You probably don’t remember saying your first word. Maybe you’ve seen it on videotape, or maybe you’ve just heard the story approximately 500 times from family members about “the day you found your voice.” When a brand finds its voice, it may not be cataloged in a memory book, but it is a day worth celebrating. Discovering your brand voice can be a tricky process but sets the tone (pun intended) for the success of your brand and the way customers will respond to it. So, how do you find it? We’re glad you asked.
Why Should You Bother With Brand Voice?
There are so many boxes to check when starting a brand. First, you have to figure out your product or service and start on a business plan. Then you have to think about funding, naming, designing, and marketing your brand.
Yes, brand voice is one more step in the process. But skip this one, and your launch into the market will likely fall flat. After all, without a unique voice how can your brand connect with your audience in an authentic, connection-building, and meaningful way
Although any time is better than never when it comes to establishing your brand voice, this would ideally be one of the first steps you take with your company. At this stage, you’ve yet to launch your brand to the market so you have a clean slate to establish your voice with your target audiences. And in the digital age, social media shortens the time your brand has to make first impressions.
The takeaways? Establishing your brand voice matters, and the sooner the better.
Steps to Finding Your Voice
Before we go into the steps of finding your brand voice, let’s talk about the end goal. If done right and consistently, your brand should be instantly recognizable through all of its touchpoints—from its tone on social media and radio spots to billboards and any in-person interactions. That means your voice is distinctive, unique, and authentic. It also means that, no matter how big your company grows, every employee lives and breathes your brand voice.
Motivated yet? Let’s get into it.
Identify your mission and core values
Brand mission is all about purpose. Some companies opt for long mission statements (read: novels) while others keep it to simple one-liners. The sweet spot is, of course, somewhere in the middle. Best practice says to keep your mission statement to no longer than two sentences so it can be impactful, memorable, and unique. The overall goal is that it clearly reflects your brand goals, what it hopes to achieve, and what it stands for. On the other hand, your company’s core values showcase what customers will support if they choose to work with your brand. Core values could be things like diversity, innovation, passion, and transparency.
Let’s use an example. Say you have a baby utensil company that focuses on sustainable products and living. Your mission is simply “To introduce the next generation of eaters to sustainable living and to fight food insecurity in the process.” Right off the bat, your customers know what you offer them, your bigger mission, and why they should support your brand.
Define your differentiators
It’s easier to communicate what makes you different when you know who you are as a brand. In marketing, differentiators are what set you apart from your competitors. For example, maybe you offer a product that hasn’t been done in this particular way before or with this particular process or material. Or maybe you offer a service that’s different from your competitors in accessibility, pricing, ease of use, or any number of things.
Bringing it back to our example company (let’s call them EarthBaby), its top differentiators include material sourcing, philanthropic partnerships, and functional eating ware that’s fully compostable. But, like any good brand, EarthBaby offers more than the product at face value; it offers a loftier goal, tools for its users, and values to live by.
Narrow down your audience(s)
Once you’ve done the first two things, you should start thinking about who will be using your product or service. Research and hard data are important in this step (where a brand positioning comes in), but it’s often helpful to develop some user personas to narrow down your audiences. When you group audiences into categories and then make them real with personas (or with real-life examples from focus groups), it helps to make your brand voice more authentic.
EarthBaby might know that its target audience is moms aged 25 to 45 who live in bigger cities with a middle-class or higher income. But the audience doesn’t become real until that mom has a name, a voice, and a mission herself.
Identify your voice
Finally, you’re probably thinking. But fair warning, if we had jumped into brand voice first without establishing the other elements, it would not do your brand justice. When you’re finally ready to establish a brand voice, it’s good to be as clear about where you are and where you want to be as possible.
As brand voice is essentially your company’s personality and carries with it your brand tone, you want to be specific here. We typically narrow this down to three powerful descriptors for our clients. This could be any combination that rings true, such as conversational, powerful, cool, humorous, or any number of options.
Want to guess EarthBaby’s brand voice? We’ll tell you anyway: down-to-earth, inspirational, and approachable. From their web copy and social media to their packaging and philanthropy, they display this brand voice.
Find (and live) your timeless human need
We started off with lofty goals (i.e., our mission), why not end with them? Your brand’s timeless human need is intimately related to its brand voice. It’s the one thing that your brand, and all its iterations, is working towards. And, no, it’s not profit, bottom line, or sales numbers. It’s about the deeper connection that your brand makes with the world—things like balance, discipline, fearlessness, imagination, and hope.
For EarthBaby, it’s not “cool baby utensils that are compostable.” It’s sustainability—both when it comes to the product itself and the lifestyle it’s teaching and with the loftier goal of supporting sustainable food practices worldwide.
If you’re still with us, take out a pen and mark this moment. It’s the day your brand found its voice.
Companies With a Distinct Brand Voice
This wouldn’t be much of a Savy blog without some examples of brands who are killing it. In this case, these brands have strong voices backed by their consistent messaging, established core values, and loyal followings.
The fast-food chain has always been a “saucy” option compared to its peers. When Dave Thomas founded the company in the ’60s, he did so intending to be different from competitors which, almost immediately, meant taking playful jabs at them.
Wendy’s social media presence has grown exponentially in the last decade, represented by none other than “a sweet-faced, red-haired girl [who] roasts fans, cracks jokes, and calls out competitors.” And fans eat it up.
The brand attributes its social success to its deeply ingrained culture and core values, which allow it to have fun on social media without losing the spirit that makes Wendy’s Wendy’s. Its voice has always been cheeky, innovative, and relatable. As Fast Company summarized: “Innovation has always been at the heart of Wendy’s business. Twitter just gave her a megaphone.”
Oatly’s a brand with a loud, consistent voice that entertains and educates. The oat milk company is focused on radical change in beverage habits to lead consumers to a “post-milk generation.” Despite their lofty goals and more technical start (“born out of really nerdy nutrition science,” according to them), their voice is playful, quirky, and educational.
Their Oatly Who page, coupled with their wacky illustrations, further tells the story of a science-based brand taking on the beverage industry with humor and quirk. They’ve done an excellent job speaking to their audience (rather than at them) and entertaining them in the process.
Old Spice is an interesting case study because it’s a brand that found its current (and award-winning) voice well past its inception. In fact, it started like most wellness brands did in the ’30s—appealing to proper grooming and deluxe personal treatment. When Axe entered the market, Old Spice “needed to shake its musty reputation.” So, they took on “manliness” in new and humorous ways using illustrations, cheeky callouts to heroes past, and bold copy.
Their new voice, decidedly humorous, masculine, and aspirational, was further and famously established when they tapped Wieden + Kennedy for the “Man Your Man Could Smell LIke” campaign. It’s a brand that proves that it’s never too late to find your voice, especially if it’s done authentically and in real-time.
Let the Savy Team Help You Find and Own Your Brand Voice
At Savy, we know that, in many ways, your brand is like your kid. You’ve taken the time to nurture it, name it, and help find its place in the world. We also know that you sometimes need help to coax out its voice. Lucky for you, establishing a strong brand voice as a foundation for an even stronger marketing strategy is what we do best. Find out for yourself.