Building your brand voice sets the tone of everything you do. It sets the tone for your website, content, imagery, ads, and how your team speaks about your brand. It’s what gives your brand a personality. Without it, it's just a logo. Building your brand beyond the logo, and giving it a voice, will set you apart from the rest. You want anyone to look at your brand and understand exactly what it stands for. For new startups, or even established companies, figuring this out can be challenging, especially if many products were launched along the way.
Whether you are starting a new company or rebranding, this exercise will help guide you in the direction of understanding your brand's voice. We highly recommend passing this along to your entire team to fill out independently! Not only does it make for a fun team activity, but you might be surprised to see how others even within your company see the brand.
Step 1: Who are you?
If you were to describe your company to someone new, what few words would you use to encapsulate it? Similar to how you would describe a friend, your brand should have key characteristics that it displays. For example, if your company is a bank, you would probably want people to believe your company as trustworthy. Whereas a young company that focuses on innovation would have more emphasis on “disruption!” Take your time on this. Really think about how you would like people to describe your brand.
Below are some examples of various brand voices for us to explore! Your organization may have more than one, but it's important to not have more than 3 for it can give mixed messaging to your audience.
Innovator: Startups are not perfect, but will come up with new ways to do things. They highlight being different from the rest. Reinventing the status-quo.
Caring: Going above and beyond for customers. Customers are always right. This is the company that wants you to know they will always have your back.
Trust: Established, we've been there, done that. Reliable. You know what to expect. Typically more mature brands have the longevity, or credibility, to say this.
Fun: This product will make you feel like someone else. It’s fun and will be the reason your mindset changes.
Prestige: Elite. Shows you are the best out there. Makes customers feel they are making a choice that will make them look and feel good.
Value: Showing you will get a lot for your money. Customers will get more value than for a small investment.
Step 2: What do you stand for, or against?
Want to create a cult about your brand? Find something you strongly agree or disagree with. It’s important that your brand clearly defines what it stands for, or, in some cases, against. Everyone wants to feel like they are a part of something big. When they believe they have found their group, brand loyalty will be unlike no other. People are likely to stick with your brand if you can create a common interest. Creating a strong stance or belief will help with your marketing plans, content and even somehow your sales team positions the company. It also makes the content more excited and creative. You can clearly set the boundaries of what your brand is about. Think Geico commercials telling you to “Stop paying more for car insurance”. They are putting a stance that you don’t have to over pay.
Brand Stance Examples:
Patagonia standing for environmental justice and accountability. They have even put a stand to not allow any financial institutions to use their products for branded swag. Yup, you heard us right, if you are a financial business you can’t get your company logo on their Better Sweater Vest or any other products from Patagonia.
Chick-fil-A against eating cows, “Eat More Chicken” campaigns. Who hasn’t seen these billboards on a road trip? This campaign clearly shows a good example of what it stands against. They make a clear stance against eating red meat with the iconic Cows asking you to eat chicken. It’s playful, memorable, good conversation starter and gets you eating more chicken.
Step 3: Why do people need, or desire, your business?
Brands either solve a problem or satisfy a desire. Which business are you in? Understanding your placement, and why someone would be interested in your product is important. While you may think you should achieve both, ideally you would want to stick with one to avoid mixing up your brand identity. Remember, this exercise is to help identify a single, consistent, voice that makes sense for your brand. If you give too many mixed messages about what you do, you no longer have a trustworthy brand voice. Brands that do a good job of this make some really good and compelling brands. If you look at the brands you like, notice how they position themselves.
Apple does an amazing job of making you believe that having their products sets you apart from everyone else. It’s the same phone that Samsung has created, yet people want to have Apple because there is a cool factor about it. They position themselves for desire. Their brand makes people feel important and of elite status.
Slack proves that communication between teams is difficult. Slack makes it easy to communicate between teams and create chats with all the necessary people. They do a great job of solving problems and painting the picture that communication is an issue for companies.
Step 4: If your brand had a group of friends, who would sit with you at the lunch table?
Who would you want to see your brand associated with? What would it’s group of friends look like? What does it take to get your brand to be affiliated with the rest of the logos out there? When doing a rebrand or defining a new brand it’s important to see how your brand will sit with. Will clients use your brand with others? For example, a company might say top tools for a designer are Asana, Figma, and WebFlow. This is a great exercise to see what companies you will maybe do an integration with, events, use similar content, or maybe even partner with. Understanding who your brand will sit with will help you identify some look alike audiences as well.
So, think wisely, what brands would your company invite to the lunch table?
Brand Lunch Table Examples:
Low Code tools
💡Tip: Check out how SwagUp used Low Codes tools to Scale to 8 Figures!
Step 5: What other brands do your customers like?
If you can figure out where your clients go, what do they do. What other brands do they utilize in their networks? Are they using Starbucks, Apple and Northface? Are they using Halo Top , Peloton, and All Birds? This is a great exercise for UX/UI research, so you can create a user environment they are comfortable and familiar with.
Speaking for ourselves at SwagUp, most of our competitors have been in the promotional industry for a very long time. We felt that our customers liked something innovative and simple, compared to what was already out there. We identified that our customers utilize products such as Asana, Slack, Apple Products, and S’well. All of those brand’s user experiences are clean, crisp, easy to use, and are up to date with their designs. It was important for us to look like we are associated in that “group” of brands. Customers will gravitate towards brands they feel familiar to, or identify with. If they are constantly on those platforms or products, then transition to ours with a different tone and look, it’s not going to give them the sense of innovation and trust we want to build.
Step 6: What images represent your brand's mood?
Find colors, graphics, site designs that you feel best represent your brand. A mood board! It’s okay if at first it looks all over the place. The key is to start slowly narrowing it down as you decide on the questions above. If an image doesn't match with your answers above, get rid of it!
Putting together some visualizations can help tie everything together. You might find that many things you personally enjoy do not fit your brand voice or identify. Any images you select, make sure to ask yourself, “does it tell the same story as the answers above?”
Now that you have completed these simple steps, go back and answer the same questions, but this time in the voice of your customer. Do they align? If there is something missing, adjust! If the personalities are completely different, you might need to rethink a few things, depending on what your true mission is, and what you want your company to become, not what it is now. Always build for the future, not the present day.
💡Pro tip: Give this exercise to client-facing members of your team. You may be surprised by the answers they come up with.
Looking for ideas on creating swag for your brand, or rebranding, project? Our SwagUp team is here to make it a smooth transition! We offer pre-production samples for any rebranding project to make sure it’s exactly what your team has envisioned! Get started on your swag project here!
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