Brand Language: Using Voice and Tone to Define a Brand

By:

Daniel Blaho

Next in our series about branding as a whole concept, we’re talking about using brand language to define and structure your company in the minds of your customers and clients.

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What is branding?

Branding is often referred to as the process behind developing physical branded collateral of an organization that includes the logo, print materials, visual ads, website, etc. But more accurately, it is the process of developing a brand strategy that encompasses your entire brand.

Why do people call companies brands?

People often refer to the word “brand” as a literal replacement for the word “company”. Such as, “What brands have super bowl commercials this year?”, or “I saw one brand do this.” However, this may be a misnomer because a brand is the identity of a company, not the company itself.

What does it mean to create a brand strategy?

Brand strategy is the process behind developing a unique and consistent voice and appearance in order to guide marketing, culture, and some business strategies. 

Voice

To explain a brand’s voice, let’s think of a brand as a person. Think of their voice and how it could be defined by their mannerisms and what he says. Brand voice is the things a company says and doesn’t say. A company’s voice could consist of their slogans, common messages, purpose, promise, vision, and mission statement. 

Tone

Tone is how a brand sounds. If we imagine a company as a human again (humanizing 😉), this is how that person would audibly sound and their attitude when they speak. Are they bullish and loud? Are they reserved and smooth? Establishing how an organization says something is just as important as what they say. 

In a previous article, we covered branding as an overall topic. Today, we’re discussing a more granular piece of the puzzle with Brand Language.

Language is where you will define what your business offers and how you will present it. Language is second only to purpose when it comes to brand strategy and that’s because it should be guided by that purpose. 

However, the language that you use should be consistent and unique. If your company was a person, this would be how they sound and what their mannerisms are. 

Why is Brand Language Important? 

First and foremost, brand language is paramount to communicate why a company is the way that they are. 

For most of our clients, around 25% (B-to-C) to 60% (B-to-B)of their web traffic typically navigates to the about page before their services pages. 

That tells us that clients are more concerned with who a company is rather than what they do. This is especially true in B2B. 

Without brand language, a client does not know who a company is, what they really do, and why they matter. Clear, strong brand language defines a company and makes them seem more human.

Unclear brand language often creates unclear sales and marketing. Without established, well-planned language, companies will have a really hard time creating and delivering a sales and marketing message. With clear brand language, marketing becomes much easier. 

Defining Brand Language

Brand language is possibly the most important aspect of a brand as a whole. Brand language is how a company speaks, how that speech is communicated, and what they call everything. Language is more than just a catchy slogan. Developing a clear brand language gives an organization meaning, depth, and scope.

Voice

To explain a brand’s voice, let’s think of a brand as a person - call him Bobby. Bobby’s voice could be defined by his mannerisms and what he says. Bobby’s voice is the things he says

Voice is a company’s message. A company’s voice could consist of their slogans, common messages, purpose, promise, vision, and mission statement. Voice is what an organization says and doesn’t say

Tone

Let’s use Bobby as our example again. Now that Bobby has something to say, he needs a way to say it. His tone is how he presents his voice. Is Bobby bold or conservative, optimistic or realistic, etc?

Simply put, tone is how a company conveys their voice. Tone can be defined many ways but it always relates to a company’s culture and audience. 

How Does Your Brand Sound? 

What is the actual sound and attitude of your brand? It’s important to define and document this because all of your marketing materials should sound the same for consistency’s sake. Is your tone bold or gentle, funny or serious, educational or authoritative? 

The most important thing to keep in mind when developing your brand voice is to remember your target audience. How do you want to talk to your audience? 

Nomenclature

With any product or service, it’s sometimes necessary to brand them. Instead of listing services and hoping for the best, a company needs to truly scope, define, and name their products. 

Does Apple sell cell phones and computers? No. They sell iPhones and Macs. Successfully naming your products and services lets people know exactly what it is, but also incites curiosity and individualism. 

Some companies that did this the best (over time) are the companies that have even transcended their nomenclature to the name of the product. 

What do we most commonly call facial tissue? Kleenex. What’s another name for chocolate sandwich cookies? Oreos. 

Need a few more examples? Is it…

  • A Slow cooker or a Crock-Pot? 
  • Lip balm or Chapstick? 
  • Cotton swabs or Q-Tips? 
  • A Felt-tipped marker or a Sharpie? 
  • Adhesive bandages or Band-Aids? 
  • A Hobby knife or an Xacto Knife? 
  • Expanded polystyrene or Styrofoam? 

Now, we realize that the companies mentioned above have spent millions each branding their products that way, but think about what a well branded product does for the customer; It creates loyalty to that product or service. It evokes a level of comfort knowing that they are getting exactly what they want. 

How did your company come up with the names for your products and/or services? Are they the same or similar to your competitors? Why not make them unique? Making your product and service names unique, concise, and easy to understand makes them more approachable and feel more valuable to your customers. 

How to Implement Brand Language 

Customer Lifecycle Chart from Introduction to a Mature Relationship

Once voice, tone, and nomenclature are established, they need to be implemented and tested. But how do we do that?

Communicate Consistent Brand Language throughout the Client Lifecycle

If you think about the typical sales funnel, you’ll notice that sales and marketing play the two main roles in the traditional sense. But branding needs to be communicated throughout the entire sales process. 

But it doesn’t stop there, because once a prospect becomes a client, a company needs to reassure them that they made the right decision. That’s how you build repeat customers and brand loyalty, and in today’s society where there is very little social trust, this is inherently important. What specifically should be communicated in the client lifecycle? Ideally, the entire brand should be getting communicated effectively from the time your prospect becomes interested all the way through the final sale and beyond. 

But, let’s start with the really important items to communicate: 

  1. Purpose
  2. Promise
  3. Vision

Start with the Purpose

What itch is the company scratching? Why does it exist? How is the company different? These are the questions that buyers ask before they even think about a purchase. 

The company’s purpose needs to be defined and communicated in its voice throughout the entire sales process and beyond. 

Make a Promise

Buyers are becoming more and more skeptical. Therefore, it is paramount that every organization not only makes a promise to their clients but they ensure the delivery of that promise. 

If an organization says they do something one way, they need to sell it that one way and deliver on exactly what they sold. The quickest way to ruin a reputation is break a promise. People value trust, so deliver trust. 

Declare a Vision

Buyers want to feel as if they are part of the journey that your business is on. The easiest way for a company to show that their clients are important is to share their vision for the company’s future. It’s important to not let that bleed into the promise, because the future is anything but certain but sharing a vision let’s people know that an organization has their eye toward the future and is trying to be innovative. 

Putting It All Together

Once a brand has gone through the process of defining their tone, voice, and nomenclature, sales, marketing, and much of the company’s materials should become much more refined and consistent. This is the ultimate goal!

Once these items have been established, the brand may wish to document them in a style guide, allowing everyone in the company to create that singular brand identity together as a whole. If your whole team isn’t together on this, your branding will suffer in the long term.