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Discussing the importance of brand voice.

Defining your brand voice.

When you build a brand, most people think about what it’s going to look like, but do you think about what it’s going to sound like?

What about the tone and cadence of the messaging – how important are those to the success of the brand? Can multiple layers to the tone work for your different audiences, or do you need to keep the voice perfectly consistent? 

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Recorded on May 1st, 2021

Transcript

Brad Breininger: 0:00

Hi, everyone, and welcome to this week’s podcast for Everything is Brand. This week we want to talk about brand voice. When you’re building a brand, a lot of people think about what it’s going to look like. But do you think about what is it going to sound like? Let’s talk about brand voice a little bit. So we focus on the look of a brand. And you know how we want to position the brand. But what about the tone of the brand? What about the voice of the brand? How important is that to the process.

Gabi Gomes:

So I think it’s super important. It’s the sound of it. So as much as the words make a difference, but what words you put on there make a difference, it can send a lot of different messages out, it can basically say your stiff, non collaborative, non nimble, or it can say you’re very super friendly, very soft, very approachable, etc. So one example that I love, not sure if anybody’s heard, but MailChimp has a very distinct way of communicating, they are your best buddy. They are your little sidekick. They’re empowering you they’ve got lines such as see what’s fresh for spring, the other headlines that they have in their emails are we’re happy you’re here. How genuine is that? Right? On behalf of the MailChimp family, welcome. That’s actually their welcome, email, and how welcoming and friendly does that feel, I totally want to get in there start making building my email templates. And being part of that family and their communication. It’s not just this particular one, it’s their entire communication is that they actually have a few tenants in their brand guidelines that talk about tone and voice. And it is to be genuine to be plain spoken and to be friendly. So those are some of their tenants in their actual guidelines of their voice.

Brad Breininger:

I think the mistake that a lot of brands make is that they come out with a really, you know, visually stunning brand, or a great tagline or whatever it might be. And then they move back into this formal business like way of communication, even though that’s not how people talk, or even how people work in business anymore. And they miss out on this whole opportunity. We’ve had previous podcasts, we’ve talked about building scent as a brand element or building these other things into creating the complete brand story. And I think the brand story starts with the tone of voice that you speak in, it really becomes a foundational element of how the brand needs to move forward,

Marko Zonta:

It really becomes a brand personality, right? How you speak how you write things, and especially in marketing, and I know that there can be a difference between kind of internal communication or even more serious corporate communication. In some cases, they may need to be a little bit more serious. But then when it comes to marketing and general communication with the public, the clients customers, the personality portion is really really important. A lot of brands to your point, Brad, in terms of building it into kind of the brand overall. And what we actually see quite often is it is built into the brand, into the brand guidelines, into the approach at the very beginning. But because it’s not actually launched properly, internally, or it’s not kind of built into the overall culture, then people themselves will actually inject their own views and their own personality into the brand. And more often than not, it goes back to this very kind of conservative language, very serious stone, because they save a lot of brands that start to sound the way they sounded before nothing’s changed, basically. So they may have this beautiful new brand, but their voice, their tone hasn’t changed. So I think that that’s really, really important that companies pay attention to that, and really build it into their brand overall.

Brad Breininger:

There’s something that you’re bringing up that I think is really key to all of this. And that is if brands create a personality that is inauthentic to who they are, it’s going to be very difficult for them to follow up on it and to actually live it day to day. And I think that that’s what a lot of brands, that’s the trap that they fall into is that you know, when they’re mapping out their personality and who they want to be they go in a direction that isn’t even necessarily who the leadership is or who they are as an organization or who they’ve been in the past. They don’t embrace their either their conservatism or their quirkiness or they try to be something that they think people want. And so it doesn’t feel authentic. And so when it comes time to having to implement this or having to do this, it becomes difficult for them. And to your point, Marko, if they don’t follow through on these things, and it kind of falls by the wayside. And these things just live in some brand standards somewhere. And it’s not from lack of wanting to go in this direction. It comes from this idea that there’s two stages to this process. There’s the creation of the brand and then there’s living the brand and you can map out all these wonderful things in the beginning around how you want to be more connected to your clients or how you want to be more informal or how you want to be more quirky or how you want to end Everybody can kind of clap their hands and go, yes, this is our brand now, yet the people who are living the brand aren’t like that. And so it’s not a natural progression for them. And so one of two things has to happen. People either have to embrace this new direction, and they have to actually change what they’re doing. Or they have to look really deep inside, when they’re mapping it out and say, Who are we really and how do we take that to our customers or our clients and live the brand that way?

Marko Zonta:

I think that this also highlights that point, exactly, they may outline all of that the very beginning, but if they don’t actually buy into it, it’s completely, it is just not going to fly, you know, and we actually see this quite often where the company internally is not aligned, the brand voice, the brand tone, overall brand personality has to come from top management, they have to buy into it, and they actually have to work with the rest of the team for the entire organization to communicate that same approach, let’s say their marketing team or branding team may have the best intentions, and you know, at the beginning, they may have a certain amount of buying, but if it actually isn’t communicated across the entire organization, it’s just not going to work. Another kind of issue is this siloed approach between marketing and sales. This is so strange when companies approach it that way. They have marketing teams, and then to have sales teams, you’re really trying to do the same job, but you’re not talking to each other. So you have another barrier between what your personality should be or what it is, and what you’re actually putting out there. So I think that that highlights some internal issues.

Brad Breininger:

It’s like the architect not talking to the builder, the architect can have all the wonderful ideas in the world. But if it can’t be built, you can’t put up the right walls, then there’s a problem there.

Marko Zonta:

This to me just highlights how important it is that people who are actually leading the organization, it doesn’t really matter, you know, whether it’s a small organization or a very large organization, they really need to be in charge of a brand. building a brand is not a job of two people in the marketing department, building a brand is a job of thought leaders within the organization, they have to carry that they have to push it forward.

Gabi Gomes:

I also think you need to consider that people make decisions emotionally, right? Emotional connections. So where the voice and the tone need to come in is, it’s not just the sales guy that’s closing the deal on whatever all these other materials that get put out that the sales guy uses the tone, and the voice that is used in them help to make that emotional decision at the very end, if they already feel like they’re part of the family, the organization etc. And the sales guy or woman is working in the same well and establishes that connection, you know, with them, then they’re all the more going to make the decision to go with whatever company because they feel comfortable. So it’s not just the one on one with the sales team. It does come through in the marketing materials as well, and the language that’s used in them.

Brad Breininger:

Yeah, and it’s that alignment, you can’t have the cool kids in marketing coming up with this brand that no one else agrees with, you can’t have the leaders pushing a brand that they believe in, but is not the personality of the company at all on the entire organization. And you can’t have people refusing to kind of get on board with the brand, once it’s been decided that that’s the direction that has to go on. It has to be synergy. And there has to be this ability for all the different groups to understand what their voice in the brand is. I mean, the truth is, is that people who flocked to sales are different than people who flocked to accounting are different than people who flocked to marketing are different than people who flocked it, we all have different personalities. And just because there’s a brand personality doesn’t mean that it can’t be adapted to fit all the different personalities that are within an organization. And sometimes I think that’s where a lot of organizations fall down is that they don’t understand that you can have a brand voice that moves like waves through the entire organization and can be adaptable, you can have a general personality, and then interpret that personality for different situations. Because you’re right, if you’re giving out very serious information, you’re not going to be necessarily use flippant, fun marketing type language that you might use in a digital marketing campaign, it’s going to be a very different but it doesn’t mean that you don’t go back to your basic personality traits and make decisions around how you want to position the messaging. And that is something that’s key. And I think it’s a piece of the equation that a lot of brands leave out, they think we define that our personality is going to be informal, casual, quirky and fun. And then you know, all of a sudden they have to communicate a dip in the stock price to shareholders, well, sorry, but that messaging doesn’t necessarily fit with those personality traits. So you really have to understand when you’re figuring out the tone of the brand, you have to account for all the different requirements that you’ll have as an organization and figure out okay, how do we make sure that this brand tone and this brand personality can fit with our All the different things that we’re going to have to accomplish as we move forward as an organization,

Marko Zonta:

And to that point to use your example of, let’s say, a fun brand personality that’s a little bit more fun, voice tone, that’s a little bit more fun, you have to define what that actually means. When you actually say we want to come across this fun. What do you mean by fun, quite often, when we actually start working on a brand, in talking to the clients, what they’re actually looking for, in terms of correction, and all of that, some words will come up to us one example, we want to be modern. But what does that mean? Because modern to one person could mean something very different than somebody else, somebody modern is very fun, fresh, you know, approachable, out there fresh thinking, somebody who’s a lot more conservative fun would be okay, we’re gonna change the color from dark blue to light blue. And that’s fun, right?

Brad Breininger:

We’re not gonna wear socks Tonight, we’re gonna take our socks off.

Marko Zonta:

It’s so that kind of thing, right? So what does it mean to have a fun tone, or voice. And another thing that I would say is, when it comes to personality, it is a lot easier to be kind of the plain vanilla type of organization where you just have the regular accepted language. And that’s it. But when you actually want to really become unique and and have something that’s a little bit different, you have to work at it a lot more, even if it is part of your personality, it’s something that you will have to be very consistent with, because that’s the only way to actually have kind of a cohesive brand, you have to build that consistency into it.

Jeremy Linskill:

To break this down a little bit more everything is kind of open to interpretation, as much information as you get you make an interpretation based on that, personally, if you’re looking at a brand, and I think that if we’re talking about a brand as a whole, all of the different pieces that accompany puts into their brand, whether that is voice tone, color image, all of that helps each individual get the same interpretation of that brand, the more information you offer up as a company, or your brand allows everybody to see the same picture. And further to that, that we’re talking about a brand voice, voice and tone, they use words and words come with definition, everybody has the same definition of words. So when you start to incorporate those words into a brand, then everybody starts to see the same picture because they’re using the same words which have the same definition. And then the tone on top of that just allows you to kind of say those words in a different way with a different level of voice. That’s why I think that voice and tone are actually one of the most important parts of a brand. If I get a brand that’s a color orange, my experience with the color orange throughout my life is going to allow me to have a certain view on that color. combining that with the words in the tone. Now I’m starting to see the same picture of the brand that somebody else is seeing where the company wants me to see, I think that that’s a really important part of this words are so important. And a lot of times brands leave the whole voice tone thing out. And I actually think it’s one of the most crucial parts of our brand,

Brad Breininger:

You’re talking about layers, right? It really comes down to this idea of layering the brand to give you an example going back to this idea of having to communicate really serious information. Let’s take MailChimp for example. Gaby let’s say MailChimp has a very honest, open, informal way of communicating. Let’s say they did have a terrible financial year, they could easily go out and say the first line in that piece of communication could be something like Hey, guys looks like it wasn’t a great year. Hmm, well, let’s get serious about here’s what we think happened, right? And then they can go into a much more formal way of communicating. I think what people miss when it comes to tone and capabilities. They miss this idea that at the end of the day, we’re all human and we’re all layered and brands have to be layered in the same way. It’s not that people expect you to be serious when things are serious or funny when things are meant to be funny. You can be all of those things. I mean, you often hear people laughing at a funeral you often see people crying at a wedding not everybody’s happy about a wedding. Not everyone’s sad about a funeral. The reality is that we are all layered and brands need to be layered in the exact same way. And I think what you’re talking about Jeremy’s you’re talking about this idea that you can’t rely on visuals alone to get the messaging across. You can’t rely on words alone to get the messaging across. You can’t rely on personality alone to get the messaging across the brand has to be as layered as the humans that you’re trying to connect with

Jeremy Linskill:

Give them as much information as possible from all sides. Don’t just give them half the information, give them as much information as possible. And that includes words pictures, colors, all that stuff. You’re only helping your customer or your client by giving them all of the information and not leaving any out.

Gabi Gomes:

Yeah, I was gonna say to like in terms of the style of those words that you use, whether you write them always in a positive tone versus negative tone comes into play. I think the one that I and you want to talk about adding another level of complexity I always admire a brand who tackles humor. Humor can be a dangerous one to get into can be a really difficult one. But if done well can really stand out amongst the crowd. How do you guys feel about humor in a brand?

Jeremy Linskill:

I hate humor humor is bad.

Brad Breininger:

Well, it but it goes back to the layered thing, right? Like I think all brands have to have some level of humor. I mean, when you think of 100% serious, you think of some old schoolmarm with a bun and like or some guy in a suit from the 1800s, who never looks up from his ledger, there’s these ideas around how we see things and how we position things. I think to your point, Gabi, I think what you’re talking about is brands who are based in humor, as opposed to brands who involve humor in the in the tonality, when you want to base a brand completely in humor, that’s a much more difficult undertaking, because although we can align a lot more on things that make us sad, or things that make us anxious, I think where we differentiate as human beings is in our humor, and what we think is funny, one of the hardest things to come up with universal solution to what is funny, because I mean, you see a lot of these kind of bro brands where it’s basically toilet humor that they’re laying in and do a lot of the population. It’s like, oh, that doesn’t really work for me. But if you know your audience, and that’s your audience, then hey, we say this in every single podcast, and I’ll say it again, you have to know your audience. And you have to understand how layered or and layered your audience is, because a lot of human beings are not actually as layered as others. So if you understand your audience and how layered they are, then you could layer your brand accordingly as well.

Marko Zonta:

Even humor, or fun is layered, if you have a online product, like you know, MailChimp or whatever their level of fun, or humor can be very different, or their personality, their approach to that is going to be different than if you’re a healthcare type of brand, or legal or accounting or something like that. So you can build humor into that as well. But it will just be a little bit different, you will have to be sensitive to certain elements, depending on what industry you’re in, what your brand is, overall, what it’s trying to portray. So you may actually build a little bit of humor into either marketing or slightly lighter types of communications. So again, even within that there are layers. And I think that this really comes back down to know your audience and know yourself, you really have to know yourself and your own personality.

Brad Breininger:

Yeah, it’s interesting. I remember seeing this story reading this marketing story one time about this funeral home company, and it had been owned by this older gentleman and his family, and he passed away and the sun took it over. And the sun was more into marketing and branding and things like that, but took over the funeral home because it was an established business, but decided to inject his own version of what he thought was good marketing into it. And you know, started putting out messaging, like we’re dying to get your business or things that really looked at things in a very different kind of ways. I think that there are rules around what you want to do and what you want to achieve. But there’s also breaking the rules, but doing it in a way where you’re still cognizant of who your audience is. And I think that that can give you a little bit of whitespace opportunity. But if you don’t do it, right, it can backfire in a very strong way. You know, anytime you go into any profession, and you’re learning about it in the early days, what they say is you have to know the rules before you can break them. And I think that that’s very true here as well, I think you need to understand the rules of tonality of voice and how to put it all together. And then if there’s an opportunity to break them. If there’s an opportunity to veer off the common path, then great, but as long as you understand what the consequences of that might be, I think that there’s a lot of subtlety in tonality and voice and personality. There’s not general rules that you have to stick to and never veer off of them. But at the same time, there are also kind of guideposts along the way and making sure that you mix like you said, Jeremy making sure that you mix the visual and the words and the tonality and the personality and making sure all of those things are interconnected is going to be key to your success for sure.

Jeremy Linskill:

And knowing when to crack a joke. That’s right,

Brad Breininger:

Exactly.

Gabi Gomes:

Keep it simple, plain language.

Brad Breininger:

Yeah, I mean, to your point, now you’re building in something that I think is another factor to this, and that is trends. You can’t build your personality and build your brand without understanding the trends that you’re sending your messaging out into. The truth is that nobody wants to read complex information anymore. So even if you decide in your brand personality, that you’re a complex, deep brand, you still have to operate within the existence that all the rest of your customers and clients are operating within. So you have to build in that trend part as well. So even though you’re creating your brand and your tonality and your words, you can’t look back to these old timey words and say, Well, those are the words that are going to be right for our brand unless there’s a reason for it. But so you know, you have to consider the trends. The going on and where the psyche of the general population is, as well.

Christian Rosenthal | ZYNC:

And even the channel as well, if you think about that, for example, the way Netflix communicates over email, it’s completely different than the way they communicate on Twitter. They’re sassy, their humor is great, but then over email, it’s serious. So the channel may also affect the tone of your voice as well.

Jeremy Linskill:

Yeah, you get different audiences for different channels, like people on Twitter are probably not on email, and therefore, you know, they’re a little bit, let’s say, more current Twitter is a little bit more up to date than email is, etc, etc. And I’m sure TikTok’s even further than that. So I think that that allows you to actually communicate with different audiences by using those different channels. So your voice and tone can adjust slightly, and you move from one to the next.

Brad Breininger:

Yeah, as long as it continues to support the personality that you want to put out into the world, then there’s opportunities to take it further and pull back a little bit depending on what it is you’re saying, and who you’re saying it to, and in what channel you’re saying it in. I mean, I think that those are kind of the key takeaways from this is that you know, you need to establish your personality, you need to get everybody on board with that agreement around what that personality is going to be. And then you need to consider the different messaging that you’re going to have to put out the different channels that you want to put that imaging out in and the different clients and audiences that you have. And I think you kind of put all of that into a mix, and you decide on what your plan for your brand voice is going to be. And you just make that clear to everybody. And the reality is that for the companies who get this right, it creates an extra layer of complexity to the brand that allows you to connect even deeper with your intended audiences. It’s crucial to making sure that how you come across is not only apparent in how you look or how you feel, but how you sound as well. So that’s this week’s version of Everything is Brand. Join us next week for a new topic and a new discussion. And remember, everything is brand.

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