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Is your brand voice engaging? Here’s what it takes.

When it comes down to branding, people often think about what a brand looks like visually and how the logo, colour and design make a recognizable appearance – a brand that differentiates from others. What sometimes is overlooked, is the brand voice. But, just as brand strategy and brand design, verbal identities are key to how consumers (both existing and potential) see and perceive brands. It is what makes them stand out from the crowd, its peers and what cuts through the noise of both physical and digital chatter.

A strategic and consistent brand voice gives credibility and recognition – positioning brands as an easily identified authentic source in their area of expertise.

So, let’s dive a little deeper into the details of what brand voice is and how you can develop one.

When we become aware of a distinctive brand voice, we do not just notice the words and language the brand uses - we notice everything from the vocabulary, grammar and sentence structure to the personality and attitude the brand aims to invoke and express in all content. Think of a company that sells fitness products: this brand most likely takes on the vocabulary and appearance of a fitness trainer; a clothing company with a teenage target group on the other hand might use a ‘younger’ language and common slang to connect to its teen audience.

Brand voice refers to the distinct personality and attitude a brand takes on in its communications.

Having clarified the Importance and meaning, we need to talk about what the higher-level process is to define a brand voice:

5 main steps to send brands on the right path to experience brand voice success:

1. Map out the brand’s positioning and your future direction.

Identify your target audience and persona. A brand voice comes across as an expression of the people behind the company. In a way, it tells their story. So, your brand voice can either be an embodiment of who your business is, what it stands for or be a vehicle to drive change within the company and its reflection on the outside.

2. Conduct interviews with stakeholders and get their point of view.

It is important that you get the people inside your business on board and identify their needs. In the end they are the ones who bring the company’s voice to life. So, brand voice depends on its people and the more you understand their needs and find acceptance, the easier it will be to make your voice visible – internally and externally.

3. Identify the brand’s territory and use archetypes to define the personality and attitude of the brand.

When approaching this, have in mind that voice definition is a collaborative process since a brand’s voice should be reflected on all levels of communication-from internal manuals all the way to external material. So, get the right people on board for this step – a collaborative process helps with getting the buy-in from different departments and will make the implementation easier.

4. Create a set of guidelines that helps people to apply the brand voice.

The guidelines are not just about your brand’s usage of grammar, punctuation, or spelling, it has to do with reinforcing the personality and attitude. It is easy to say, 'write a blogpost in an empowering and uplifting tone', but how can a writer actually hit the right tone? Different people might implement this vaguely formulated task differently and their interpretation of it will only become apparent when they are done writing. Having guidelines can therefore help to give guidance and is a valuable feedback tool. However, they can only give direction as well as provide text modules and keywords but never deliver a finished product. The involvement and training of people is therefore highly important when it comes to the actual writing process.

5. Make sure that these guidelines are implemented remembered.

This means making them accessible to everyone and offer additional trainings and workshops to all teams across the company. Brand voice trainings help teams to align on common elements of the organisation, to understand and apply the brand personality and its differentiating attributes of verbal expression and to help teams to become more persuasive, confident writers.

In the end, brand voice succeeds when consumers can identify the brand’s content and messages before they even saw who the sender is.

_Pauline von Waldersee is Brand Strategist at MetaDesign Berlin.