What does voice have to do with branding?

Each and every purchase decision is made by a person. Branding helps you engage that person in a series of activities (the customer journey) that help them to identify your brand in a competitive market, understand how your offer delivers value, and eventually drive preference for your brand.

Branding allows you to:

Tell a unique story in a crowded marketplace

Branding allows you to:

Differentiate from the competition

Branding allows you to:

Provide a clear purpose for why and how you engage your customers

Branding allows you to:

Create a brand personality your customers can connect with

Branding allows you to:

Evaluate your planned marketing activities based on whether or not they are right for the brand

Branding allows you to:

Create a cohesive experience across every touchpoint, whether the customer is reading content on your website, engaging with a thought leadership animation about challenges in your sector, or reaching out for support

People often think branding means the company logo, however there’s much more to it than that—on the visual side and for the brand’s tone of voice.

Brand Identity = Visual Identity + Verbal Identity

A brand platform must include two key parts: the visual identity and the verbal identity.

The visual identity is how your brand looks. It’s not just the brand mark. It includes elements such as the typefaces and colours you use; your graphic language; the grid on which your layouts are based; visual elements to add focus and interest—including where and how they are used; a defined approach to information hierarchy, direction for photography and illustration styles; a library of icons and asset templates; and a style for sharing technical information in charts and graphs.

The verbal identity is how your brand sounds, and what it says—setting the direction for the tone of voice at every touchpoint between your customer and your brand. It includes key attributes that we want to get across in the tone of voice. For example, if a brand wants to sound collaborative, they might use personal pronouns like we and us; if the brand wants to come off as the leader in their field, they might want to focus on telling their technology stories in a very relatable way. In addition to defining the characteristics of the voice, the verbal identity also sets out key details, like UK vs. US English, and words we avoid using and what we use instead.

A brand platform must include two key parts: the visual identity and the verbal identity.

The most important part of the verbal identity is the brand story—your why.

A compelling brand story translates your purpose into a differentiator that helps your brand stand out in the market. It shares your brand’s unique perspective in the areas you play. It shows the market and your readers that you understand their world, have empathy for them and knowledge about the challenges they are facing, and have the right solution for their needs. It tells the world why you get out of bed each day—what problem you solve, and how you’re going to make their lives easier. And it clearly states what makes you different.

For example, here in Canada, telecommunications is dominated by two main and massive companies. So when Virgin Mobile first entered the Canadian market, they focused their brand story on being “not your old-school telecom provider.” That translated into a voice that was casual, upbeat, and friendly—yet super competent.

When you called in for tech support, rather than using a flat voice stating that “all calls will be monitored for training purposes” as many businesses do, the Virgin recording says “just so you know, all calls are monitored to ensure we’re treating you real nice.” It’s a small thing, tone of voice. Yet, it can have a tremendous impact.

This message on the line with Virgin feels personal. It tells the story that they are different from the big companies, and it makes the caller feel like they’re in good hands. They’re going to be taken care of, and the experience is going to be pleasant. It also takes the idea that calling into tech support is frustrating, and flips it on its head—which is also a great way to set your customer service reps up for success. Of course, everyone’s got to walk the talk—the CSR who answers the phone needs to be empowered to quickly resolve the customer’s issue and deliver on the “not old-school” brand promise, or it all falls apart. Your brand voice needs to ring true with your customers and give them something to connect to—and it needs to be aligned across every interaction they have with your brand.

It’s a small thing, tone of voice. Yet, it can have a tremendous impact.

So how do you create your brand’s voice and story?

A brand’s tone of voice comes out of its purpose, values, and business objectives. Once your branding partner has a good understanding of these elements, they can define the characteristics for a tone of voice that aligns to, and feels authentic for, your brand. The verbal branding guidelines build out these characteristics, as well as examples that bring the characteristics into focus (“do this, not this” using real text), and help to ensure you create a cohesive tone of voice across all your collateral, even when you have different writers working on your projects. A wording convention defines how words that are used often are handled (for example, e-mail vs. email, Internet vs. internet), and highlights preferred word choices, as well as words the brand does not use.

All of branding needs to be a co-creative process, however this is particularly true when it comes to creating your brand story. The writer needs to bring their passion for storytelling, and you need to share your values, customer insights, and industry expertise to help them better understand your why, your business, and your market. The garbage in equals garbage out principle holds strong in branding, so you need to commit to engaging with your agency in a discovery process—the more deeply they understand your business, the more strategically they can work with you. Branding isn’t something an agency can go away and do over there, in a bubble. It’s a process of collaboration to uncover your reason for being, and help you translate your purpose into compelling stories that align your voice across every customer interaction and lead to strategic business growth.

All of branding needs to be a co-creative process, however this is particularly true when it comes to creating your brand story.

Ready to uncover your brand’s voice and story?

Get in touch with us.