The branding vs advertising discussion is long and summons questions like “what is content marketing and why is it important” but before diving into these topics, it’s better if we dissect what branding is. And on the topic of branding, one element often gets left out: brand voice. However, the top content marketing companies – no, any competent digital agency – will provide you with clear brand voice guidelines.
Brand voice (or brand tone of voice) is how your brand sounds to the world. Without a consistent your brand will sound like every generic one out there without a unique personality; you will not be able to build customer loyalty or reach the right audience
Before you start receiving deliverables from your content marketing agency, you need clear guidelines. While developing brand voice guidelines, these are the elements that you absolutely need to have well defined:
Think of your brand as a character from your favorite novel, and of your brand voice as how this person speaks. Do they drop complex word every other sentence? Do they use the slang of a specific locale? Or maybe are they likely curse and use edgy language?
Obviously, you do not need to assemble an entire dictionary of allowed and disallowed words. However, there will always be a set of words more common with your brand than others. There will also be a specific style that resonates with your audience.
Collect and write down the words and phrases that form a theme for your brand’s communication. Choose the words and style that match your audience’s best.
Here’s an example: without getting into how to create a buyer persona, we established how we want to represent Gold’s Gym Elite San Stefano and how we helped them choose how to communicate across all their digital platforms. Our dictionary included words and themes that reflected the brand and its customers. The words “Elite,” “Fire,” and “Challenge” among others topped our list, and we were not scared of dipping into slang. This dictionary worked fantastically because a) it is inspired by our audience and b) because the predictable vocabulary gave our brand voice a good sense of relatability.
Technical Copy Rules
Speaking of consistency, nothing breaks the immersion you create for your audiences more than uneven copy rules. Every message you send that feels similar to the last, convinces the reader a bit more that they are talking with the same person.
Keep a clear log of the structure and style of your writing by defining:
- Headline capitalization
- Punctuation usage
- Formatting and spacing
- Usage of emojis and symbols
“What makes a brand best in class?
40% say memorable content
32% say compelling storytelling
33% say distinct personality”
A clear brand voice instructs who speaks to who. The pronouns your brand uses to reference itself and its customers reflect your positioning.
Choose the pronouns you will be using consistently across different communication platforms when referring to your company (we, us, etc. vs. the company, ABC corporation) as well as your audience (you vs customers/clients).
For example, choosing to refer to your company in the first person (we, us, our, etc.) paints your brand in a more personable and direct – like talking to a person or a group of people. The opposite is also true, talking to your audience in third person can be perceived as detached and more general.
When referencing your audience you can choose the second person (you) or third person (our customers, clients, etc.) to choose between an engaging tone and a more formal distanced one. I am writing this article in the first and second person, for example, to make it obvious I’m talking directly to you, the reader.
Word and Sentence Length
There are a million ways to deliver the same meaning. Some people explain in detail, others like it short and sweet. It’s all a part of our unique and quirky personalities. Likewise, the tone of voice of a brand must have a consistent personality when it comes to how you deliver meaning.
Is your brand voice that of a story teller, or a teaser? Is it elegantly quiet, or does it reflect a bigger-than-life personality?
Determine how long your pieces need to be for each type of media (blogs, social media, creative ads, etc..) as well as the average sentence length.
One more thing: The average easily readable written sentence is about 20 words long. In the context of social media, that might be a huge sentence. So, adjust your word length and sentence length to reflect your image minding the differences between the different channels.
Consistency is Key
Consistency and continuity are all brand voice is about. It is too easy to create a brand voice guideline then find your brand elements being ignored by your new creative advertising agency. While updating brand voice and brand elements, in general, is advisable from time to time, maintaining continuity is invaluable.