It’s not just what you say that stirs people. It’s the way that you say it.
– William Bernbach, American advertising executive
What is brand voice?
Technically, brand voice refers to the tone of a business’s communications.
If we’re talking about written communications, the brand voice is essentially the voice people hear in their heads as they read. This voice can give a very specific impression of your brand.
But I think it’s important to note that achieving that impression requires a bit of a complex communication equation:
Your Tone + Your Word Choice + What You Talk About = Brand Voice
If this equation isn’t coming into play for your brand, you’re running the risk of either making the wrong impression OR not making any impression at all (yikes!). The potential negative effects aside, you’re missing out on an important opportunity to connect with your ideal clients.
When I write for one of my clients, I consciously work to put this equation together to make sure we’re checking all the boxes on their brand voice.
Brand voice types
If you do a search online for brand voice examples, you’ll come up with a lot of one-word results like ‘confident,’ ‘humorous,’ ‘friendly,’ etc.
I actually don’t embrace this one-dimensional view for my clients. It just doesn’t go far enough toward creating a brand voice that’s unique to them and that’s just the right note to help their prospective clients trust them.
Here’s how I approach it. First, interior designers need a brand voice that falls somewhere on the spectrum between ‘polished and professional’ and ‘warm and friendly.’ Exactly where you fall on that spectrum depends on the clients you’re looking to attract and your personality.
But I don’t stop there.
Next, I layer on top of that your personality and what your clients need you to emphasize in your in-person tone with them.
After all, my goal is ultimately to make them feel like they already know, like, and trust you. The best way to do that is to use your brand voice to give them a taste of what you’re actually like in person. As with everything else, how much of your personality we infuse your brand voice with depends on the clientele you’re trying to attract.
Brand voice inspiration
When communicating to a client and the rest of the project team what your vision is for their design project, you rely in part on visuals. Drawings are important for getting everyone on the same page and for preserving your design intent along the way.
In the same way, you need guideposts for your brand voice – examples of how it should sound, the degree of professionalism vs. warmth, how formal or casual, etc.
For my clients, I use brand voice inspiration examples. I can envision exactly what the brand voice needs to be, but to help the client understand my vision, I pull together a handful of websites that strike specific parts of what I’m going for.
Of course, since we’re developing a custom voice just for them, there’s not going to be any one brand that sounds just like my client. Instead, we take aspects of several – the polish of Brand X’s voice plus the charm of Brand Y’s with just a dash of Brand Z’s cheekiness, for example. It really helps them (and me!) hear the voice we’re after in their heads.
Fine tuning – not reinventing
I feel compelled to point out that it’s not usually a good idea to adopt a brand voice that’s utterly unlike you for the sake of trying to sound like something you’re not. Your interior design firm isn’t a huge corporation and you’re the face – and the mouthpiece – of your brand.
You’re going to have to carry on your brand voice in emails, on calls, and in the media so you want your brand voice to feel like a natural fit for who you are authentically.
Think of your brand voice more like a fine tuning of how you already speak, emphasizing some aspects while dialing others down a bit.
Are you clear about what your brand voice should be?
If not, you could be missing out on a foundational (and fun!) way to create connections with your ideal clients. It makes all of your brand communications feel more relational and sincere for everyone, and that’s always a good thing!
For help developing your brand voice, check out my Brand Messaging Development service.