Building a Remarkable Voice
Speaking human in a marketing world
In today’s world a brand has more ways than ever to connect and communicate with its audiences. How a brand communicates, often, is as important as what it communicates. Standing out amongst the sea of competition and media noise is difficult if not daunting. And cutting through the clutter and reaching customers is a must for your brand.
Building a powerful brand image is, of course, critical. However, creating, defining, articulating and evangelizing a distinctive brand voice to align with the brand image is a task that some brands overlook or take for granted.
Because your brand stands for something (as it should be founded on a clear purpose and promise to your customers), it should also speak in a manner that’s aligned with your beliefs. And, in order to be believable, it should also speak in a language and tone that both comes from the spirit of the brand and is familiar and likable to your audience.
And, your brand should speak like a human. If you want to form human connections—which are the make up of your entire audience—you need to communicate on a human level. Lots of brands fall into the trap of speaking like marketers (we understand that most marketers are humans, too). We see this show up in speeds-and-feeds in the tech world, and pushing promotions and discounts with some brands.
Walking and talking the human-brand
Knowing what your organization believes through its defined brand purpose, values and promise will establish the foundations for striking the right tone of brand voice that sounds like it comes from the brand itself and not a marketing team.
For instance, Southwest Airlines has a voice based on their stated mission: “The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit.” As such, their brand voice is warm, friendly, approachable and customer-centric.
In contrast, the mission of Airbnb, as stated by their founding CEO Brian Chesky, is, “to help create a world where you can belong anywhere, and where people can live in a place, instead of just traveling to it.” Their brand voice is welcoming, neighborly, respectful, connecting, adventurous and trustworthy.
Architecting the matrix
A Messaging Matrix (our proprietary approach) is the language playbook for a brand. It not only articulates the purpose, promise and core values of an organization, it establishes the language that is aimed at the culture and the market; it communicates the most critical attributes of the brand. Here’s what the Mth Degree Messaging Matrix defines and includes:
- Brand purpose (why the company exists; its stated reason for being)
- Brand vision (the long-term impact)
- Brand mission (its core focus)
- Brand position (its place in the marketplace)
- Brand promise (its stated promise to the external world, especially customers)
- Core values (the brand beliefs set in actionable language)
- Brand pillars (definition of the brand personality)
- Brand tone and voice (the guidelines for the language the brand uses)
- Reasons to believe (the language set(s) that are aimed at speaking to and articulating why the brand’s work matters to their audiences)
Here’s an example of a “brand tone and voice” page from the Messaging Matrix we created for the Fleet Science Center during the brand evolution process we lead them through.
The Circle of Brand Voice
Once the brand voice is defined and the Messaging Matrix is complete, the brand needs to train and assign the brand team who will express the voice out into the world. Your entire brand team is your brand voice circle—a family of expert and well-trained individuals who will share the load in expressing the brand to all stakeholders. It’s made up of writers, designers, creative and art directors, marketers, C-suite executives and social media ambassadors. Depending on the composition and complexity of your team, it could also include sales teams, trainers, customer service teams, volunteers, street teams, help-desk teams and technicians, among others.
Chances are your brand is large and complex enough that no single individual will be your voice of the brand, and there’s no single writer on your team that can or will handle all of your communication. For example, most large brands will hire an entire social media team to express and respond in that environment.
Ensuring that everyone both understands their role in expressing the brand voice and knows the tone and core messaging on which to express from, can make or break how authentically the brand is received in the market. Training the team here is critical.
At the center of the team should be a “brand police” captain who ensures that everyone is trained in the brand voice and who keeps their finger on the pulse the messages in all media going out into the world. This person sits in the center of the circle to ensure brand consistency; they empower the brand team to keep the voice authentic.
The Big Takeaway
A strong, distinct brand image and voice is more important today than ever. It can make the difference between a believable and authentic brand that has lasting loyalty with your audience and a team of marketers that are pushing products out into the world. The effectiveness in an authentic, human and consistent brand voice has been demonstrated by some of the world’s top brands including Apple, Google, Amazon, Disney, Nike and Facebook.
While technology might pave the way for innovation, it is ultimately human connection that drives brands forward to deeper relationships with their audiences. It’s important to keep in mind that people don’t buy your product for what you make, but rather for what it does for them. Your brand voice has the opportunity to foster trust, empathy, awareness, caring and effectiveness in the lives of your customers.
Steve can help you create an integrated belief-driven business that can reach and align with more of the right people —employees, customers, donors and investors—in a sustainable and meaningful way.