WTF is Brand Voice + how do you build yours?
Ahhh brand voice - the thing that confuses the heck out of copywriters + business owners the world over. Brand voice is too often treated as an afterthought… but I’m here to tell you that it should be integral to your overall brand from the start, even if you’re not paying someone to build it for you!
If your copy doesn’t feel right, it’s often down to brand voice – and it’s not just you that’ll notice it’s off but the people reading your copy too, AKA your audience. That’s what we want to avoid here because if it feels off, it can impact your know, like and trust factor and put people off buying. But knowing where to start can be a minefield.
Welcome to Brand Voice 101. Strap in.
First things first… WTF is Brand Voice?
Brand voice is your brand’s personality on paper. It’s how you sound to your audience across all your marketing channels - whether that’s videos on YouTube, captions on IG, or your website - and if you’re doing any marketing at all, you will already have a brand voice. So don’t you wanna be intentional about it?
Trick question - I hope the answer’s yes! (if not, skip to the next section)
Your brand voice is made up of these 4 things:
The words you use
The style of your speech
The tone you use
The length of your sentences
And contrary to many opinions, it’s something that can be measured and analysed, not just a ‘woo’ concept.
So why does brand voice matter?
Your brand voice is a piece of the overall branding puzzle. If you think of your brand as a Jenga tower, you need to have strong foundations for the tower to stay standing. Start taking pieces out and that tower is one step closer to falling, especially if you’re looking at the bottom rows.
So where you have your mission, story, purpose, customer experience, branding colours and fonts, you also need a voice alongside that to complete the base and round off your overall brand personality.
If you miss one of those foundations, it creates a disconnect and any inconsistencies can lead to mistrust. On the flip side, consistent presentation of brands has been seen to increase revenue by 33%, according to Marq, 2019 (formerly Lucidpress).
Have I done enough to convince you it’s important yet? Cool.
Another huge benefit is using it as a way to differentiate yourself from all of your competitors. You won’t have the same genetic makeup, lived experiences etc as anyone else so why shouldn’t your business reflect your uniqueness?
It’s so unlikely your voice will be identical to another business. And if it is, maybe you should consider whether it’s authentic or not.
You want your voice to be recognisable as your brand. It should feel cohesive and make sense with the overall experience a customer has with you, whether they’re a buyer or just someone watching one of your ads.
Here’s your meat and potatoes - some sneaky tips for honing your brand voice
1. Get to know yourself
I'm not talking about an eat pray love self-discovery journey, but understanding how you come across naturally is a great place to start as it’ll make it easier to show up for your business. You want to bring as much of your personality into your copy as possible, so start by understanding how your personality translates on paper.
Ask friends + family - get the people who know you well to describe you in 2 or 3 words. This gives you an idea of what you should try to emulate in your writing so it comes across as authentically you.
Dig through DMs + WhatsApp messages - look at how you write when there’s no pressure to be writing for your business. How do you write to your friends, family and followers? Look for patterns in the language, sentence length and style and note them down. This will be you at your most natural.
Analyse your emails, blog posts, podcasts + social media captions - look at long-form content you’ve written for your business and see what’s got good engagement or sales (or transcribe podcast episodes and analyse these). Look at patterns for how these are written. Does it match how you show up naturally? Make notes on what’s the same and what’s different and again, look for patterns.
2. Get to know your competition
Understanding your competitors and what’s happening in your industry is great for so many things but it can help you figure out your voice too. How are your competitors showing up? Are there any themes? What’s working and what’s not?
Does everyone sound the same and is there an opportunity for you to stand out by being different?
3. Get to know your audience
This is the big one. But looking at your competitors is a great way to get to know your audience too. Look for repeated phrases across your competitors' websites or topics they approach in the same way as each other.
These will likely be phrases or patterns your audience is sick of seeing and they no longer have impact. Change the language and use fresh angles on the same topics to grab your audience’s attention.
It also helps to know what other brands and businesses your audience relate to. What brands are they following or interacting with on IG? You can ask them or do some stalking research.
Again, look for what these brands have in common and how they sound and make notes.
4. Compile your brand voice
Now you’ve got all your notes together, define your voice and how you want to show up, thinking about the language you use, the tone, style and sentence length. And now you have a guide that you can follow every time you (or a contractor) write copy for your business.
Before you start building your brand voice, get to know the 3 big mistakes brands make with their voice and how to avoid them.
This private podcast feed is just 4 short episodes you can download and binge on your break, morning walk or at the gym. You do you!
Good luck. You got this.
Your copy cheerleader,