4 Steps to Setting Up Your Brand Voice Guidelines
First things first: what are brand voice guidelines, and how do I make them work for my business?
Brand voice guidelines are a set of linguistic rules and parameters that define the style, personality, tone, and vocabulary a brand uses to communicate and resonate with its target audience. They serve as your business or organization’s best friend.
Make no mistake –– developing a consistent brand voice may take time and resources, but it’s a worthy investment. Having a well-thought-out brand voice boasts returns such as strengthening your identity, forging relationships with your audience, boosting brand loyalty, and getting your distinct voice heard over the noise.
In this blog post, we’ll take you through what brand voice guidelines can achieve, why that’s essential for business, and the four key steps you can take towards establishing your very own unique and unified brand voice that resonates with your audience and supports your business objectives.
- Brand voice guidelines help maintain consistency, expedite content creation, lay the foundation for clear messaging, and set a business apart from its competitors.
- To create your own guidelines, figure out what a brand stands for, research your target audience, create sample content, and be prepared to pivot.
- Consistency is critical, and those who invest in it can strengthen their identity, forge audience relationships, and boost brand loyalty.
- Brand voice is not to be confused with brand messaging: the former is about the style of communication, and the latter is about the substance.
What are the benefits of having brand voice guidelines?
Having guidelines for brand voice is an investment in your business success, and it pays off.
- They help maintain consistency
Having an established set of linguistic rules behind your communications can help your brand become predictable… in the best way! Consumers are more likely to recognize – and eventually trust – brands that show up consistently, be that in terms of tone, style, or even vocabulary.
What’s more, studies show that brands with a consistent voice can see an increase in revenue of up to 33%! These companies are also three to four times more likely to benefit from increased brand visibility compared to inconsistent brands, making it extremely important to work on your brand voice.
- They expedite content creation
With a clear understanding of the brand’s personality and signature language, writers and marketers are given free rein to create content more efficiently. They’ll know what kind of language to use, what topics to cover, and how to structure the content for maximum impact. Not only does this save time and resources, but it also boosts overall quality.
- They lay the foundation for clear messaging
Although brand voice and brand messaging are often used interchangeably, remember, they are not the same. Brand voice is all about the personality and tone of your brand, while brand messaging refers to the specific messages you communicate to your audience.
However, in this instance, the latter does rely on the former. Brand voice guidelines lay the groundwork for successful messaging; within a clear set of parameters, you can craft compelling messages that resonate with your audience and convey the brand’s core values and goals.
- They set you apart from your competitors
No one likes feeling drowned out in a noisy crowd. A distinct brand voice feeds into your overall identity, helping you stand out even in the most saturated markets. This leads to increased brand awareness, customer loyalty, and business success.
Our step-by-step guide to setting up your brand voice guidelines
Now you understand what brand voice guidelines are and why they’re so beneficial, you’re on track to creating your own. Where should you start?
Our answer? Follow the four steps below.
- Get to the root of what your brand stands for
Here, pose yourself the following questions:
- What is our mission?
- What are our core values?
- What promises are we making?
- What is our vision?
As you work through these core elements, you will notice recurring words and phrases cropping up. Take notice of them: most likely, they speak to your identity and help you develop a consistent voice.
For example, if your brand is on a mission to promote sustainable travel, and your vision is to preserve the planet for future generations, it’s unlikely that your brand voice will be quirky and casual – you’ll more likely steer towards an earnest, inspiring style that will get your core values taken seriously.
- Research your target audience
You need to know your target audience like the back of your hand: their pain points, needs, preferences, communication styles, and more. Only then can you tailor your voice to reach them as effectively as possible.
For instance, younger audiences respond well to informal yet authentic communications. Gen Z is known for keeping it real, so showing them passion and empathy is desirable. Meanwhile, older audiences tend to invest more trust in brands that sound competent and professional, without too much fuzzy stuff.
- Create sample content
Here, you must gather examples of your brand voice and conduct an audit. This involves examining a representative variety of content (e.g., social media posts, blog articles, marketing copy, etc.), and cross-analyzing it to determine commonalities.
It may be helpful to dig into audience insights and analytics as you ask yourself the following questions:
What worked, achieving the best results?
What aligns best with our goals?
From here, you’ll be able to paint a clear picture of your brand’s current personality, compare it to your competitors, and begin brainstorming more types of content that you want to emulate.
- Don’t be afraid to make changes
Finally, it’s important to remember that reviewing and refining your brand voice is an ongoing process. Your brand or the market may evolve, and you have to leave yourself space to grow.
For instance, brand relaunches, changes in leadership, or world events may all demand hefty changes to your brand voice. Don’t lose sight of your two main shining stars: staying true to your personality and resonating with your target audience.
Look at McDonald’s, for example. Following a sharp decline in sales and customer loyalty in the mid-2010s, McDonald’s realized it needed a refresh to appeal to millennials and Gen Z.
As a result, McDonald’s swapped out its traditional, corporate tone in favor of a more conversational voice, using social media to engage with customers and showcase its products in a playful and relatable way. They also launched a series of ad campaigns emphasizing fresh, high-quality ingredients, and capturing the attention of younger, more health-conscious audiences.
In short, they pivoted –– and it paid off.
Brand voice examples for inspiration
You don’t have to look far to see how booming a powerful brand voice can be in the real world –– the companies that are doing the best are the same ones that made that phone in your pocket or that aftershave in your bathroom cabinet.
Let’s explore how they do it and why it works.
Sleek, minimalistic, innovative
This tech giant’s brand messaging goes hand in hand with its product: clear, concise, and accessible. They keep things simple and don’t succumb to hyperbole, and as a result, their storytelling has become increasingly authoritative, confident, and aspirational over the years.
The annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is where Apple’s brand voice sings its loudest, as the company unveils its new products and software and sets the tech industry abuzz. This showcases how the company is centered around innovation and creativity, and positions itself as an industry thought leader, and reinforces its brand identity.
Macho, goofy, tongue-in-cheek
With their over-the-top advertising campaigns, absurd scenarios, and exaggerated claims, Old Spice is adored for celebrating all things traditionally masculine while poking fun at it.
The result? A bold, confident, and humorous brand voice, which has helped it stand out in a saturated personal grooming market.
To see Old Spice in action, check out their Twitter account. It’s jam-packed full of puns, pop culture references, and wordplay –– ideal for appealing to their target audience of young men.
Positive, wholesome, nostalgic
Who could imagine Christmas without a Coca-Cola ad on TV? Almost no one – and that’s a testament to the company’s unmistakable brand voice. Through the years, Coca-Cola has mastered the art of bringing a smile to its target audience’s faces with linguistic, visual, and even musical cues.
And while the words they’re using to communicate may evolve (indeed, its slogan varies from market to market and has changed almost 60 times in the US & Canada), the messages are always aspirational, tied together with core themes such as happiness, togetherness, and sharing.
This is mirrored in their social media content, which often features user-generated content to show people enjoying the brand’s products
Playful, imaginative, lighthearted
Loved for its colorful and whimsical games, Nintendo is known for having an exceptionally joyful brand voice. What’s more, they embody fun and inclusivity, because, after all, anyone can enjoy their games and have fun doing it.
Take a look at their advertising, where their campaigns often feature playful animations and catchy music to create an inviting new world to explore. It’s friendly, and people want to dive in. The same goes for their website, which is brightly colored and steers away from complex language. It sticks to easy-to-read, almost child-like language to keep things simple for its target audience.
In short, brand voice guidelines help businesses and organizations reap the benefits of staying consistent, streamlining content creation, and standing out in the market.
By getting a handle on your brand identity, researching your target audience, and putting your content to the test, you’re already halfway towards building a relationship with your audience and speaking confidently.
Next stop? Content creation. Once you have your brand voice guidelines in place and are ready to take on the market, head over to Wizeo: the ultimate content creation platform that helps businesses 10x their impact by producing authoritative, impactful content at scale. Come to us, and we’ll make content your competitive advantage.
- Are brand voice and brand messaging the same thing?
While the terms are often used interchangeably, brand voice and brand messaging are not the same thing. Try thinking about brand voice as style, and brand messaging as substance.
Brand voice is all about how your brand communicates in terms of personality, tone, and language. Meanwhile, brand messaging refers to what you want to say to your target audience, with tools such as taglines, value propositions, promises, and mission statements.
- What are the elements of brand voice?
There are many components to a company’s brand voice, but here are the top five most crucial:
1. Style: Your brand’s personality, expressed in a few adjectives. Your style informs how you communicate with your target audience, so it should be consistent across all platforms.
2. Tone: Also usually expressed in adjectives, tone refers to the emotional quality you want to attach to any given communication. Depending on the situation, your personality, and target audience, your brand’s tone can range from friendly and funny to serious and professional.
3. Vocabulary: A consistent array of words and phrases that reflect the brand’s personality and industry. This should foster familiarity between you and your target audience, without alienating them with confusing jargon.
4. Imagery: Also feeding into style, brands can use imagery to visually convey their personality and support messaging. This can include colors, fonts, and design.
5. Purpose: This is all about keeping aligned with your brand’s mission and values.