The Brand Identity Crisis

Imagine that your brand is a person, with a defined personality and a sartorial style. Who would they be?

Is your brand a smart, funny, self-described nerd, always ready with a pun? A social butterfly who greets everyone with a hug and never comes to a dinner party without a gift? Or a social activist, galvanizing a group for a cause and carrying a megaphone?

For the next few weeks, we’re going to help you take the right steps to find and define your brand identity. It's an essential part of being able to communicate your business offerings and mission to the right audience, so that you're connecting with your ideal customers in a way that they understand and that resonates deeply with them. If you've ever wished you could build a strong community around your brand, this is how you do it.

With a little work, we want your business to say:

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We are going to start with your brand voice. Think of your brand voice as the soul of your brand articulated within your content. Not to be dramatic, but your brand voice lives within 👏every 👏 single 👏word 👏you use, including your social media, your email newsletters, your website, your printed brochures, and even your invoices and in-person conversations.

Having a unique brand voice is what sets you apart from the competition. After all, there’s a good chance there’s someone else doing what you do, so having a well-defined voice can set you apart in a crowded market.

Sit down this weekend and think about some companies or organizations that really appeal to you; maybe you've subscribed to their emails, or maybe it's a brick-and-mortar store that you love to stop in every few weeks. Pick 3 of your favorites and write down what it is that you like about these brands exactly. How do you feel when you see their website or their storefront? What do you notice about them? What do you remember? Write down adjectives that describe this brand.

When you're done, look through your notes and observe how these brands have created an experience for you that goes far beyond, "We have a product and here it is and buy it, please." There are emotions involved; your favorite coffee shop might be your favorite because, yes, they serve outstanding coffee, but the shop also feels like a cozy, comfortable living room with big windows and leather armchairs, and no one minds if you spend 30 minutes or 3 hours there. It's inviting and simple and slow-paced, as opposed to the shop down the street that's crammed with people having lunch and blasting loud music so no one feels compelled to stay too long. (Yes, you are correct; we might be writing the Slice right now from one of these comfortable armchairs we are describing!)

Customers want to feel like a brand really understands them: their needs, their wants, and what they don't like. Armed with that info, you can consistently put together copy for your website, social, marketing materials, and anything else customer-facing that really speaks to them. Creating that connection is powerful, because it keeps customers coming back.

Tl;dr: A well thought-out and executed brand voice can equal 💰😍.

Brand Voice 101

Check your content

Ideally, your brand voice is something you start thinking about before you start putting out any content. But you probably didn’t have time between the 5 million other things you had to do to start your company, and we get it. If your company isn’t brand new, we suggest starting to think about brand voice by looking at all your existing content. Your voice might be coming through in ways you haven't even formally defined yet. So, look at your website, blogs, newsletters, social channels, etc, and see if you notice any patterns! Jot down any adjectives or consistencies that come to mind, as well as anything you really don't like. This is a good starting exercise to get you in the right headspace. 

Make it personal

Now we’re really going to dig into your brand’s personality. In order to get at the core of your voice, we suggest doing one (or both, you overachiever) of the following: 

  1. Write down the top 3-5 adjectives that describe your brand. Limit yourself to 3-5 in order to carefully consider each word, and stop yourself from saying your brand is a little bit of everything. We guarantee that it's not; a brand should be defined and specific. If it's easier, start by jotting down lots of adjectives and then narrow it down.
  2. If you’re hitting a roadblock in thinking of adjectives or want to go one step further, think of your brand as a person and describe them on paper. Who are they? What do they do in their free time? How do they interact with others? What do they wear, and what would they never touch with a 10-foot pole? What Instagram accounts do they follow?

No matter which of these methods you use, just make sure you are thinking from the perspective of your business. Go beyond thinking of a personality you admire or wish you had yourself, and instead outline words that embody your company's core values, mission, and vision. (If you're a solo-preneur, your company's values might reflect a lot of your own, but you are not defined by your company.)

Set the guidelines

Look at your adjectives or profile and get to work on your voice! Take a look at this brand voice chart and see how to make your own. You’ll take each adjective or aspect of your brand personality and write down what it means in practice, with some do’s and don’ts.

For example, if you picked “honest,” maybe that means you do use a direct voice and always tell your customers the truth, even when it's difficult; but that also means you don’t over-promise or use overly “sales-y” language.

This will also help you determine if the adjectives you picked actually make sense for your brand in practice. Something like "snarky" or "irreverent" might sound like a good descriptor, but actually laying out how your business should be snarky might not be so easy. You can absolutely revise your list now and in the future, especially as you learn what your customers really like as you interact with them through your marketing and through your sales experiences.

Happy with your choices? Once you've finished your chart, share it with anyone you're working with and talk it over with your trusted colleagues and business besties. Don't be afraid of getting perspective and opinions from anyone who could be a potential customer for your business, because the more insight and understanding you get about those customers, the better your brand voice will be! 

Put it into practice

Now, list out every piece of copy you need to write for your business. This might include: 

  • Website copy
  • Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest / Instagram profiles and posts
  • Email newsletter sign-up and welcome email
  • Print brochure
  • Business card
  • Voicemail message
  • Elevator pitch

You get the idea! If you've already got these materials written and gathered together, time to do some revisions to make sure they are in your brand voice. If you're missing anything or haven't created it yet, it's time to start drafting that copy. Keep your brand voice chart on your desk at all times, and get feedback whenever possible.

Still struggling a little bit with defining your brand voice? Here are 5 activities to help you dive deeper!