Define Your Brand Voice with This Creative Exercise
If you’ve ever flown with Southwest Airlines, you’ve probably experienced the quintessential enthusiastic sense of humor, friendly service, and quirky rituals exhibited by their employees.
Rather than listening to the monotonous, droning voice of a flight attendant at random intervals during your cross-country travels, Southwest keeps things interesting and engages with their customers in a fun and unique manner–whether it be cracking a joke about the weather conditions or singing a song over the plane’s intercom.
It goes without saying that Southwest has a solid and recognizable brand.
What their customers experience while flying on their planes is consistent because they have strongly defined who they are and how that plays out in practice at various customer touchpoints.
In the content marketing world, you won’t be spending several hours in-flight with your customers, but you do have a similar opportunity to engage with them and help them get to know your brand via blog posts, emails, or tweets.
…And a big part of the equation when it comes to how your customers experience your brand via content marketing is voice.
Voice goes beyond the words you choose–their order, rhythm, tone, and pace all come together to make up a brand’s personality.
In other words, your brand should have a personality strategically developed in order to speak to your ideal customer. Your brand connects with people emotionally because it communicates like a human.
Whether you’re a home goods retailer, medical practitioner, or graphic design firm, this element is essential to help your audiences recognize and understand who your brand is.
If you haven’t already taken the time to define your brand’s personality and voice, I highly suggest you do so, ASAP. Otherwise, your marketing copy won’t be consistent or engaging enough for your customers to perform desired actions.
To get the ball rolling, here’s a creative brainstorming exercise your company can use to create or reposition your brand identity and voice.
Modeled on what Brandfolder did with their team, this exercise will give you a better sense of how to write future posts and copy that will be infused with the authentic essence of your brand.
Part 1: Core Values
Prior to the brainstorm meeting, invite members of your company that you wish to be a part of the brainstorm to submit their ideas and opinions about your company’s core values.
Starting off, take a half hour to discuss the submitted ideas, and develop new ones.
Be sure to pay close attention to what members of your customer service team (or anyone else who interacts frequently with your customers) say as they will have the most intel into how your audience perceives you.
When answering questions throughout the next few steps, aim to follow the following format:
- For each question, give your team up to 5 minutes to write down thoughts and answers.
- Have everyone share their responses in a circle, and then discuss them.
- An assigned scribe should record all responses, even duplicates.
Step 2: Brand Personality
One thing that will help your team begin to conceptualize your brand voice is to bring it to life with a personality. By doing this, you will be able to think of your brand as a person, and from there, map out certain details.
Ask your team to think of which famous figure or character from history could represent your brand as a spokesperson. For example, maybe your brand is quirky and ironic like Will Ferrell. Or it’s humble and friendly like Mr. Rogers.
Bearing these people in mind, have everyone list 5-10 of their personality traits, particularly the ones that most closely relate to your brand.
Next, flesh out the personality’s interests. Ask everyone to make a list of what their personality…
- Reads (books, magazines, websites, blogs).
- Watches (TV shows, movies, comedians, YouTube channels).
- Uses or engages with when it comes to tools, apps, and brands.
See an example of what this looks like in practice with the above image from Brandfolder.
Step 3: Tone and Language
Next, it’s time to focus on two critical components that make up brand voice: tone and language.
Tone is how you want your brand to come across to others. For example, helpful and prescriptive could be two terms to describe a particular brand voice’s tone.
Language is the type of word you use to describe that tone, e.g., concise and informative.
Step 4: Always and Never
The next part of your team’s brainstorm involves an exercise called “always and never.”
Basically, you write a statement such as:
[Your brand] is always ______ and [your brand] is never _______.
In the interest of being thorough, give your team enough time to write down several always and never examples that describe your brand.
Hopefully, when your team shares their sentences, you’ll more or less be on the same page.
Step 5: Get On the Same Page
It’s now time to get concise and hone in on what seems to be agreed-upon brand voice elements by the majority.
Make a list of specific words that appeared three or more times throughout the brainstorm.
Go through the list and stop on each word, asking yourselves questions such as:
- Is this the most suitable word for the idea we want to convey?
- Is there another word which better describes this idea?
- Does our audience perceive us this way?
Once you have pared down your list and gotten on the same page, create a brand voice guideline document that describes your brand using the agreed-upon words.
If you want to include an example of one or two famous figures or characters from history that you found to be consistent with the defined voice, mention them as well.
This document will be helpful in guiding current and future employees when creating content to share on your various channels.
Finally, keep in mind that brand voice is not fixed–it should be fluid and ever-evolving.
In order to keep up with your audience, translate across new communication channels, and connect with your audience in fresh new ways. Be sure to have your voice change and grow with your company.
Congratulations! If you weren’t on track before in defining your brand voice, now you are.
The next step is to use that voice to tell your brand’s story.
Click here for 6 ways to create your brand storytelling.