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Building your brand voice

Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.

 

Dr. Maya Angelou

Whether amplifying a critical message, promoting a cause, building awareness or attracting new business, it’s going to fall flat if it doesn’t connect with your intended audience. Speaking the right language and striking the right tone is essential to cutting through the noise, in corporate and public domains. 

When engaging your audience, it’s important to focus on what you are trying to achieve. You might be driving people towards behaviour change, perception change, or internal buy-in.

As a business, you are working hard to convince customers that your offer is the best in market, to differentiate and find the most compelling platform to build on. It could be that key service benefits make sense to promote — speaking to efficiency, performance, ease of use — it could be value, necessity, innovation, or it could be about price. But decision-making is not, in fact, a completely rational or logical process.

The most critical thing to remember is that you are speaking to humans, so speaking with a voice they recognise on a subconscious level will help build a relationship that matters. This is where brand storytelling comes in.

Your brand voice

Your brand tone of voice exists to humanise your story and engage your intended audience. For it to be effective, it is based on deeply understanding who you are speaking to, what they care about, and how they speak — it’s designed to make your brand resonate and feel more familiar. Combined with your unique proposition, brand messaging, and visual language, this creates a personality and a deeper, more meaningful impression that audiences hold of you, in the front and back of their minds.

Benchmarks for how you trust in, or are moved to think and act, are relied on when forming personal relationships, and equally so when people engage with brands. Focusing on this makes a difference in choosing whether to sound energised or empathetic, nurturing or heroic, academic or relatable. Whether tapping into an idiomatic, edgy tone is right, or a more sincere and authoritative approach, there are some basics of familiarity and trust-building you need to get right.

Person speaking at a business event, with a microphone in their left hand and phone in the other hand.
B2B, let’s B2C

We should all be clear these days, ‘the boardroom’ is not a sterile, inanimate, emotionless vacuum. It’s not the humourless hum of an underground server stack, endlessly streaming through ones and zeros (not yet anyway, AI). So, while the benefits of committing to a new product or service will be expressed a little differently on a consumer level, when it’s something that improves your business or operational performance, communicating with decision-makers needs to be done with head and heart just like everybody else. 

This is why “the Dell dude”¹ exists, talking about the significant global scale of their technological impact with the voice of the surfer guy on your engineering floor. This is also why Salesforce’s visual identity looks like a children’s story book, and their social references are about superheroes — tapping into the child-like wonder and ‘cult of cute’, business decision-makers get the picture that integrating the world’s #1 CRM into their workflow is child’s play.2

Technically speaking

At Rationale, we have a superpower of our own. The ability to identify and bring to life the right brand voice for our clients, in any sector or space. One sector in which we demonstrate this expertise, and the ‘basics’ mentioned above, is in healthcare and medical technology. 

For Bupa, describing how health and wellbeing is critical to the performance of small businesses needs to sound empathetic, while connecting professional motivations to invest in medical insurance — but an app developer and a construction firm are cut from different cloth. Our AI radiology clients, Blackford Analysis and Cortechs.ai, need to evidence the ease of integration and efficiency gains for clinical systems or workflows, while showing a vivid relationship between the technology and impact on everyday lives — but clinicians and hospital administrators care about different things. For Dataloch and Edinburgh University, we are finding ways to convince sceptical audiences that analysing personal data is essential to improving the future of public health and social care — but government legislators and the general public have different tolerance levels for jargon, or indeed soft-soaping. 

When it comes to the words you use and the stories you tell, think about the priorities and aspirations of your audiences — and in their personal world’s, what media do they consume, what spaces do they inhabit, who do they speak to and what social or cultural references do they hold dear? Especially when your USPs include complex, technical applications, the people looking to invest first need to know you ‘get them’. And they need to like you, as people. 

Talk to me, how?

The process of identifying the right tone of voice for your brand takes a little effort. When setting out to establish or make a pitch change in your brand voice, make sure it jives by considering the following five things:

  1. Remember, you are speaking to humans.
    The framing and personality of a B2B brand will differ from B2C brands in some ways – the reality is that an ad featuring skateboarders shredding around the helipad of a skyscraper will do little to impress the real estate investors in line to buy said skyscraper
    – you need to wear a suit that fits. But never forget, the decision-makers who inhabit the businesses you are targeting are people. Understanding what makes them tick on a personal level, feeds directly into your connection on a professional level.
  2. Speak to your audience about them, not you.
    Be proud, yes. Be confident, yes. But don’t spend all your time talking about how great you are. You exist to serve a need, or solve a challenge for your customers. Talk about them, and how great they are. Talk about how what you do makes their life better, or easier.
  3. Bust that jargon.
    Not everyone you are connecting with is a technical expert — simplify the complex. As much as is possible, use plain speech. Keep sentences short, and concepts clear. It’s tempting to dazzle people with your sophisticated thinking, or vocabulary, but it is much more valuable for audiences to get to the heart of something and embrace information.
  4. Build cohesion between sales and marketing.
    There is no point in developing cut-through brand messaging to drive lead generation if your sales team is speaking an entirely different language. Or, at worst, the benefits touted and promises made through campaign messaging do not align with your actual customer experience once through the door. The right language is key, but consistency across touchpoints and customer life cycle are just as essential.
  5. Make every word count.
    Get cosy with semiotics. Take time to identify the language that conveys the most relevance to your space, is the most distinct and impactful, and the most emotionally evocative — remember, the C-suite, like everybody else, make buying decisions based on emotional response
    . The words you choose should be familiar and reflect your customer’s reality. That sometimes means being fun, and sometimes means more gravitas, but the best words will carry the power to inspire, and trigger action.

If your organisation could benefit from support in developing the right brand voice, getting more familiar and better communicating with your audiences, Rationale is here to help you create that impact. Get in touch at hello@wearerationale.com 

¹Dude, This is Dell Technologies. Ads of the World. Accessed 2024. https://www.adsoftheworld.com/campaigns/dude-this-is-dell-technologies

2 Welcome to Brand Central. Salesforce. Accessed 2024. https://brand.salesforce.com/