Pop Quiz! What’s a Brand Voice?

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Your brand voice is your organization’s style and personality, and it comes through in lots of ways: from how you respond to a customer service inquiry to what you put on your Contact page on your website.

You'll know if your brand is likely to use 💅emojis 💯in your copy, or use lots of exclamation points!, or even whether or not you’d use an Oxford comma.

You’ll be able to tell us if your brand is fun or serious, snarky or bubbly, measured or HIGH-ENERGY.

If you really do it right, your customers will be able to recognize that it’s you in just a few sentences—no logo required—and they'll feel a connection with you, because you write and speak just like they do.

It’s not just your public-facing voice, either. A distinct brand voice informs all of your internal materials, from your mid-term reviews to your meeting agendas, and can help your staff understand your organization’s culture.

For more on why brand voice is ~so cool~ and how to figure out what yours should be, use our handy guide. But don't stop there. Keep reading!

Pro-Tip: Voice is not tone

Now, remember that there’s a difference between voice and tone:

  • Your brand voice stays consistent throughout everything you write.

  • Your tone can change depending on your audience and what you’re writing.

For example, a report for your board might be more serious than an Instagram caption for Singles Awareness Day. (Which is today!)

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A classic homework assignment

Thanks for the introduction!

We’ve found that the most valuable exercise in a brand voice definition meeting is the “3 adjectives” game. By narrowing how you want to be described by your audiences down to three adjectives, and how you thinkyou’re being described into three other adjectives, you can identify brand gaps, see areas that need improvement, and create a foundation for your brand voice.

There are some strict rules we follow for this activity. (Which doesn’t mean it isn’t a lot of fun! Cookies are often involved.)

  • You have to stick to three adjectives. Not four, not two. Three. We’ve found that the first two adjectives come quickly, but that the third one is where nuance is required. Be focusing on three, you end up discussing why each word matters and iterating as a group. This becomes symbolic of the overall collaboration process: start with an idea and iterate it so it becomes actionable.

  • Words like “innovative,” “out of the box,” and “unique” are not allowed. These are examples of terms everyone likes to be described as, but they don’t really mean anything. What is “innovative” to you may be obnoxious to the person sitting to your left. Describe what is behind those words and see if other adjectives bubble up.

  • Listen to team members in the room. One person should not dominate the conversation, even if the creative director has been working on this exact exercise for months. We want to be sure that your proposed adjectives resonate with a majority of participants. If a word creates hesitation, take a few moments and ask “why?” Often, alternatives present themselves.

  • Remember to have fun and bring energy to the conversation. It’s an exciting conversation! Really!

Defining your voice and tone in 3 adjectives isn’t a new idea, but it’s an activity that is often left off the table as everyone gets excited about new copy for a campaign or the design of a new website. Give it a go, and tell us how it went!