“Everyone wearing a pink sweater, look here!”
Clear, definite direction for specific people — this is what branding is all about!
You may already know that. A HUGE mistake I see people making, though, is thinking that means your visual branding alone. Yes, we recognize brands first and foremost by their colors, fonts, logos, and the kind of images associated with their content, products and services.
Buuuuuut, that’s only telling ½ of the love story between your dreamboat clients and your business. The other ½ of the story, that’s just as vital, and probably even more important: your brand message.
The message of your brand includes a lot of different components, including:
Your brand values
Your brand story (and often your personal stories too!)
A consistent tone your ideal clients instantly recognise and respond to (just like they respond to your colors and logo!)
A language that really resonates with your tribe, to the point that they’re thinking, “how the heck is she reading my mind like that?”
All of these things together form your brand voice.
Brand Voice Can Be More Important Than Visual Branding
‘Cause visual branding draws people in, but it’s your words that do the heavy lifting: selling.
Not all brands have a consistent visual ‘look’. They may not have a logo at all. Their color palette could be non-existent, or extremely broad, leading to their appearance seeming a bit messy. They might lack a particular tone and sensibility, or any kind of consistent touch points that exist across all their platforms (websites, customer interactions, packaging, advertising, etc).
And yet, they still have a very recognisable brand.
But if you tried to pinpoint what it is about them that’s so recognizable, you’d struggle, or come up with a single slogan, or logo, that is used consistently but it the only thing that stays the same.
Here a great example: Disney.
They have a really recognisable logo, but it appears in a million different forms.
They use a castle, but it’s not always the same castle.
Sometimes they don’t use the castle at all. Sometimes they use Mickey Mouse, and again, it’s not always the same version!
Sometimes they just use Mickey’s ears, or a stylised version of his head.
And sometimes it’s just the text, and then only ‘Disney’, not ‘Walt Disney’ as used in the full logo.
Sometimes it’s just the distinctive Disney ‘D’ and nothing else!
And although the font remains the same wherever they use it, the colours and embellishments of the word change massively,
Disney has an astonishingly consistent brand, but visually it’s all over the place. It’s bright and colorful and changes character depending on what they’re promoting, yet it is still, somehow, completely consistent.
Now you might be thinking, “Ohmigosh, I never even noticed that! But, ovi, I’d recognize Disney anywhere. How’d they do that?!”
It’s all about the voice.
Many of the best, most popular brands, achieve complete brand consistency with nothing but the power of their voice, and the power of their brand message.
If you think about Disney it always has a slightly dreamy quality to it. It’s bright, colourful, magical, filled with the awe and wonder you experience as a child, that’s somehow carried through into adulthood. It’s charming innocence and a guaranteed good time. It’s the sense that anything is possible, that everything is achievable, and that the world is a fundamentally good place; you just have to know where to look for the magic.
That’s not something that can be conveyed with a logo alone.
It’s the message carried in everything Disney does that has created and honed this feeling over the years.
It’s the voice.
Voice is something that far too many solopreneurs and new entrepreneurs overlook. If you don’t take the time to really explore and consider your brand’s voice, it’s message, you’re not necessarily setting yourself up for failure, but you’re not setting yourself up for success either.
You may be doing well without a clear voice, but I guarantee you’re not doing as well as you could be doing if you really focussed on this.
If you invest that time, and hone a really clear voice, you can give your brand a suuuuuper powerful message.
And that, my friend, will only carry you to even greater success.
What is your brand voice?
Your brand voice is the part of your branding that expresses the personality of your business and sets your brand apart.
Like a person, your brand has characteristics that should be expressed through all aspects of its identity. That includes your visual branding, as well as your voice, but in many ways it’s a lot easier to create a consistent visual brand than it is to craft a truly consistent voice with a powerful message.
We often underestimate just how difficult it is. As a solopreneur you may be tempted to skip developing your voice.
“My brand voice is already defined: it’s me. And I’m saying it, so it’s already me - I don’t need to do anything!”
But it’s not quite that simple.
If you don’t take the time to get clear on your brand voice, it can lead to inconsistency and confusion with your clients.
As normal humans, yes, we have a voice, personality and character traits, but they’re far broader and more nuanced than the voice of our brand.
Even if you are your brand, is your brand the whole of you?
There’s an awful lot that goes into a complete person, and since you’re here reading these words I’ve written, I already know you’re pretty awesome ;)
Waaaay too awesome, multifaceted, and complex to condense every-single-little-thing into a clear and persuasive brand identity.
Rather, your brand might be focusing on certain aspects of your personality. We can have a much wider variation in our personalities than we want to include in our brand.
For example, before I became a coach, I was a lawyer. I’m still a lawyer - all that training doesn’t just vanish because I switched career tracks. That means I can be very serious, overly intellectual, with a focus on all the possible things that could go wrong.
My brand as a coach isn’t that! As a coach, I’m much warmer. My sensitive, spiritual, supportive, and my intuitive side is much more present in my coaching brand that it ever has been in the part of me that practices law.
Brands have personalities of their own. They’re not straight copies of the personality of their creator.
Here are some examples of brand personalities:
Cordial, but reserved
Humble and generous
Aggressive and direct
Bold and energetic
Clarity on brand personality would answer the following questions about the brand:
The brand’s core values
The brand’s passions
What the brand is striving for
What the brand finds fascinating
The brand’s guilty pleasures
The Limitations Of Having No Voice
If you don’t have a defined brand voice and message, it may limit you in terms of growth.
It’s possible that, right now, you’re a one-woman show in your business. If so, that’s fantastic; but if you’re learning and growing, it may not be that long until you’ll have a whole team of people supporting you. In which case, you will definitely need to be clear on the voice of your brand, because there’s only one of you!
You can’t expect other people to perfectly emulate you in order to ‘be the brand’.
How To Ensure Your Brand Voice Is You
“Always be a first rate version of yourself instead of a second rate version of someone else.” - Judy Garland
Despite the fact your brand voice isn’t as simple as being just you it still has to be you. You’ve gotta be completely comfortable with it, or you won’t be able to advocate for your brand.
More than that, the easiest way to ensure consistency in your voice and message is to be genuine. Your brand must be a true reflection of you, partly for the sake of transparency and being honest with your clients, but largely because it doesn’t work otherwise.
People can see through the phony brands and personas people adopt to sell stuff. They might buy into your brand if it’s not genuine, but they won’t stick around.
It won’t take them long to see through the charade.
So here’s where people struggle with this:
When you admire other entrepreneurs and creatives, and read all their stuff, you start to sound like them.
It’s like learning from a teacher or college professor — you pick up their arguments, expressions, and view point. That’s part of what makes them a good teacher. Part of what makes you love the people you follow online - coaches, mentors, celebs, whoever - is their unique view of the world and how they convey that.
And it influences you.
That’s not a bad thing!
But if you’re not careful you can find yourself sounding more like them (at least sometimes) than yourself. Your brand becomes an odd mash up of the people you admire and love. Not only will that be inconsistent and ingenuine, it makes honing a distinct voice for your brand tougher than a $5 steak.
The easiest way to make sure you don’t sound too much like anyone else?
Stop reading their stuff while you’re creating!
Yep, just click that little X at the top corner of the blog. Pause the podcast. Stop your scrolling. Close Insta.
Now, now, don’t get worked up! I don’t mean forever.
That doesn’t mean you can’t ever read other people’s stuff or do research, but it is very easy to get your head clogged with other people’s voices.
And here’s a distinction: It’s not just about other people’s ideas -- it really is more about how it’s said.
Most things have already been said.
There really isn’t any such thing as an original idea anymore.
If you haven’t said it yet, then there’s still a unique way for it to be said, even if the notion isn’t itself unique.
Say it your way!
You have your own voice, message, and story. There’s no reason for you not to share it just because someone else has had a similar idea or experience before.
It is, however, important that you do share it in your own special way. Here are a few easy ways to do exactly that:
Don’t just research your topics and parrot the information you found. Weave your own experiences into it, think about your perspective, use that to make it completely unique.
Use your own analogies. Your life should inform your teaching.
Use your stories to develop your voice into something nobody else could possibly replicate - you’re the only one who has those stories!
Don’t read other people’s stuff while you’re writing your own content.
If you’ve done research, and want to use a point, phrase it in a way you would actually speak. Use your own words, expressions, examples, and ways of explaining or presenting the facts.
Just say what you want, in your own voice.
An easy way of testing it? Say it out loud! If you feel ridiculous, it’s prob because you’re not speaking in your voice.
Defining Your Brand Voice
A well-defined brand voice will allow you to understand how your brand will behave in any situation. From cocktail party banter, to apologies for a mistake, to Tweets.
Once you understand the personality of your brand, you will always know how it should sound, in any situation. Here are a few example of definitions of brand voices - don’t feel you need to pick one of these, they are just to give you ideas:
Intelligent: geared to an intelligent audience but not overly complicated or complex.
Courageous: short dynamic statements that reveal a willingness to confront issues.
Down to earth.
Friendly: upbeat and positive. Open and accessible.
Tone down overly professional
Inquisitive - always asking questions.
Once you’ve settled on a definition of your brand, go through the various situations you will need your brand to have a clear way of getting your message across, and ask yourself, WWMBD?
What would my brand do?
For a great example of this, have a read of this interview with Warby Parker’s Copy Director, Molly Young, who describes the personality of the brand perfectly:
“Warby Parker is the person you want to sit next to at a dinner party. They are funny and smart, and they get up to do the dishes.”
How can you make your brand’s personality come to life like this?
For specifics on exactly how to outline your brand voice, download my FREE Brand Voice Workbook!
Brand Voice Vs. Brand Tone
It’s important to understand the difference between the voice and the tone of your brand.
Your Brand Voice is the overall style that your brand expresses.
Your Brand Tone is the variation in voice used to reflect a particular attitude, or respond to a specific situation. The tone is an expression of of your brand’s character to the specific audience or situation at hand.
Your tone changes all the time. It must change -- it’s how you express empathy and relevance.
While the tone of your brand can change depending on context, your brand voice should be consistent.
For example, when you make a first time sales pitch, you’re likely to be upbeat and positive. When you’re onboarding a new client, you’ll offer cheerful encouragement. In an emergency response to a client you’re more likely to be brief, precise, and careful.
Another brand that is really transparent about their voice and has a FANTASTIC brand guide is MailChimp. They have a really detailed breakdown of everything that makes the MailChimp brand voice, from the cheeky high fives to the types of content used. Their guide to tone and voice is particularly useful for understanding the difference.
10 Ways To Create A Brand Voice With A Powerful Message
Here are some tips so that you can develop a unique and genuine brand voice.
Be consistent - whatever you decide on, stick to it!
Speak the language of your ideal client - hang out with them in their natural habitat and learn the words and phrases they use. Incorporate that into your brand voice to make it relatable.
Maintain professionalism (even if your voice is relaxed and laid back, it needs to be professional - i.e. written content should always be fully proofread, you need a clear understanding of unsuitable language to use, and subjects to cover - will you swear? If so which words are okay and which aren’t? Will you use slang and abbreviations?)
Develop unique terminology and expressions to explain your core concepts and signature offerings. It will make your voice distinct, avoid cliches, and help solidify the uniqueness of your offerings.
Use references that are completely relatable and relevant to your ideal client (i.e. if you’re using pop culture references, find out what TV shows, music, films etc. they like and use those!).
Be authentic and trustworthy. Never say anything you’re not completely comfortable with. Make sure every word your brand ‘speaks’ is totally true to you, and TRUE!
Advocate for causes you are passionate about (especially if they are relevant to your niche).
Sparkle with star quality and your own unique flair - stand out rather than blending in!
Establish an ethos and stick to it - what are your values?
Tell stories - personal and professional stories will help you really personalize your message while demonstrating you know what you’re doing!
Create a special document where you keep track of the things you commonly say, as well as the things that your clients commonly say (you can use things like Facebook groups and Amazon book reviews to give you more info on that).
For a more detailed breakdown of exactly how to create a powerful message, download the FREE Brand Voice workbook now. Also, be sure to sign up for my brand new FREE Live training: How to Master Your Mindset & Marketing to Fully Book Your Creative, Coaching, or Online Business happening November 28th, 29th, & 30th. Click the link here to sign up.