How to Develop a Brand Voice that People Talk About - Carney

How to Develop a Brand Voice that People Talk About

Have you cracked open a Daily Carnage lately?

It’s been recently celebrated as having “just enough snark to ensure it’s opened daily” by Jay Baer himself. (Thank you, thank you.)

If you’re familiar with our newsletter, you’ve probably noticed that it’s written with a certain…je ne sais quoi. Jay calls it snark, we call it mysterious allure.

Except, we know it’s not a mystery. It’s the brand voice. But, isn’t the brand voice that certain something you add to your messaging to make it more memorable? More distinct? Are you nodding in agreement over there?

Then the next question is: How do you find your brand’s voice?

Building your brand’s voice isn’t as formulaic as other marketing strategies. It evolves, much like your own voice and tone may change over time. Sometimes, you don’t know who you are. The same can be said about your brand.

But by asking the right questions, you’ll get to the center of your brand’s values, personality, and behaviors. You could say you’ll get to the soul of your brand. (I never miss an opportunity to be dramatic.)

Knowing all of these things will allow you to thoroughly outline your brand voice. You’ll engage and motivate your audience better because of it.

Using the Daily Carnage as an example, this post will take you through the “process” of finding your brand’s certain je ne sais quoi. And where to go from there.

Know Your Audience

Stop, look, and listen.

As a digital agency, our clients are usually established brands. Which means the voice and tone are often predetermined.

Creating our own brand was a unique opportunity.

Naturally, it took some time to nail down the right voice. But, in that time, we learned more about our audience. We discovered the majority of our subscribers are women in marketing, between the ages of 25 and 40.

Through trial and error, practice, and a lot of social listening, we were able to shape the voice into something that resonated with our readers.

I’d be lying if I said some of our pop culture references didn’t spurn a few angry messages…   

That’s why listening is so crucial here. Here’s how:

  • Provide ways for your audience to easily contact you.
  • Use social media monitoring tools.
  • Be accessible and active.
  • Be present—both physically and mindfully.
  • Be receptive and flexible. 

Otherwise, you’re just scratching the surface of your audience, catering to generic and played-out personas. Writing for a generic audience means your voice—and subsequently your brand—will be equally lackluster and forgettable.  

Know Your Brand

First ask yourself, “Why did I create this brand?”

This will help you set your initial tone. Next, get inspired.

As many founders would agree, you source a great deal of inspiration from other brands. Start by asking yourself, “Which brand voices do you like?” Similarly, ask yourself, “Which brand voices do you dislike? What tone won’t work for your content or audience?” 

Continue to ask those big questions.

  • How do you want your brand to make people feel?
  • What are your brand’s values?
  • What personality traits does your brand embody?
  • What kind of person would your brand be?

Answering these questions will bring you closer to a voice that is specific, authentic, and distinct. 

Let’s look at this through the lens of the Daily Carnage for a second:

  • We knew we had to stand out from the digital excess and overload of marketing blogs.
  • We knew our brand had to at once deliver valuable information and entertain our audience.
  • We needed to be a thought leader. But an amusing one.
  • We wanted to only summarize the top content of the day. So readers needed to believe us when we said, “This is the best.”
  • We needed to be authoritative. But also playful. 
  • We didn’t want reading it to seem like homework (workwork?) for marketing professionals.
  • We didn’t want to use dry business-speak or cliché marketing terms. 
  • We wanted to inject life into our copy through fun references our millennial audience would relate to—like an inside joke shared amongst friends.

You can see how we’re starting to get to the meat of our brand’s values. Its personality traits. How we wanted it to make people feel. By answering those big questions, adjectives pour out.

Now it’s time to use those answers to outline your ideal brand voice.

A Way with Words

Make a brand voice guideline.

Write down all of those adjectives. Do it! List three to five words. Then, describe each word a little further. Heck, make it into a chart

When you outline your brand voice like this, a lot of things happen.

  1. It will help your writers understand how to put your brand into action.
  2. It will drive consistency in your content creation.
  3. It will motivate more audience engagement.

You’re basically giving your brand a personality. Like when you customize your Sims for twelve hours before ever starting the game.

Here’s what our Sim looks like:

  • Millennial marketer
  • Cheeky and quirky
  • Friendly and approachable
  • Trustworthy and knowledgeable  
  • Informal and chatty
  • Bold and confident
  • Quick and clever
  • Culturally aware and sensitive

Talk the Talk, Walk the Walk

Are you talking to me?

Weird to say, but all of these words build up a person. Can you see them? We think they look like… well, like a friend.

We know this friend. Because we know our audience. This isn’t just an acquaintance. This is your freaking homie—someone you talk to every day.

This is a friend giving you the 411 about what they just read in the marketing world. “Hey, did you hear about—” They just have to share it with you. After all, they’re a great friend.

To convey this emotional connection, we chose to mimic digital conversations close friends have with one another. Similar to text messaging, we incorporate jokes, popular culture references, shorthand, emojis, and gifs.

We chose humor as one of the pillars of our brand voice for a number of reasons.

  1. It makes reading about your work (marketing) feel novel. Exciting even!  
  2. It signals belonging. How great does it feel to laugh together at the same joke?
  3. Humor is based in truth. Most jokes (the good ones anyway) work because they’re the truth “exaggerated to an absurd degree.”
  4. Our audience is full of fun-loving professionals!

Don’t be afraid to loosen up the language when appropriate. It will, without a doubt, give your brand voice a welcomed human touch. Your brand will be more memorable and remarkable for it.  


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