The brand voice is the persona of a business and the megaphone through which people will hear its story. Determining this voice usually gets lost in the mix of a plethora of other business decisions that need to be made. Even with a solid grasp on the importance of branding, the voice and how to define it aren’t always a top priority. But make no mistake, the voice is a vital strand in any company’s DNA and needs to be nurtured, perfected, and consistent in order to promote a company effectively. You wouldn’t be alone if you admitted that this is the first time you have even heard of the brand voice. But trust me, these four steps deserve your attention:
When Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying”, he must have had branding on the brain. An audience won’t be impacted by the details of your words but instead by the way they are conveyed; how they sound. Do you want your brand to sound aggressive, edgy, and spontaneous? Or, would you like it to sound subdued, patient, and assured? You can have your story perfectly formulated, know exactly what message you want to tell, but without getting the sound right the words will get lost. Remember when you sent that one email before reading it back to yourself? Even though you had good intentions the recipient ended up getting offended by it? This is the same concept.
Dodge Ram found their ideal tone in their recent TV commercials. They stand for masculinity and they can pound on their chest all day, but without the right tone of the message, it is a lost cause and won’t resonate. They needed it to be baritone, preferably with a southern drawl, and a laid back delivery. This is a vehicle for people who like open spaces, who don’t have an agenda; city folks need not apply. They used a familiar cowboy by the name of Sam Elliot. The tone of his voice implies rebel. The pace at which he speaks is slow but unwavering and to the point. Cowboys make you think of tough, fearless, and American tradition. People may only absorb fragments of the words Sam Elliot is speaking in the Dodge Ram advertisements, but they instantly get the message.
What do your logo, brochures, and website say about you? Not just the words but the message, the personality behind it. You have to look at your brand as if it were a living breathing person. Personalities encompass a lot of components and you may want your company to follow a similar suit, but you have to find its soul. Once you determine that, you can envision its face and speak directly from it. Volkswagen’s message is different than Dodge Ram’s. Their checklist of personality traits probably includes compact, family-friendly, modern, and cool. A Volkswagen driver might scoff at the phrase, “big engine.”
Visual may sound like the simplest ingredient in the brand voice formula but taking it for granted could be detrimental to your brand. Take the Dodge Ram commercial. In order to display their off-roading capabilities they show it driving through rocky terrain. Volkswagen doesn’t sound or look like Dodge Ram. There visual isn’t bulky, it is compact. They aren’t concerned with being able to park in the mountains but instead would like to display how efficiently they can squeeze into a tight metropolitan parking space. There off-roading is simply beautiful scenic drives on forgiving terrain. If the Dodge Ram was meant for harsh sunlight days and extreme winters, than the Volkswagen was made for dusk, right when the lightening bugs start to appear. The same can be said for your logo, supporting documents, and packaging. What is seen by the consumer needs to fit into the formula. It needs to match your sound, message, and tone.
You are the only one who can speak for your brand and without mapping out a checklist of its personality traits, it won’t have a voice. By remaining consistent with this voice you build credibility. People don’t trust wavering politicians and they don’t invest money in erratic companies. Without a clear brand voice, your audience will only hear static.
John Williams – Founder & President of LogoGarden.com
Category: Startup Advice