The Seven Secrets of Creating a Unique Brand Voice

Your brand’s secret weapons.
Every brand has a voice. Big brands, small brands, local brands and international brands, all brands use a voice where-ever and when-ever they communicate to their market. The language brands choose to use (or use without conscious consideration) is what we call their brand voice. Brand voice is potentially the most under valued and under utilised of all brand properties.

Nearly all of the worlds most effective brands have a clear, confident and often unique tone of voice that assists their market to identify and tune-into their messages. Brand voice is a powerful communicator of the personality of a brand – a critical factor in the establishment of truly deep emotional connections with a brand’s audience. Nike have long used their unique voice to underpin their consumer advertising campaigns and reinforce their authentic athletic attitude.

Nike Football 2

Small brand doesn’t have to equal small personality
But brand voice as a powerful marketing tool is not just reserved for the big boys. Small businesses around the world can use unique, personality-filled brand voices to connect with their local markets in a way big brands never could. New Zealand burger brand, ‘Murder Burger‘ have a great track record of connecting to their customers and differentiating their brand with unique and rich language. These guys keep a blog rolling that is as rich and tasty as their burgers look. Their band voice flows through all communications including this employment ad.

employment flyer3

The Seven Secrets of creating a unique voice for your brand
No matter what size your business, what market you operate in, or whether yours is a B2C or B2B brand, creating a unique, on-personality brand voice will provide your brand communications with a new level of cut through and connection with your audience.

Secret One. Get a Personality
All brands need a clearly defined personality. Along with a central guiding thought (brand essence) and a set of brand values, your brand personality provides the foundation for building consistent brand experiences with the power to connect truly and deeply with your audiences. A brand personality is the critical first step in establishing the voice of your brand. A brand that is spirited, edgy and surprising with an urban attitude will speak with a completely different voice to a brand that is technical, corporate, reliable and hard working. Trampoline is a great little gelato brand in Australia with a clear sense of personality and a strong brand voice. Trampoline has flavours like Iced Vo Vo, Choc Therapy, and Jaffa Smasha. My favorite though is this point of sale poster.

Trampoline Poster

Secret Two. Know your Market
The better you understand your audience and the more affinity you have with those people, the greater your potential to create a brand voice that will truly resonate. Often markets will have a distinctive vocabulary with unique word combinations and definitions. Reflecting those unique linguistics in your brand voice will help to establish deeper relationships, but only if the voice is authentic. There’s nothing more jarring than a ‘granddad’ brand that’s trying to be ‘down with the kids’. The strongest brands are those for which the language is natural and intuitive. These are the brands with the greatest level of authenticity. Virgin Blue is a brand that has mastered the art of brand voice. This is a sign I snapped in a Virgin departure lounge.

Virgin Blue Truly Deeply brand agency

Secret Three. Own the Stage
Those brands that try to be a little bit of everything to everyone, end-up being meaning nothing to anyone. Once you understand who your market is (and just as importantly, who it isn’t) use your brand voice with confidence and gusto. No-doubt some people will not click with your messages, but those for whom your brand is intended will be strongly attracted to its authenticity. Few brands have greater authenticity than Harley Davidson from the rumble of their bike exhausts to the open faced, matte black helmets their riders prefer. Likewise, their advertising and brand communications have an incredibly strong sense of identity. This ad was created for Harley as a response to the onset of the global financial crisis and market crash in North America last year.

Harley - Truly Deeply Brand Strategy

Secret Four. Stand Out
Every market place has competing brands – the good news is that most speak in a similar voice devoid of unique personality. Even more remarkable though is most brands intentionally mimic the voice and the messages of the other brands they compete with. Rather than looking to your competition for inspiration, look to your audience. Run focus groups of your customers, hang-out where they hang-out, spend time listening to how they talk about their lives and the way your products and services fit into their life styles.

Gone - Truly Deeply brand design

Secret Five. Get into the Zone
A technique writers use to build authenticity into a character is to picture someone they know who embodies the persona they wish to create. This technique is equally effective for creating authentic brand voices. Once you have clearly defined your brand’s personality, identify someone you know well who strongly shares those attributes. The better you know the person, the more effective this technique. Spend time listening to the way your ‘brand voice muse’ speaks, become so familiar that you can imaging clearly how they would communicate a range of messages. Then, whenever you’re creating a piece of brand communication, get ‘into the zone’ and channel their voice. Kiwi brand Murder Burger have a natural affinity for their brand voice which provided a rich sense of authenticity. Love the Kings Cross shooting, contemporary cultural reference in their Roo Burger ad.

ROO-BURGER-630x836 - Truly Deeply Brand design

Secret Six. Don’t Write it, Speak it
For all but the most confident of writers, the task of crafting brand messages is hard work. Unless you often write creatively, you’ll likely find writing in a rich and authentic brand voice challenging. The secret is to speak first and write second. Often, especially if you’re imagining the voice of another person, you will find it easier to speak in your new brand voice, to choose the right words and phrases to create the right sense of personality than to write it directly. Either by transcribing as you speak aloud, or recording and transcribing, you will find it easier to create a rich voice fro your brand. The brand voice of burger chain Grill’d is a defining element of their brand expression. As it says on the walls of their restaurants: “No drive-through, no goddamn Colonel, and no clowns”.

Grill'd wall2 - Truly Deeply brand agency

Secret Seven. 100% Personality
The final secret is to spread to word at every opportunity. The thing about a rich and unique brand voice is its capacity to spread the word about your brand further and wider than ever before, and no more effort. Re-write your ads, your web site, your brochure, even your business card. The more you use your brand voice, the better your writing becomes, and the stronger your voice becomes as a brand asset, sowing the seeds of rich and deep emotional connections with your market. Wicked Campers is an Australian brand aimed at backpackers. Wicked use their vans as a powerful canvas, turning them into 24 hr, Country-wide traveling billboards. Each camper van is unique, but all share the same attitude and brand voice aimed smack at the backpacker market.

Wicked - Truly Deeply brand strategy design

We spend a lot of our lives working with brands across every conceivable category. We’ve created rich and unique brand voices for a range of brands from gelato, credit cards, annual reports and fast food to retirement villages, insurance and health services. If you’d like to have a chat about how to create an authentic and unique voice for your brand, why not drop us a line.

David Ansett.

19 Comments

  1. truly hate murder burger branding and it’s voice. I’m tired of vitamin water, burgers, t-shirts, all talking to me. Just tell me what’s in the burger, cook it well, and charge me a fair price. I don’t want the ex-ad agency copywriter telling me what his ex-girl friend did, or how he his mate is Indian, when I’m trying to find out what’s in the quarter pounder.

    It’s not unique at all anymore. Every product imaginable is printing some sort of spill on it’s packaging like it’s your best mate. I’d rather have clean simple design – spend your time on getting you face to face service right instead of spending time doing your own print ads with free fonts and vector cat logos.

  2. Bob, mate you need to chill-out. You make a fair point about the trend of ‘dialing-up’ the personality for alot of these brands – but for these guys it’s a legitimate way to make their brand cut through. I think the fact you have such a strong sense of dislike is a positive for them – any brand that is bold will turn as many people-off as it attracts – but those who are into the brand language will have a real loyalty to the brand. Not saying face-to-face service isn’t a critical dimension to the brand as well, but if that’s all that counted then we’d have a world full of McDonalds’.

  3. I’m chilled as ๐Ÿ™‚ I just don’t think this style of branding is going to cut through anymore as it’s being utilized by everyone including the big brands (including Maccy-Ds) Fair point about appealing to some and creating a sense of loyalty, but we are going to see this more and more until it’s all a bit noisey from everything talking to us.

  4. Bob, I reckon you’ve nailed it. There are always trends in brand – this ‘dialed-up personality’ is one we’re seeing now, and it seems like each new brand needs to take it up a notch. There’s two ways it can go: 1. Authentic voice where it has a reason for being and actually comes from and connects to a community, and 2. Personality for the sake of cut through. The good news is, once the big brands adopt this trend, it’ll lose favour with the market and fizz-out. In the mean-time, all of the other styles of brand voice will continue to resonate brilliantly, especially those with authenticity.

    • a pleasure Edson. Those brands who consistently speak with an authentic, differentiated brand voice create a real advantage in their market. Another way of expression your brand’s philosophy with a little more grunt may be: ‘Second is just the first loser’

  5. Very interesting post, thanks for that. It seems that humour is often used to effectively communicate brand messages. I feel like the brands using humour to deliver their message are the ones that get traction faster. People seem to follow those brands and they’re the one likely to become viral. Humour definitely works with some types of businesses, but not all.

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