Powering Up People & Brands

Building a Strong Brand Voice – part 1

unique colourful brand voice

Is your brand voice loud & clear,
unique & exciting?

Our brand may be clear in our mind but do our target audiences think of it as we think they should? Do they even notice our brand? Is our communication working for us?

If they don’t hear, see and experience it in the same way as we do, we have not been good enough at expressing what we want our brand to be. Getting the positioning right is not enough, we must make sure that we communicate strongly what our brand is.

Ultimately our audiences determine what our brand is in practice, and if our brand voice is not right, all our good strategy homework is not translated by our communication into tangible market impact.

What is our “brand voice”?

Our brand voice is how you communicate our brand uniqueness, its value to its ideal customers and its personality.
A clear and strong brand voice is heard by its target audiences exactly as it is meant to be heard, every time, in every medium be it in a website, on social media, in customer care before and after sale, face to face, on the phone or on line, in emails, letters, presentations, brochures, traditional advertising…

It is increasingly challenging to cut through the communication clutter and the market noise, be heard, seen and understood correctly and to build our positive reputation. We have to manage proactively these challenges whether we are a team of one or of many. As a team of one we often feel that we lack time to do everything and we are tempted to cut corners. As a team of many, we risk loosing “brand integrity” as well as simplicity and clarity if we don’t communicate clear guidelines and briefs.

Marketing is about creating desire for our brand among our target audiences (customers – past, present and future, referrers and influencers, partners and contributors to success, staff…..). To achieve and maintain that desire, our brand communication must use one single-minded clear voice

  • delivering the right message, simple and single-minded,
  • creating the right perceptions,
  • managing expectations of how your brand behaves and does not behave,
  • building trust, empathy, excitement and loyalty.

What happens if we don’t have a clear strong single brand voice?

Identity is the explicit management of all the ways in which the organization presents itself through experiences and perceptions to all of its audiences.

Olins & Olins

The risks from poor communication are endless, some being felt immediately, others causing increasing pain and costs over time. Here are some examples of the effects of having too many brand voices or a weak brand voice:

  • We loose the sense of direction of our brand (we did this, we also did that; what is the best next step, which way?)
  • We struggle to “walk the talk” individually and as a team (what is the best way to behave, do what we should do?)
  • We confuse everybody coming in contact with the brand, they can’t instantly remember our brand, associate it with their own needs nor with the delivered benefit, with the right words, images and expectations
  • We create anxiety and doubt; negative emotions weaken the connection with our audience
  • We make our marketing and selling more complex and harder than necessary (we have to fix negative perceptions and confusion before being able to get value from any marketing or sales initiative)
  • We loose the positive power and instant multiplying factor of our “brand ambassadors” (face to face, on line, in social media, how can they be champions of something unclear and that may not reflect positively on them?)
  • We put ourselves at the mercy of any smart competitor communicating more effectively (they are likely to observe us, see our weak spots, and they’ll make the most of them, as we would in their shoes, wouldn’t we!
  • As we waste money and resources on fixing the lack of effect, or worse, the negative results of poor communication, we reduce our brand’s profitability
  • We go from proactive brand building to firefighting
  • We effectively loose controle of our brand’s destiny!

A straightforward path to effective communication

The good news is that you can easily avoid that scary future!
You can create a clear strong brand voice with 4 practical steps followed by some straightforward ongoing monitoring

  • Step 1 – Identify your brand voice(s) today, the good points and the bad points
  • Step 2 – Set-up the key indicators of your desired brand voice
  • Step 3 – List and plan the changes that you need to make and what effort & resource they take (prioritise if need be)
  • Step 4 – Implement any required change, yourself or with whoever needs to be involved (this may be progressive)
  • Step 5 – Monitor progress and what is happening

Your action point for today

Let’s focus on steps 1 and 2 first. In another post we will give you practical suggestions and tips for the next steps.

Step 1: Identify what your brand voice is today
This is a practical “stock-take” exercise and you need to document your findings, bearing in mind that step 2 is to define what you want your brand voice to be.
Your first exploration should not take you long. You can quickly get a sense that you will have a lot of work to do or not.

Process tips:

  • Depending on how you like to work, you can set up a spreadsheet or a mindmap to record your facts about your current brand voice and then your desired brand voice
  • You can do this by yourself, especially for a first quick exploration; if so, we recommend you seek feedback from others (customers, staff, referrers, observers….) to validate and enrich your perspective. Feedback will be essential in step 5.
  • You can ask others (staff, partners…) to do the same thing independently in parallel to you and then combine the different inputs. Here too we recommend to seek feedback from your market to validate your preliminary findings.
  • Write a list of audiences (who is hearing, seeing, experiencing), events/circumstances (physical and virtual/digital), who is talking/writing/doing…. Add more as you go if necessary.

What you should ask yourself honestly
A few key questions can highlight many good points and not so good ones. Keep it practical and simple.
The suggestions below are just there to guide your thoughts as you look at practical day to day examples.

  • How many messages does your brand express?
  • Do the message points match the brand positioning you chose?
  • What style(s) do you use? (words, voice, look, logos, pictures, fonts, layouts and formats, body language, attitude….?
  • How does the message and/or the style change and what causes the change?
  • How many brand voices do you have with your different audiences, in different media, different circumstances?
  • Does the style match the brand positioning?

Step 2: Set-up the key indicators of your desired brand voice
What did this stock take tell you about how clear and strong your brand communication really is?
If you have found too many inconsistencies, deviations from an original plan, you may need to ask yourself if the positioning was right in the first place. Maybe your brand was not targeted well enough. Clarify that first.
Then, take note of what is consistent and what is not, and make a list of what message(s), style(s) and behaviours truly match your desired brand positioning. That list will form the basis of how to build a strong brand voice and how to monitor progress.

If this exercise is too “scary” to do on your own or you don’t like what you find and you’d like the opportunity to have some guidance, you may benefit from taking part in a coaching group, or have a “brand audit” session. Drop me a line!

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