How to create a distinctive brand voice in 6 steps

Title image for 'How to Create a Distinctive Brand Voice in 6 Steps' blog post. Blue background with the words 'What's Your Voice, Dude?' in Editorial New font, with 'Dude' crossed out.

By Nine Blaess | 6:13 min

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    As David Aaker famously said, “Your brand is a story unfolding across all customer touchpoints.” And at the heart of that story is your brand voice—the personality and tone of your messaging that sets your brand apart from the competition.

    Crafting a distinctive brand voice can be a daunting task, especially if you’re not sure where to start. That’s why in this post, I’ve compiled six easy steps to help you develop a brand voice that resonates with your target audience and establishes a lasting connection.

    Whether you’re starting a brand or looking to revamp your existing one, these tips will guide you in creating a unique and authentic voice that truly represents your brand values and mission. So, let’s get started.

    What Exactly is a Distinctive Brand Voice?

    At its core, a distinctive brand voice is a unique personality and style that a brand communicates via its written and verbal language. It’s how a brand expresses itself and interacts with its audience on a human level.

    When a brand voice is aligned with the brand’s values, vision, and audience, it can create a strong foundation for building trust and deeper relationships with the audience.

    Sounding consistent across all brand touchpoints is key, here.

    Nevertheless, a brand voice can and should adapt to different environments and platforms. Just as a person matches their tone of voice to their environment, so can a brand.

    For example, the tone of voice used in advertising copy might be more daring and attention-grabbing than in customer interactions.

    And while on TikTok, a brand may adopt a more casual tone to resonate with a younger audience, on LinkedIn, it may sound more professional and formal. Likewise, blogpost readers don’t mind reading a longer piece, but Instagram users are looking for short-form captions.

    But now, let’s explore six steps on how you can create a memorable and authentic brand voice that truly resonates with your audience.

    1. Identify the Target Audience

    Study your ideal and existing customers. Pinpointing your target audience allows you to tailor your brand voice to their expectations, interests and language. This step is essential to engage with them at a personal level.

    But how? Conduct market research and gather information about their demographics, behaviours, needs, goals and problems.

    You can also run surveys, convene focus groups and analyse existing customer data.

    Do you notice patterns in the behaviours and characteristics of your existing customers? Which other brands do they engage with, and what do those brands sound like?

    Ultimately, the secret is to sound uniquely you. As Morgan Brown, Shopify’s VP of Marketing points out:

    Customers are looking for different voices, experiences and visions from each brand they invest in.

    To sum your research up, you may find it helpful to create personas. Personas are profiles of your ideal customers that you can later consult as stakeholders in your decision-making.

    2. Study the Competition

    Scroll through your competitor’s websites and sign up for their newsletters.

    What tone of voice do they use? Do you notice patterns in the way they talk? Can you spot keywords or other frequently used phrases?

    Studying your competitor’s brand voice can help you identify gaps in the market that your brand can fill. For example, I love how Alto stands out amongst ordinary pharmacies.

    You can also pull influence from brands you are not competing with. Imagine how a brand voice might sound that blends Lululemon with Apple. Like this? “Your workouts just got more intuitive thanks to our innovative Luxtreme™ fabric.”

    3. Define the Brand’s Vision & Values

    One of the most important things you can do to build trust and credibility is to ensure that your brand voice aligns with your company’s vision and values. Customers can skillfully spot when a brand is not genuine, so staying true to your values is a must.

    A vision statement can help you summarise the future your brand is striving towards. This vision doesn’t necessarily have to be 100% achievable. By proposing a compelling and meaningful vision, you can attract an audience that believes in what you’re doing.

    Marc Pollard from Sweathead once pointed out a great way to craft compelling vision statements: Try to imagine how your company will change the world:

    “A world in which … (something is different).”

    For example “A world in which there is no poverty.” You simplify it later, such as: “Imagine a world without poverty.”

    To define brand values, I typically look for which values the company shares with its target audience. This approach will help create a brand that fosters a sense of community and shared values.

    4. Define the Tone of Voice for Your Brand

    Now, it’s time to connect the dots. Think about what qualities you want your brand to express. Should it sound formal or casual? Funny or serious?

    By compiling a good mix of characteristics, you’ll make sure to keep your brand’s tone fresh and interesting. A good rule of thumb is to choose no more than five characteristics relevant to your brand.

    Consider the following characteristics:

    • Formal vs Casual
    • Confident vs Modest
    • Enthusiastic vs Calming
    • Humorous vs Serious
    • Inspiring vs Informative
    • Playful vs Professional
    • Courageous vs Reserved

    To further define your brand’s personality, imagine the brand as a person. A person’s unique identity shines through in how they dress, behave, and speak—the topics they talk about and their tone. 

    Ask yourself:

    • What would my brand wear?
    • Who would they hang out with?
    • What would they eat?
    • What social platforms would they use?
    • What music do they listen to?

    By answering these questions, you can create a more detailed and nuanced picture of your brand’s personality and tone of voice.

    5. Write Up Brand Voice Guidelines

    Words are gold when building a deep connection with your target audience and maintaining your brand identity. And just like with your visual brand elements, consistency is the key here.

    So, how can you ensure that your brand voice remains consistent across all platforms and communication channels, even when multiple copywriters are involved?

    The easiest way is to create a set of brand voice guidelines and stick to them religiously.

    These guidelines could cover a range of aspects, such as: 

    • Tone of voice (whether you want to sound informed, warm, or conversational)
    • Personality (e. g. a supportive friend)
    • Vision and values (e. g. a zero-carbon world)
    • Examples (including dos and don’ts)
    • Customisation (how to sound on LinkedIn, Instagram, newsletters, etc.)
    • Grammar and syntax (e. g. simple sentence structures, no abbreviations)
    • Typographical guidelines (such as how to write phone numbers or certain terminology)

    Are you looking for some inspiration? Mailchimp shares its Mailchimp guidelines publically.

    6. Review and Refine Regularly

    Don’t forget to review your brand voice guidelines regularly to ensure they remain consistent and relevant to your evolving brand identity and target audience.

    I know this is a lot to think about. But all of this work will pay off in time. With an authentic and memorable brand voice, people will listen to and trust your brand.

    Let’s look at some examples.

    Distinctive brand voice examples

    To wrap things up, let’s look at how others use their brand voice across different channels.

    Oatly

    Oatly is a plant-based food and beverage company known for its bold, unapologetic, and quirky brand voice. See for yourself.

    Oatly Ad: Difficult Age

    Oatly on Twitter [1]

    Oatly for plant milk in schools

    Oatly on Instagram [2]

    Oatly for the planet

    Dropbox

    The Dropbox brand voice reflects the company’s focus on simplicity and ease of use by being straightforward, approachable, and confident.

    Dropbox Website [3]

    straightforward, approachable, and confident brand voice of Dropbox

    Dropbox on Twitter [4]

    Allbirds

    The brand voice of the sustainable footwear brand Allbirds is environmentally conscious, playful, and approachable. Allbirds never fails to bring in elements of surprise.

    Allbirds Ad: Meet your shoes

    Allbirds on Instagram [5]

    Allbirds brand voice example

    From the Allbirds sustainability report [6]

    As these examples show, establishing and maintaining your brand voice is a big step towards building trust and recognition with your target audience.

    Now, you are ready to craft your brand story.

    Conclusion

    Your brand voice is far more than just a collection of words; it’s an expression of your brand’s unique personality. Think of it as the beating heart of your brand.

    By consistently delivering messages that align with your brand values and promises, you can establish trust, foster deeper relationships, and inspire greater loyalty in your audience. This, in turn, not only helps you attract new customers but also cultivates lifetime value with your existing ones.

    To create a distinctive brand voice, begin by understanding your customers and studying your competition. Then, define your brand’s vision and values and set the tone of voice for your brand. Finally, create brand voice guidelines that help maintain consistency across all your communication channels.

    It’s important to remember that building a great brand takes time and effort. Brands are not built overnight, but through thousands of small gestures.

    Therefore, it’s vital to remain consistent and committed to your brand voice, even if the results are not immediately visible.

    Great brands are not built by a single advertisement or transaction, but rather by thousands of small gestures that build trust and cultivate relationships.

    Your verbal identity is just one part of your branding and should be developed alongside your visual identity.

    In this context, you might also enjoy these articles:

    References

    [1] Oatly on Twitter

    [2] Oatly on Instagram

    [3] Dropbox Website.

    [4] Dropbox on Twitter.

    [5] Allbirds on Instagram.

    [6] Allbirds Website.

    Nine Blaess

    Nine Blaess

    Hello, I’m Nine. I blend strategy and design to craft engaging brand identities and websites that celebrate the uniqueness of each business.

    Sign up for my newsletter and get my hands-on Brand Storytelling Workbook in return.

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