Indie Brand Builder - Dan Chadney

Finding Your Brand Voice – A Complete Guide

Written by: Dan Chadney

If your business were a living, breathing person, what would it sound like?

Having a unique and captivating brand voice is no longer optional – it’s essential to stand out. Especially with the vast amount of AI content filling up the internet.

But how can you discover that special style which connects with your audience and perfectly represents your brand?

This guide will help you suss out that golden thread, helping you express and communicate your own unique stamp on the world. 

Brand is just a perception, and perception will match reality over time.
– Elon Musk

Uncovering your brand’s voice may seem hard and overwhelming at first. But the process of identifying discovering your brand values and how you communicate will lead to a solid brand identity that really resonates with your audience.

Why a Distinct Brand Voice Matters

Your brand voice is quite literally the human side of your business—the way it speaks, responds, and engages. Through this voice, you show your audience that your company isn’t just a faceless entity, but a vibrant business with its own character and charisma. 

Having a consistent voice for your brand makes your brand stand out and helps build a strong connection with your audience. 

This will lead to more loyal customers.

Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.
– Jeff Bezos

Think about being able to identify a close friend just by the sound of their voice.

That’s how familiar your brand voice should be. It should stand out among the competition, even when your logo or images aren’t present.

Identify Core Values to Shape Your Brand Voice

Developing a distinctive brand voice starts with the identifying your company’s core values. These values will be the driving force behind your brand, guiding all your actions and interactions.

64% of consumers cite shared values as the primary reason they have a relationship with a brand. Source: HBR

These aren’t just statements, they’re a reflection of your brand’s beliefs and philosophies. 

But it’s not enough to just have an about page with a ‘Company Values’ section and expect customers to find this. Your values come through every aspect of your business. 

Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind.
– Walter Landor

Take Apple as an example.

Their brand voice is based on their core values of innovation and simplicity.

image Finding Your Brand Voice - A Complete Guide

Whether it’s in an ad, a product description, customer emails, or even how and when you are greeted when you walk through the doors of an Apple Store, these core values are always expressed. 

Creating Your Brand’s Persona: The Human Element

Give life to your brand by creating a persona that reflects your core values, mission, and the kind of customers you seek to connect with.

To put it simply, your brand’s persona is the human element that adds a personal touch to your brand identity, enabling customers to relate to your brand on a more personal and emotive level. 

Branding is the art of becoming knowable, likable and trustable.
– John Jantsch

Start by asking key questions to help shape your brand’s persona:

If your brand were a person, what would their personality be like?

Are they serious or humorous?

Formal or casual? Traditional or innovative?

Use this line of questioning as a framework from which to build upon. 

Next, consider how your brand’s persona communicates.

What kind of language do they use?

Do they speak in buzzwords and industry jargon, or are they more inclined to explain things in a simple, straightforward manner? 

With people increasingly keen to forge strong, emotional ties with the brands they endorse, the persona you create could be key to establishing a long-lasting, constructive relationship with your audience. 

Brand Voice vs. Brand Tone: Knowing the Difference

Sometimes people use the terms ‘brand voice’ and ‘brand tone’ interchangeably, but they aren’t the same thing. 

Brand voice represents your message, while brand tone is the manner in which it’s delivered. Your tone may need to change based on the content or platform.

For example, the way you speak in a social media post might be different from how you respond to customer questions or issues.

Your brand tone can adopt different nuances, but they should all fit comfortably within the boundaries set by your brand voice.

So while voice and tone work hand in hand to personify your brand, they play distinct roles and serve different purposes.

Some companies like Shopify even define several tones within their brand voice guidelines, showing their versatile approach to various brand communications. 

Steps to Crafting Your Unique Brand Voice

1. Review Existing Content

Taking a closer look at your present content is a great way to identify your brand’s existing voice – a voice that has developed naturally over time, not deliberately created.

To start the process of examining your current brand voice, collect a mixed bag of various content, including:

Content from all your channels – website, social media accounts, newsletters, and press releases

  • Documents created by different departments – this might include content from sales, product, engineering, marketing, support, or even leadership
  • Pieces of different formats – from lengthy articles to short posts, videos, or audio
  • External and internal communications

From here, make it a point to rate each content piece, to determine how effectively it embodies the essential traits of your brand identity.

Then, give each item a score based on its authenticity to your brand. Don’t forget to make observations about what feels right (or wrong) for each sample.

Brand Voice Evaluation Chart

Content TypePurposeFormatBrand Identity Alignment Score (1-10)Observations
Example: Website Homepage CopyMarketingText/Webpage8Consistent tone, needs more personality
Example: Social Media PostSocial MediaShort Post6Lacks brand-specific language
Example: Monthly NewsletterCommunicationsText/Email7Good engagement, slightly off-brand tone
Example: Product Launch ArticleSales/ProductLong Article9Very aligned with brand values
Example: Internal MemoLeadershipText/Document5Formal, lacks brand voice

Instructions for Use:

  1. Fill in the Content Type: Describe the content piece (e.g., blog post, tweet, brochure).
  2. Purpose: Specify what the content should be used for (e.g., marketing, external).
  3. Format: Identify the format of the content (e.g., video, text, podcast).
  4. Brand Identity Alignment Score: Rate each piece on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 means perfectly aligns with your brand identity, and 1 means not aligned at all.
  5. Observations: Note what specifically about the content is aligned or misaligned with your brand’s voice. This could include tone, language, messaging, or any other relevant aspect.

Gleaning these specifics will enable you to fully grasp the nuances of your brand voice, making it easier to explain it to your team.

2. What Makes Your Brand Different?

You can create a consistent and recognizable brand voice by identifying what sets your brand apart. 

Start by focusing on your brand values and the mission of your company, if there is one. These aspects provide a holistic view of your brand and help you shape a voice that’s true to your brand’s authentic identity. 

Take note of the words that frequently appear – these are likely to be key descriptors of your brand and company.

Here’s a glimpse into the Indie Brand Builder brand voice:

  • We speak assertively, but never arrogantly.
  • We use humor in a clever way – avoiding silliness.
  • We use informal language, always bearing in mind context.
  • We show our knowledge and respect our reader’s intelligence.
  • We are kind, friendly, fun and sociable.
  • We are helpful, without being too pushy or intrusive.
  • We strive to be clear, concise, and genuine.

Here’s an example from Shopify:

Screenshot 2024 02 26 at 3.37.41 PM Finding Your Brand Voice - A Complete Guide

3. Writing Tone and Context

After setting your main brand voice elements, figure out how each trait can adapt to suit various scenarios and goals. 

Start by listing all the marketing platforms and types of content your business uses.

Your brand’s tone will flex and shift according to each platform and content category. 

Next, determine the potential readers or users for each type of content or platform. Then, alter your way of communicating to connect with and engage these particular groups effectively.

Shopify does a good job of showing examples of tone in different contexts:

image Finding Your Brand Voice - A Complete Guide

Imagine how the tone of your voice changes depending on the situation you’re in or the person you’re talking to.

The way you talk to your bank on the phone, how you conduct yourself during an annual performance review with your boss, or how you chat in a relaxed manner at a dinner with friends – all these instances require different tones and behaviors.

4. Listen to Your Customers

Your brand voice should resonate with your customers… through all communication channels. 

Try including your customers’ communication style in your brand’s voice and tone to strengthen it.

For instance, during sales interactions, take note of the language customers use when discussing your products or explaining the problems your products solve for them.

Make note of specific terms or phrases your customers use when talking about your brand or products. Then, make a list of these words to use or avoid in your content.

Creating a list of specific words and phrases may seem like a lot of work, but it’s a great way to set your brand voice apart.

Having words you should use and ones you should avoid can make your brand’s language more consistent. This supports a consistent brand voice throughout different channels and parts of your business.

5. Write it down

After you’ve identified all the factors that shape your brand voice – including major brand traits and the exact language to use or avoid – it’s time to document your insights.

Ensure that your brand guidelines are readily accessible to anyone who works in your business, writes for you or creates content for you.

Regardless of your brand guidelines’ design, it should encompass all crucial elements of your brand voice, such as:

  • Guidance for different communication channels
  • Instructions for various content categories
  • Rules for everyday parlance
  • Your compilation of approved and disapproved verbiage

Make your brand guidelines pop by incorporating real-life examples where feasible.

This will seriously help your team when generating their creative content.

Your brand voice can change, but regular checks will ensure it stays true to your brand’s identity.

Other topics to explore:

Building a Strong Brand Identity: More than Just a Logo

Dan Chadney

Ever felt like your business should be getting more attention online? I felt the same way until I learned how to leverage SEO and digital marketing tactics to scale my e-commerce business to 6 figures per year. My name is Dan Chadney and before starting this blog, I spent 20 years as a web designer, front-end developer and SEO marketing specialist. Check out my online business guides and learn how to make money online!

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