What do blog posts, packaging design, and customer support have in common? They’re all important channels for delivering your brand voice.
The Brandfolder team recently embarked on a journey to find and define our brand voice, which included our brand personality and core values.
Finding our brand voice wasn’t easy, but it was so insightful that we decided to share all the lessons we learned along way.
According to our experiences, here’s how you can build your brand voice in five easy steps.
Step One: Brainstorming Brand Voice
It may seem complicated — even impossible — to get an entire company to compromise on one thing.
However, it’s important to have an open mind and involve everyone in the brand voice ideation process because they’re all impacted by it.
With this in mind, we began by inviting the entire company to submit their ideas and opinions about Brandfolder’s core values.
Next, we set up a brainstorming meeting where we would discuss the submitted ideas, and develop new ones.
We made sure to invite our director of customer experience, so we could gain insights on how our audience perceives us. We also invited our creative director, so we could gain insights on how our digital asset management tool is perceived by the design community.
Then, we laid out rules for brand voice brainstorming.
- Everyone would be given 3-5 minutes to write down thoughts pertaining to each question.
- We would share our responses in a circle, then discuss them.
- An assigned scribe would record all responses, even duplicates.
After we clarified all the rules, we began thinking about brand personality.
Step Two: Discovering Brand Personality
A brand personality helps you think of your brand as a person — one with a voice and values that consumers can relate to emotionally. Remember this: brand personality is just a guide. It shouldn’t be taken too seriously or literally.
For example, we decided Emma Stone or Neil Patrick Harris would play Brandfolder in a movie. We use Emma and Patrick to think about Brandfolder’s personality traits, but we don’t let them guide every single decision we make as a company.
The point is, it’s okay to get a little silly here. In fact, it’s encouraged!
Here are the personality questions we asked our brainstorming team to think about:
- If Brandfolder were a character in a movie, who would they be played by?
- What does Brandfolder watch?
- What does Brandfolder read?
- What tools, apps, and brands does Brandfolder use or engage with?
Thinking of your brand as a person helps you create a more dynamic brand story. It also helps create an entity that employees and consumers can relate to deeply on an emotional level.
Step Three: Brand Voice
Remember when we mentioned those consumer channels in the beginning of this post?
We considered each of these touch points when determining our brand voice, because we needed to make sure it could be applied consistently across all channels.
We began with the two main components of a brand voice: language and tone.
To quickly review, tone is how you want your brand to appear to others, i.e., friendly and optimistic, and language involves the words you use to describe that tone, i.e., concise and informative.
To help us tackle this challenge, we began with an exercise called always and never.
It goes like this: Brandfolder is always (fill in the blank) and Brandfolder is never (fill in the blank).
We gave our brainstorming team a few more minutes to complete this exercise because we wanted it to be thorough.
After we had a few long lists of what we believed Brandfolder was and wasn’t, we had a strong foundation for determining our language and tone.
Step Four: Narrowing it All Down
Once all the brainstorming was over, we needed to narrow down our list and make some tough decisions.
First, we made a note of certain words that appeared three or more times.
Then, we combed through the list and stopped on each word, asking ourselves questions such as:
- Is this the best word for the idea we want to convey?
- Is there another word which better describes this idea?
- How will our employees interpret this word?
- Does our audience perceive us this way?
It’s easy to get hung up on choosing between two words with a similar meaning. If you’re really stuck, consult co-workers, or just go with your gut.
Step Five: Choose Core Brand Values and Build a Cheat Sheet
After we established Brandfolder’s personality and voice, we had the foundation we needed to build out our brand values.
To see how other brands approached this task, we started searching the web for inspiration.
Among all the brand values we looked at, we were most inspired by Buffer’s core values guide. We also wanted to see what we could learn from Zappos core values guide, since they’re a commonly-used example.
Taking these examples into consideration and evaluating our own research helped us come up with an set of values we’re pretty proud of. Among all the words we collected from our internal team, these stood out the most: helpful, innovative, passionate, personable and empowering.
We arranged them into an acronym to make it easy for everyone to remember.
How to Build a Brand Voice: Takeaways
No matter how you approach your brand voice, here are a few important takeaways we learned from our experience.
Get a diverse set of opinions to define an accurate brand voice. - You don’t have to involve everyone in the brainstorming process, but you should be sure to represent a range of roles and experiences. Think outside the box and push the boundaries of your brand. - If you create a neutral zone where people feel comfortable saying their most innovative ideas, you’ll come up with stronger, better results. Get inspiration from brands you admire. - Look at how other brands in your industry approach brand voice. This will make you more creative and ensure you’re on the right track.
Fore more branding inspiration, check out 3 Ways Branding Makes Your Company Infinitely More Valuable and be sure to read 7 Inspirational Branding Quotes to Inspire You.