelines to incorporate exclamation marks and conversational phrases could make your brand more relatable.
2. Customer service communications
Regardless of your brand voice, customer service communications should adopt a professional and empathetic tone that makes the audience feel valued. Using clear, concise, and professional language will avoid confusing customers and help you get to the bottom of their concerns or issues. Remember to acknowledge their emotions and frustrations, assuring them that you will go the extra mile to deliver excellent customer service. Of course, if your brand voice is tailored to young or creative types, you can feel free to inject a little humor or zest into these messages. Just remember to keep it light to avoid annoying your loyal base!
3. Advertising and promotional materials
The tone of voice you use in advertising and promotional materials should align closely with your core brand personality. Whatever your sector or purpose, however, you should always remember to keep your tone clear and persuasive, including a compelling call to action that encourages your audience to invest in your brand. 
Frustratingly, advertising and promotional materials are often the trickiest to get right. As such, it’s worth keeping close track of the success of your advertising campaigns, gathering feedback from your audiences to evaluate the efficacy of the tone of voice. 

Examples of strong brand voices

If you’re wondering what a successful brand voice looks like in action, take a look at these distinctive examples for inspiration:
1. Slack
Known for its kooky brand name and self-deprecating voice, Slack is the perfect example of a B2B business that has embraced its silly side while keeping things professional and helpful – a tricky feat to pull off! 
Slack manages to convey its unique value proposition as an effective professional communications platform while appealing to workers’ more cynical sides. For example, a recent ad campaign made jokes about how many hours people spend in boring meetings and wading through email inboxes – relatable issues that it promises to fix. In laying bare the less glamorous aspects of working life, Slack puts forward an authentic identity committed to fixing real problems.
2. Mailchimp
Again, Mailchimp has been shaking up the B2B space by adopting a straightforward brand voice that rejects business jargon. The company’s value proposition is to make email marketing as simple and accessible as possible. As such, its brand voice reflects these goals and aims to make the user experience as stress-free as possible.
3. Wendy’s 
Embracing one of the sassiest brand voices on the market, fast food outlet Wendy’s has gained notoriety on Twitter (in a good way!). The brand calls out competitors with hilarious takedowns, almost adopting the tone of schoolyard bullies. While this approach may seem risky, it seems to have worked for Wendy’s, especially as they’re roasting large companies rather than people. If you’re going to take a risky approach, remember to punch up, not down!  

Develop a compelling brand voice

Brand voice matters! As such, you must spend time and effort researching your audience and competitors. Once you’ve ascertained your goals, you’ll need to maintain an up-to-date set of guidelines that clearly define your brand strategy and allow any writer to create content ready to publish. 
We recognize that developing a comprehensive marketing strategy can be tricky. Fortunately, Maven is here to teach you the tricks of the trade and ensure you become the best brand marketer in your sector. Why not take our Product Marketing Bootcamp to enhance your product launches and reach new audiences? If social media is more your thing, our Social Media Strategies course delivers need-to-know hints and tips for building a strong presence across multiple platforms.
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