Brand.

When most people think of a brand, they think logo, color and design. Because these things are the most blatantly obvious. But what many often forget is well, nearly everything else. Like sounds, scents, tastes and one of the most pivotal, the written word.

The American Marketing Association defines “brand” as a “name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller as distinct from others.” To put it another way, anything that can be consciously perceived can be used as a differentiator.

Knowledgeable creative professionals understand this. Which explains the thunderous rise of experiential marketing, store/service design, and, as we’re wading into now, brand voice design.

Brand Voice Defined

So, what exactly is “brand voice”? Allow us to explain.

The scientific version: Brand voice is a heuristic manifestation designed to attract customers who will receive utility from linking their identity with the identity of a chosen brand.

And now, the easy-to-understand version: Brand voice is how a company employs words to distinguish its personality from others’.

But really: Content is what you say, whereas brand voice is how you say it.

Made up of many different parts, including word choice (aka diction), sentence structure (aka syntax) and narrative device, brand voice is an underutilized, and often misunderstood, part of the brand equation.

Voice Come to Life 

Want to experience brand voice in action? Noodle over these examples for a moment and note your internal responses. Do you infer certain attributes about these brands? Do you prefer one over the other? Why?

Dove

“Welcome to Dove, the home of real beauty. For over a decade, we’ve been working to make beauty a source of confidence, not anxiety, and here’s where the journey continues. Beauty is not defined by shape, size or color – it’s feeling like the best version of yourself. Authentic. Unique. Real. Every image you see here features women cast from real life. A real-life version of beauty.”

With a sharp focus on female empowerment, Dove has adopted the tone of the caregiver, which it applies across its website and in-market activations. Featuring sentence structure that flows like natural language and soft, yet strong word selection, the brand’s lexicon is encouraging, uplifting and uniquely Dove. 

MailChimp

“Recover people who visit your site but forget to buy because they’re distracted by a celeb doing a big huge tweet or something. Good thing MailChimp sends them an automated email like, “Don’t forget about this great product. Sincerely, An email.” Those people are more than twice as likely to come back and buy that thing, and you’ll get phone-notified if that happens. Ding!” 

As you can see, the email automation platform MailChimp is differentiated in the market thanks to its signature campy voice. In a true display of end-to-end customer experience, the Silicon Valley brand pulls its playful tone across its website, social media musings and even its UX microcopy.

Although Dove and Mailchimp’s copy are both promotional in nature, they are distinctly different in terms of tone. It just goes to show that by using brand voice as the potent communication tool that it is, you can send readers messages far richer than those built with fact-based content alone.

Our Two Cents

Don’t be fooled; brand voice isn’t just cute or clever. It’s a powerful competitive weapon.

By playing a strategic role in a brand identity system, language works overtime, conveying meaning while simultaneously increasing a company’s desirability in the market. This not only enhances a brand’s image, but also enables it to reach the tipping point of marketplace adoption. Both of which often pay substantial dividends.

Establishing a brand voice is a big job, but well worth it. Our team has helped some of the world’s top Fortune 500 brands refine how they sound across a variety of mediums and markets. To find your brand’s real, un-synthesized voice and start putting it to work, reach out to us.

 

Don’t be fooled; brand voice isn’t just cute or clever. It’s a powerful competitive weapon.

About the Author

Marly Beste

Storyteller

A tenured copywriter, Marly specializes in verbal strategy and brand voice development. Out of the office, she’s an incessant champion of her family’s happiness and regularly pens vignettes inspired by magical realism and nonsense literature. As she puts it, “I didn’t choose writing. It chose me.”