Building a Brand Voice Your Customers Actually Like (4 Steps)

June 14, 2021

Putting words in your brand’s mouth

How do you appreciate being spoken to? Are there little irks and pet peeves you have that drive you absolutely nuts?

Like, I fuckin hate it when people say “I could care less.” The expression is “I couldn’t care less.” You know? to express that the depth of your caring can descend no further?Sure, I don’t dismiss people altogether when they mess that up BUT it stands out when someone gets the expression right. That’s what your brand voice does: it connects the right people through the right words.Brand voice = the personality applied to your company’s communication.When a client shows up at our virtual doorstep, we never know how well they’ve defined their brand voice beforehand.Some show up with rich, in-depth, million-page documents detailing everything from common expressions to words we should NEVER use. Most show up with nothing. One client once gave us a google doc with four adjectives on it. Whether you’re starting from scratch defining your own voice or you’re curious how we do it here, here are our four steps in finding, defining, creating, and/or maintaining brand voice:

  1. Audit
  2. Find yourself
  3. Describe your audience
  4. Define, test, do it again

Step 1: Audit

This step will look a little different depending on how fresh your brand is. Basically, you’re gonna look at EVERYTHING you can.

Start by gathering all the writing done in your company’s holy name. That means mission statements, social posts, blogs, memos, everything.(Aight. You don’t need to look at EVERYTHING if your brand has been around long enough to have known some dinosaurs, but make sure to get as extensive a sample as you can.)Great. Now, read it. From your collection, choose the pieces of writing that you look at and think “yeah, this feels like me!”Forget everything else. Keep your writing samples ready because you’ll need ‘em in a sec. (For the record, I am fully aware that between “Step 1” and “sec” are a mere 107 words asking you to take on a potentially huge undertaking. No one said this was gonna be easy.)((BTW at this early stage internally we also perform what we call a competitor analysis, where we look through your competitors’ writing, ask “why are they doing that?” and steal test whether or not it would work with your brand. We even have a blog post about it to get you started)).

Step 2: Find yourself

Go on a journey of self-discovery. Eat, Pray, Love your way through your writing.

Take the writing samples you chose and ask yourself “WHY does this feel right for my brand?”Make a list of adjectives that describe both the writing samples and your brand. Make it as long as you want. Now cut it down to 5-10 words. Start by removing contradictions. For example, if you have “irreverent” and “conventional” on your list, throw one out now. How the fack are you gonna break the status quo while upholding it?Also, avoid any words that have far too similar meanings. Choose ONE that fits best. 5 to 10 words is not a lot of words. If your list is “smart, intelligent, clever, brainy, informed, and brilliant” all you’ve really said is that you are not creative. Test your adjectives by lining them up with things you liked in your old writing. Then try creating new writing samples that align with your list to see how well it works for you. When &BAM tried this exercise for the first time, these are the words we came up with:

  • Expert
  • Clever
  • Irreverent
  • Candid
  • Enthusiastic

Do you think the shoe fits? 👀

Step 3: Describe your audience

Time for another journey of discovery, but this time it’s for the people that will be on the receiving end of your brand voice.Describing your audience is gonna help you understand your limits and find new vocab. What a 15-year old finds irreverent is very different from what a 70-year old would. (Think about the boomer reaction to, “ok, boomer”)I’m not gonna get into the nitty-gritty of defining your audience here, but you can use any of the standard approaches:

  • Consult data about who you’re already reaching
  • Create avatars of the different types of people within your audience
  • Identify audiences you are trying to or would like to reach

Yes, that’s another potentially huge undertaking, BUT it means you do three crucial things:ONE: Find your limits. If you know your brand voice is “crude,” you can specify what kind. Toilet jokes are a different kind of crude than sex jokes. Crude grammar are also verree bad 4 sum ppl. TWO: Find new vocab. Surprised by how many 20-25 year-olds are in your target market? You better find out what words they’re using and how to use them correctly. No cap.THREE: You know what vocab you can take for granted. For example, &BAM will never waste your time explaining “ROI” for you. If you’re selling art supplies to pros, you should probably never talk down to them explaining the difference between landscape and portrait formats. Just like in the last step, try creating new writing samples to test out and apply your findings.

Step 4: Define. Test. Do it again.

Here’s a challenge for you. Define your brand voice in a format that works for your brand voice. If you said you’re educational, make a slideshow that shows it off in an educational way. But if you don’t have time for that? No worries, it goes a long way to document everything in a Google Doc, a series of sticky note reminders, or in an email to everyone you know and their mothers. What counts is that you have a document containing:

  • Phrases you love and why
  • Words describing your brand’s personality
  • Advice for approaching your audience
  • Examples
  • More examples

You can take things a step further and include:

  • Spelling rules (American vs Canadian English)
  • Grammar rules (Yes, no, or sometimes to the Oxford comma)
  • Ur fave emojis

Maybe take the personality for a spin and do some BuzzFeed quizzes with it. For instance, we found out &BAM is Green Lantern, Fred Weasley, and a cream-filled donut. Who knew!There's no getting around the fact that building a brand voice requires some pretty significant time and energy. But, it's also one of the best things you can do to foster customer relationships, sooooooo....Don’t wanna do all the hard work of figuring that stuff out?Book a discovery call with us today — we’ll figure it out for you.

Ready to take off?