Every time your company puts something out into the world, it’s using its voice; every social media post, every video clip, every press release, every website tweak. What you do with that brand voice, and especially what its voice sounds like, is one of the biggest things you can do for the prolonged health of your brand.
Defining your brand isn’t an easy task – neither is developing the brand voice around it. Truthfully, it’s best come at from an all-hands-on-deck perspective in a lot of cases. Those who are closest to the core values and mission of the company will have a genuine interest in creating a brand voice that’s powerful, positive, and productive.
There’s a lot you can do to help identify your brand voice or take another look if things are feeling stale. Here are just some of the best exercises we’ve used and recommended over the years of consulting to develop and maximize the reach of your brand voice.
1. Build marketing personas
This should be a no-brainer, but we’re mentioning it for all of the kids in the back of the class. Before you can figure out what your brand voice should be, you have to have a foundation for understanding who you are trying to talk to – your customers. We’re talking doing the research and assigning a personality to each major audience segment; make illustrations of each one if you need to better visualize. The more you can personify each “type” of consumer that wants what you’re selling, the easier it is to develop the type of voice and messaging that resonates with them.
2. Hold a descriptor brainstorm
Hear us out, these types of brainstorms are actually really fun – think of it like a really specific improv session in your conference room. For this exercise, everyone participating should have something to write with/on, and a timer should be set to about 10-15 minutes. The object here is to come up with as many adjectives you can that accurately describe your brand. Then, everyone can compare to see where descriptors and ideas overlap.
Go through the list and stop on each word, asking yourselves questions such as:
- Is this the most suitable word for the idea we want to convey?
- Is there another word which better describes this idea?
- Does our audience perceive us this way?
Set aside a solid afternoon for this activity, and make sure your whiteboard markers are all ready to go.
3. Make a list of words that should NEVER describe your brand
Somewhat complementary to the exercise above, once you identify the words that you want to be associated with your brand, you should also identify words that you don’t… and then never, ever use them. As a good rule of thumb, we like to consider using this Mad-Libs-style sentence to help weed out the bad descriptors:
[Your brand] is always ______ and [your brand] is never _______.
4. Talk about core values (again and again and again)
Not trying to beat a dead horse if identifying your core values is something that’s already been handled as a company, but going back to that conversation never hurts. If anything, talking altogether as a company or leadership team about the brand’s core values can help to figure out how your brand voice should be structured.
Beyond adjectives and descriptors like the brand voice exercises above, discussing as a team what the values are of your company is critical to defining (and refining) a voice. For each question, give your team up to 5 minutes to write down thoughts and answers. Then, have everyone share their responses and discuss them.
5. Fill in the blanks on some key questions
Having prompts during brand voice exercises is a great way to get your creative juices and strategic caps moving. Spend some time filling in the blanks on sentences such as…
- I want my brand to make people feel _______.
- I want people to think ” _______” when they come into contact with my brand.
- I want to try to follow the steps of the brand voice of _______.
- I don’t like brand voices that sound _______.
- Interacting with customers makes me feel _______.
6. Develop tone and language
This cheat sheet from the friends at Brandfolder is also a handy way to start figuring out what you want your brand voice to be, according to personality, language, tone, and overall purpose. Here’s an example of a filled out version that defines every section in 4-5 different words, descriptors or phrases.
7. Go deep in social media
When you’re feeling stuck, another great brand voice exercise is to go straight to the source on the places where you have access to your customers – social media channels. Using social listening and social analytics tools, go and locate the people in your audience (or potential audience) on social media to monitor what and how they are engaging with things. Also, take the opportunity to find brands that you resonate with or that you want to emulate in some way on social – gathering up this list and spending some time figuring out WHY they resonate with you and your brand will make all the difference.
Do you have any brand voice exercises that you’ve tried out in the past? Let us know on Twitter, we’d love to chat!