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I’ll never forget the time I presented a well-researched monthly social media package to a new beauty client. He took a look at the first few posts for Twitter, scrunched up his nose, and said, “Let’s avoid exclamation marks. We’re all adults here.”
First off—what does that even mean? Second, how ridiculous! This client wanted his beauty brand’s tone of voice to match what he was accustomed to (he used to work as an investor on Wall Street).
But he failed to understand a fundamental truth of branding: you market to the customer, not yourself. His target market was beauty, but he didn’t know how to speak with their voice. He just didn’t get it.
The Difference Between Voice and Brand
When you first started your business, you probably heard the word “branding” more times than you care to remember. People like to say: “The brand is the most important part of a business.” Turns out they’re right.
Your company’s brand is what races to a person’s mind when they hear your name. How important is it? Coca-Cola’s annual branding budget is more than Apple’s and Microsoft’s combined. These Fortune 500s aren’t skimping on their branding budget, so you shouldn’t either.
Then there’s your business voice, the most crucial component of your brand. Your company’s voice is how you speak to your customers.
What’s In A Voice?
Why is finding the right brand voice so crucial? Think about it this way: in an ideal world, you’d get to meet every person who visits your website and charm them with your perfectly tailored sales pitch.
Except this isn’t a perfect world. In reality, most people use the Internet as their primary source of information. In fact, 81 percent of customers conduct online research before making a purchase.
What this means is that you need to project your voice onto your website. Your site needs to sound like you’re talking to someone right in front of you.
The Value of the Right Brand Voice
It’s important that you’re creating the right brand voice, but what’s even more important is that you’re creating the right voice for your customers. For most brands, the two do not always align.
Taco Bell is a perfect example of a shift towards the right brand voice. In the early 2000’s, Yum! (which owns Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut) shares hovered below $10 a share. Taco Bell tried to brand itself as “authentic” Mexican food, even going so far as to have a Chihuahua as its mascot.
Fast forward to May 2015. Yum! Brands stock hits an all-time high close to $94. What changed? Taco Bell found its brand voice. It started talking to the right people, in the right way, and the right people answered.
Instead of going for fast, “authentic” Mexican food for families, they started talking to Millennials. They developed the concept of “Fourth Meal” and created the Doritos Locos Taco. They created a wonderfully human Twitter profile and branded their sauce packets with clever sayings.
Taco Bell rose from the dead to become better than ever by adopting a new voice that was right for its customers.
Finding The Right Brand Voice
So, how do you find your brand voice? Start by asking yourself the following questions:
- What am I selling? How am I selling it? What are my points of differentiation?
- Who is my ideal customer? What are their demographics?
- How do I want potential customers to see my business?
- What do potential customers think of my business right now?
- What needs to change?
Once you can answer these questions, the path to finding your brand voice gets a lot clearer.
To summarize, keep the following ideas in mind:
Stay human. Too many people think as soon as their fingers hit the keyboard, they’re someone else. This shouldn’t be the case. In fact, customers are more likely to buy when they can relate.
Know your audience. Will your customers be irritated by emojis or delighted by them? Will your tagline be perceived as aggressive or confident? It depends on what you’re selling, who you’re selling it to, and where you’re selling.
Nitpick. Be thorough. When you tweet, will you use “we” or “I”? How do you feel about contractions? Acronyms? Is LOL okay? Your identity is your business and vise-versa.