How to Find Your Brand’s Voice

Michael Jamin Branding

Proper branding starts with finding your brand’s voice. It’s literally the manner in which you speak to your customers. Some brands use language that’s fun and friendly, others speak in a manner that’s more adult and sophisticated. So how do you know what voice is right for your brand? It all comes down to knowing who your customer is.

If your business is already up and running, you should already have a good idea who your customer is. If you’re just starting out, use your best judgment. You can always refine it later. Be as detailed as possible when describing your average customer. For example, you may say she’s a 35 year old woman single woman living in a major city, college educated, likes to travel, career focused, has no pets, and loves watching Sex in the City reruns. Obviously, this doesn’t describe all of your customers. It couldn’t possibly. But at least now you’ll have someone in mind when you start “talking” to her with your marketing. And if you’re not talking to someone, you’re talking to no one.

Many companies we work with overthink this part. They’re worried about excluding people. But that’s not really the case. By speaking to their ideal customer, they’re actually going to attract more customers, not less. A perfect example of this is Ethercycle. They help eCommerce merchants generate more revenue on their websites. Ethercycle bills itself as the leading expert for stores using the Shopify Plus platform. Why are they ruling out websites that run on BigCommerce, Squarespace, and Volusion when they easily could help those store owners as well? Aren’t the missing out on tons of potential customers? Not really. If you owned a Shopify site and needed help building your brand, wouldn’t you prefer to hire someone who was an expert on Shopify? Of course! You want a specialist. Ethercylce knows recognizes this, and by using targeted marketing, they’re able to grab a larger piece of the pie.

What is the Voice of Your Brand?

Progressive Insurance markets to young people just starting their adult lives. Their spokesperson, Flo, is hip and retro. She’s super friendly and quirky. Naturally, the language she uses has to match this persona.

If you were selling cholesterol medication to people in their 50s and 60s, your spokesperson might be a doctor. In that case, it might be more appropriate if she spoke in a tone that’s more serious and trustworthy.

Now it’s time to “cast” your ideal spokesperson. This can be someone who is living, dead or fictional. You’re not going to actually hire them, you’re just going to use their voice as inspiration. Let’s say you sell surfboards to middle-aged men. You may want your spokesperson to be Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. That’s a beloved character from that generation’s past. Jeff is stoned and always half asleep. He’s sweet, good natured, but a little behind the eight-ball. Now, you’re not going to use his likeness or refer to him in any way. That would be infringing on Universal Pictures, the studio that produced that film. But you can certainly draw inspiration from the character without ever explicitly mentioning it.

The next step is to re-watch that movie. Take lots of notes on the Spicoli observes the world, and the language he uses to describe it. Waves are “tasty.”  People are “bogus.” You may want to steer clear of using exact phrases from the movie, but you can incorporate elements like it into your brand’s voice. For example, you might describe a shortboard as being “particularly ripe for belligerent tides.” He never said that in the movie, but he easily could have.

From then on, you apply his voice to all your marketing. This means everywhere. Your email campaigns, product descriptions, order confirmation pages, packaging, tags and labels, etc. Emails are now referred to as “High Tech Inbox Filler.” A Customer Support Representative is  now a “Dude with a Hat who can Help.” Your Returns Department is now “Dept. of Buzzkills.”  And so on. Be creative. This may feel a little out of the box for you, but the truth is, sounding like everyone other brand does not help you. If you want your brand to be memorable, you have to take chances. To learn more about how to do this, you can sign up for our course here.