Brand voice: What is it and why does it matter?

Brand Voice

Why is brand voice important? In today's cluttered marketplace, it is imperative to have a consistent and distinctive brand voice to break through the noise. Voice and tone help a brand create a personality that better differentiates it from competitors.

In addition to providing competitive differentiation, other benefits of a strong brand voice include:

  • Providing guidance to your internal team and partners - those that are creating the brand's content
  • Building trust with your audience
  • Making your brand more distinguishable and memorable
  • Building an emotional connection with customers
  • Creating a more positive brand image

Your brand voice is a reflection of the brand's personality and what you stand for - it's consistent and shouldn't change. Your brand tone is how you communicate your brand voice - the way you convey those characteristics - and it helps to define the words used. Brand tone should adjust to be suitable based on context, medium and needed message.

Flying High on Brand Voice and Tone
The airline industry offers a great example of the impact of brand voice differentiation. All airlines offer a similar service - flights from point A to point B. Southwest Airlines has clearly differentiated their brand from its competitors by adopting a unique brand voice.

Southwest was founded on the principle of differentiation through price. But instead of simply selling the commodity of low-price travel, they elevated their brand promise to "freedom." They differentiated the airline through their culture, brand values and voice, reflecting their vision "to be the world's most loved, most efficient, and most profitable airline." Ryan Green, Southwest Airlines Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer said, "Southwest is world-famous for showcasing a sense of humor, humanity and heart."

Fortune magazine dubbed Herb Kellerher, CEO, as the "high priest of Ha-Ha." Southwest's voice is casual, not corporate. It's fun and authentic, building a strong sense of community while also being trustworthy. Southwest has been working to rebuild their brand reputation and improve their operations after their untimely shutdown during the busy holiday season. Their tonality in response to the situation was serious, committed and apologetic in communicating their failure and plan of action moving forward.

What's the Best First Step?
At Pipitone, we have developed a workshop designed to help companies identify and strengthen their brand voice and tone. Whether you are a B2B or B2C brand, it is imperative to craft a consistent and ownable brand voice. Our system is based on the four primary tone-of-voice dimensions developed by Nielsen, specifically for content strategists.

The four primary tone-of-voice dimensions are:

  • Funny vs. serious
  • Formal vs. casual
  • Respectful vs. irreverent
  • Enthusiastic vs. matter of fact

Brand tones can fall at either extreme of each dimension or somewhere in between. Brand voice can be expressed as a point in the 4-dimensional space described by these dimensions. Tone makes a difference in how a single message is delivered.

Example: Nielsen Exercise

Tone Message: An error has occurred
Serious, formal, respectful and matter of fact "We apologize, but we are experiencing a problem."
Serious, casual, respectful and matter of fact "We're sorry, but we're experiencing a problem on our end."
Serious, casual, respectful, and enthusiastic "Oops! We're sorry, but we're experiencing a problem on our end."
Casual, enthusiastic, humor and a little irreverence "What did you do?! You broke it! (Just kidding. We're experiencing a problem on our end.)"

What is your brand voice? Can it be more distinctive? More engaging? Does it set you apart and reflect your organization's values? Brands are like people. They need to be interesting and likable for you to want to spend time with them. If your voice is inconsistent or flat, it may be impacting your customers' experience with your brand, and ultimately your bottom line.

If your brand voice and tone feel lackluster or need to be better defined, drop us a note to discuss or sign up for a personalized brand voice and tone workshop. Branding is both an art and a science. We apply both to the process and help you and your team better articulate your brand's voice. Click here to learn more or sign up for a workshop.

Nancy Banasik and Gilbert Gillman

Written by Nancy Banasik and Gilbert Gillman

Nancy Banasik, VP Strategic Account Planner, and Gil Gillman, Sr. Content Strategist, both have more than 20 years of experience serving clients like Pennsylvania Tourism & Economic Development, Coca-Cola, Carnegie Mellon University, BEHR Paints, Hoover and Gerber. At Pipitone, they help clients craft their brand identity and voice, and amplify that to the market.