By Simon Davies

Thanks to the crowded and competitive nature of the digital world, it’s never been more important for a brand to develop a distinct and original voice that helps them stand out from the pack. A logo alone may not be enough to help a business stick in consumers’ minds. However, customers should be able to recognize a brand by developing a strong, easily identifiable voice.

The rise of social media has driven consumers’ desire for constant engagement, and a personalized experience, which should encourage companies to communicate with their customers more effectively and meaningfully. Over 65% of people believe they share an emotional connection with a brand and, according to Harvard Business Review, these “fully connected customers” are over 50% more valuable to companies than a highly satisfied customer. This all-important connection can only be created by establishing rapport using a voice that humanizes a brand.

A strong voice is just as integral to a successful brand image, which is vital for boosting sales. According to brand experience agency Prop Studios, “Strong and successful brands create a seamless brand experience across all consumer touchpoints”, which is best exemplified by Apple. When the company was ranked as the most valuable in Interbrand’s 2016 Best Global Brands report, this had much to do with the organization’s consistent visual narrative across its goods, packaging, and in its retail stores. In using the same brand voice to address customers for all purposes and across all platforms, they appeal to consumer sensibilities by allowing connectivity and being recognizable.

Has reading that made you think about giving your own brand an overhaul? Here are our tips for creating a unique tone of voice, guaranteed to help your business make an impact.

1. Understand your audience

In order to create a voice that resonates with your customers, you need to understand the personalities and demographics of the people you’re trying to engage with. Though you may envision a particular audience in terms of age, sex, location, and background, establishing a buyer persona will help you craft a targeted and specific brand voice.

A buyer persona can be defined as “a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers”, so once you’ve conducted your research to identify your target audience, you will be better placed to capture their attention. Identifying these personas can also help you to create trust, and embrace the similarities between your brand and your customer.

Start by paying closer attention to the people who visit your physical stores and engage with your brand’s social media profiles. Media monitoring tools like Meltwater Engage can also track the demographics of each social platform. As well as engaging with customers in person and online, you can gain a better understanding of them by conducting online surveys, or even voluntary interviews over the phone or in the flesh.

There are three types of audience data you should aim to obtain through your research:

  • Demographic: E.g. age, nationality, gender, and education.
  • Marketing: E.g. blogs, newsletters, and social media outlets used.
  • Behavioral: E.g. likes, dislikes, interests, and hobbies.

You can use this data to help you determine the most appropriate tone, find ways to your audience’s most popular interests, and take inspiration from other brand voices your customers are already engaging with. Once you have an idea of your buyer persona, you can tailor your brand’s voice accordingly.

2. Re-enforce your brand’s values

Shaping an effective brand experience requires companies to emphasize their core values and beliefs through the contact they make with customers. In fact, 64% of consumers prioritize shared values as the main reason why they feel like they can trust the brands they use.

One company to see significant success after better articulating its values is Airbnb. Originally known as an app for couch-surfers and those looking for low-cost lodging, the company conducted a global rebrand in 2014, changing its tagline. The slogan “Belong Anywhere” aligned with Airbnb’s core beliefs and purpose—creating a means by which people around the world could come together.

A voice running parallel to your brand’s values is far more likely to attract like-minded customers. This will give your brand an authentic voice and prevents you from sending mixed messages, which could create an inconsistent brand experience. A survey revealed 63% of people have engaged with disappointing brand content, and 23% chose not to engage with the brand again after that.

It’s easiest to figure out your brand values by simply putting them down on paper. Ask yourself how you would describe your brand if it was a person, and do the same for any competitors. This helps determine your organization’s core traits, and how they relate to others in the market. From there, consider how you can emphasize these qualities through the way you communicate to the public. For instance, a passionate voice could be great for expressive and enthusiastic content, while authoritative brands should come across as direct and trustworthy.

3. Don’t be too cheesy or controversial

Though a brand voice should be unique, it should never embarrass or offend your customers. Approximately 71% of consumers have unfollowed a brand out of embarrassment, while 88% are annoyed by brands who mock their customers. Even the biggest organizations are guilty of this. For instance, both Sprite and United Colours of Benetton have been accused of sexism in the past, while many brands have employed cringe-worthy tactics in a bid to target millennials, and failed miserably.

Be particularly cautious with tone, as it’s all too easy for brand messages to be misinterpreted. Sarcasm, in particular, can be difficult to detect in a social media post, and could cause upset and confusion for anyone that misunderstands. On the flip side, overcompensating with excessive emojis and slang could come across as immature and prevent brands from being taken seriously.

In order to ensure all employees are on the same page, particularly in big organizations, it may be helpful to draw up a list of dos and don’ts via a style guide. For example, ‘quirky’ voices may be encouraged to make unexpected references in the copy, but they should not be too casual. as this could come across to some readers as disinterested. Similarly, a ‘romantic’ voice would be expected to deploy heartfelt content, but avoiding cheesy language will prevent your readers from being too put off.

With these tips, your brand voice will be injected with a new lease of life and sure to increase customer engagement.

Simon Davies is a freelance journalist interested in marketing, tech and small business. Follow him at @SimonTheoDavies.

Brand stock photo by garagestock/Shutterstock