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Branding

How to Create a Strong Brand Voice That Will Be Heard

May 3, 2016

“If your brand was a guest at a dinner party you were hosting, what would you think about it?”

This was the question we started with when trying to figure out our brand’s voice. This was a first-of-its-kind activity for me and my team, borne out of the realization (following a thorough content audit) that we needed to speak about our brand in a consistent way across all channels — be it social media, website, outreach campaigns or even the emails we send out every day.

A short term objective we were trying to accomplish was that of ensuring consistency in our outgoing communication. We are a team of four who handle four different content avenues — web content, blog, social media and campaigns. And we knew that despite the choice of digital real estate, anytime somebody should read or hear about us, a consistent image and tone of our brand should come up in their minds. We all needed to sound alike, you see.

The bigger goal was to be sure ourselves about how we wanted our brand to be perceived, known and remembered in the long term.

It was a fun exercise, all of the three days were, but it wasn’t an easy one, let me tell you. To manage a consistent image of our brand we needed to first figure out what was our brand like. If it were a living, breathing human being, what would be its personality traits? Would our brand be a fun loving, adventurous person or an honest friend-like guy you could talk to about everything? A professor you would consult about a particular subject matter or a Volvo-riding soccer mom who would binge watch TLC? We wanted to humanize our brand not just so our audiences can relate and respond to it better, but so we can talk about it better.

At one point during the activity, we were simply swilling random adjectives: innovative, intellectual, open, colorful, and what not. But somewhere down the line, we figured our brand needed to be much more than just a cluster of a few words. If it needed a voice, it needed a face; a human identity.

In the course of all the mulling, the most striking brand identities, we realized, were the ones that stand for something we can all believe in. Creative innovation is the idea behind Apple, sustainable transportation drives the brand Tesla and then there’s Nike, which is all about inspiring athletes. Their core idea, their mission, is a resolute one and it becomes apparent in all their communication, across every medium employed. It lays the ground work for all their content strategy. And for all of them it is an idea than can bank roll for decades straight.

But more than anything, these ideas all define a purpose; a reason for someone to come to work day in and day out, fuelling their spirits and inspiring their everyday.

It is the ‘core’ around which you build your brand’s personality and give it a voice.

After researching a couple of great brands and studying their brand personalities, I realize a couple of things they all have in common:

People make the brand

Behind every great piece of brand communication is a human being’s thoughts and voice. It is these people who sound caring, honest and genuine, not the brand.

Brand people are not afraid to use the word “we”

“We are in the business of catalyzing change.” “We are changing the way we perceive and use energy resources.”

In each of them, you can sense a whole lot of passion. This passion seeps through every piece of content that goes out under the brand name. It may not serve, directly, an objective business goal but helps establish a strong perceptive value of the brand.

Brand people put their “people” first

No brand strategy is successful if it only thinks about the brand and its business realities. Tesla is not great because it builds awesome, battery-powered cars. Tesla is great because it lets its people believe in the idea that a green future is possible and that they can be a part of a revolutionary change. It’s not that Tesla does not have clear business goals. It’s just that its primary goal is about its people and enabling them to hone an eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyle. And this is what drives their business results, at the end of the day.

One of the things I’ve realized, during the course of this activity, is that your brand’s voice can never quite be rational. When you play in the rational space, you are talking about your brand being a great value brand that can offer people great deals. That’s not enough to make you memorable.

To create a strong voice that resonates, one that breaks through the noise of ‘great value’ and ‘amazing deals’; you need to focus on emotions. You need to have a point of view, a cultural bent at that. And that’s the next thing I am working on for my branding exercise next week.

I am hoping by later this week I will have distilled down my brand’s voice into a crisp statement, which I can print out and plaster across my work station. My editor had once told me, “The more you make real your purpose, the more you internalize it into everything.” I am positive this will turn out helpful. That’s the purpose of this whole activity after all — to make clear and real everything I want my brand to stand for and my job too.

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