A step-by-step guide to building the brand voice, personality, and tone for your company
Building a brand is more than just creating a logo and a catchy tagline. It's about creating a unique identity that sets your brand apart from the competition. One key aspect of this identity is your brand's personality, voice, and tone. These elements help to establish your brand's identity and play a vital role in building strong relationships with your audience. As Alina Wheeler, branding expert and author of Designing Brand Identity, puts it, “Brand identity fuels recognition, amplifies differentiation and makes big ideas and meaning accessible. Brands are messengers of trust. Customers are reassured by brands that are recognisable and familiar. Great brand strategy is a basic building block of good business strategy.”
In this article, we'll take a closer look at how to define these elements of your brand and how to incorporate them into your content.
What is the difference between brand personality, voice, and tone?
Let’s break it down into parts:
- Personality is your brand’s traits and characteristics — if your brand was a person, what adjectives would you use to describe them?
- Voice refers to how the brand’s personality comes across to others — how does it sound? The voice of your brand should be recognizable, consistent, and reflective of how your products or services make an impact on your audience.
- Tone is how your brand’s voice fluctuates based on the audience persona you’re speaking to, or the subject matter you’re speaking about. The tone is the way in which tailor the way you speak to the specific situation at hand.
These three come together to define a portion of your overall brand identity, making it possible for your audience to consistently identify and connect with the brand. Shaping a strong and unique brand identity will help your business be recognizable and reliable.
How to define your brand's personality
Your brand's personality is a set of human-like characteristics that are associated with your brand. It's how your brand is perceived by your audience, and it sets the stage for your brand’s reputation and identity. By defining your brand's personality, you can better connect with your audience on an emotional level, as people are more likely to engage with brands that they can relate to. Specifically on social media, research shows that 33% of customers agree that a distinct personality is what makes brands stand out against competitors.
To define your brand's personality, you first need to think about your brand's values and mission. What does your brand stand for — what is its purpose, mission, and values? Once you have a clear understanding of these things, you can start to think about the characteristics that best represent your brand.
Here are a few tips on how to define your brand's personality:
- Conduct a brand personality survey: This is a great way to get feedback from your employees, customers, and other stakeholders. Ask them to describe your brand in three words or less, and use this feedback to help you identify the key characteristics of your brand.
- Look at your competitors: Analyze the personality traits of your competitors and identify the gaps that you can fill. You don't want to mimic your competitors, but you can use their brand personalities to inform aspects of yours.
- Use archetypes: Archetypes are universal symbols or patterns that are found in literature and mythology. By using archetypes to define your brand personality, you can create a personality that resonates with your audience on a subconscious level.
To get the brainstorming juices flowing, ask yourself the following questions to start developing your brand’s personality.
Some examples of brand personality traits can include:
How to develop a brand voice
Once you’ve defined your brand's personality, the next step is to develop your voice. It’s the foundation that guides all communication and interactions with your audience, regardless of the context or channel.
To develop your brand's voice, you first need to think about your target audience and customer personas. Who are they, and what language do they speak? How do they relate to one another? How are they often motivated? How are they easily offended? Once you have a clear understanding of your audience, you can start to think about the voice and communication style that best reflects your brand's personality.
Here are some ways to discover, develop, and refine the brand voice for your business:
- Identify where your brand fits within the four dimensions of brand voice. Think about how your brand communicates its personality to its customers. Is it more humorous, formal, respectful, or enthusiastic?
- Host Role-play exercises: Imagine your brand as a person and role-play different scenarios to see how your brand's voice would respond. This can help you refine and fine-tune your brand's voice based on different contexts and situations.
- Analyze competitor voices: Study the voices of your competitors to identify gaps and opportunities. Assess how their voices align with their target audience and determine how you can differentiate your brand's voice in the marketplace.
- Conduct a brand voice workshop: Gather key stakeholders and team members to collectively define and refine your brand's voice. Brainstorm adjectives, phrases, and characteristics that align with your brand's values and desired perceptions.
- Use real-life examples: Compile a collection of real-life examples that reflect your brand's voice. These can include social media posts, blog articles, customer interactions, and marketing materials. Share these examples with your team to provide tangible references for your brand's voice.
- Test and gather feedback: Experiment with different communication styles and messaging approaches. Monitor the responses and feedback from your audience to gauge the effectiveness of your brand's voice. Make adjustments as necessary.
Use these exercises and methods to come up with elements of your brand’s voice then tweak and refine them alongside your team and leadership. Some other examples of how a brand’s voice can sound include:
Now, let’s combine the brand’s personality and voice. For example, a trait of a brand’s personality can be confidence and its brand voice can sound enthusiastic. Remember to keep your brand’s voice consistent across all channels. According to Crowdspring, 90% of potential customers expect to have a similar brand experience across different platforms. Your brand should sound the same on social media, in email communications, and even on packaging.
4 ways to establish your brand's tone
Your brand's tone is how your brand's voice changes depending on the situation or context. It's the inflection you add to create a particular mood or feeling. While your brand's personality and voice are consistent across all platforms and channels, your brand's tone should change depending on the audience, topic, content, or situation.
To establish your brand's tone, you need to think about the emotions that you want to evoke in your audience personas. Do you want them to feel motivated and inspired, or do you want them to feel calm and assured? Once you have a clear understanding of the emotions you want to convey, you can start to think about the language and style that best reflects your brand's tone at that moment.
Some tips on how to establish your brand's tone include:
- Think about your customer personas. How should you adjust your tone of voice when speaking to each of them? What tone will resonate and which will push them away?
- Build empathy maps: Use empathy mapping techniques to put yourself in the shoes of each customer persona. Identify their thoughts, feelings, needs, and pain points in different situations. This exercise helps you empathize with your audience and determine appropriate tone adjustments.
- Analyze communication channels: Evaluate the various communication channels and touchpoints where you interact with different customer personas. Consider the nature of each channel, such as social media, email, or customer support, and determine how the tone should adapt to suit the specific context and audience.
- Collaborate with customer-facing teams: Work closely with teams such as sales, customer support, and marketing to gather insights about customer interactions. They can provide valuable feedback on the tone that resonates best with different personas in various situations.
It’s time to combine all three: personality, voice, and tone. For example, a brand can be confident and curious, and sound human and joyful. When speaking to decision-makers, the brand adjusts its tone to be more authoritative.
Bring your brand personality to life
By understanding your brand's values, mission, and target audience, you can define a personality that resonates with your customers on a deeper level. Remember to conduct brand personality surveys, analyze your competitors, and run brand-building exercises with your team to shape your brand's unique identity.
As you infuse your brand's personality into every aspect of your business, from marketing materials to customer interactions, you'll create a distinctive and memorable brand that leaves a lasting impression. Embrace the power of personality, and watch your brand thrive in the hearts and minds of your customers.