Here’s How to Define a Powerful Brand Voice Today

A brand voice is the purposeful, consistent expression of a brand through words and prose styles that engage and motivate.

A brand , on the other hand, is what people say, feel and think about an organization. It’s a set of mental and experiential associations that, when taken together, tell the story of who you are.

In simpler terms, a brand voice is all about what you transmit and the manner in which you communicate your message to your target audience and is a component of the brand, in its entirety.

Fun fact: Did you know the word “brand” is derived from the Old Norse brandr meaning “to burn.”? It refers to the practice of producers burning their mark onto their products (cattles anyone? *wink).

Needless to say, your brand voice should be consistent across all your brand elements, from your naming to your visual identity and brand personality.

“The art of marketing is the art of brand building.” – Philip Kotler

For instance, let’s say you chose Facebook as a platform to promote your shop’s products. From the moment you start posting on it, you are conveying your message and building your community. Is your message reflecting your brand’s personality? Is it consistent with your vision, mission, and values? Is your tone friendly or formal? Are you using contractions or slang? Do you joke or not and if you do, what types of jokes are congruent with your brand? What language do you use? Are you whispering or shouting? Are you smiling or smirking or stifling a yawn?

In order to build brand affinity, your voice and personality must be relatable to your community.

Why Should I Define My Brand Voice?

  1. Because it mirrors the people behind the brand
  2. Your brand is comprised of what you do, the people who do the things your company does, brand values, brand promise, brand pillars, vision, positioning statement & USP, visual identity (color scheme, logo, slogans, typeface) and pretty much everything else consumers remember about a company. As long as you take care of both the practical value and the emotional one in your brand development process, you should be all right.
    And your brand voice should reflect the above elements.

  3. Because it differentiates you from the crowd
  4. Just as every individual has distinctive tonalities, inflections, favorite words and communicates in different languages, being impacted by cultural norms, your brand should be unique as well. It should set you apart and consolidate your brand awareness and visibility.

  5. Because it builds trust
  6. Albert Mehrabian dogmatized that successful communication is comprised of three fundamental components: the words you use, your tone of voice and your body language.
    Being consistent in your communication will result in brand familiarity. According to research in psychology, there is a strong link between familiarity and trust and when a community shares common ideals or goals, a basic level of trust is present.
    Hence, being consistent in your communication, and conveying a message congruent with your vision and values will result in reaching a tribe that is similar to you, hence trusting you. And if we were to choose between two brands, one we never dealt with before and what we are familiar with and we trust, guess who will be our primary go-to source? *wink

Your Brand Voice Is Heard

Jennifer L. Aaker, in her research named “Dimensions of brand personality”, defines brand personality “as the set of human characteristics associated with a brand.”
A fast start in developing your brand voice guidelines can be connected to personality paradigms; J.L. Aaker, in the above-mentioned research developed a brand personality framework based on the “Big five” personality traits of openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

A brand personality framework

In addition to personality characteristics, Sidney Levy highlights in his study “Symbols for sales” that brand personality includes demographic characteristics such as gender, age, and class: ”Usually it is hard to evade thinking of inanimate things as male or female. Just as most people usually recognize whether something is addressed to them as a man or a woman, so are they sensitive to symbols of age.”

Other brands establish their brand voice by what they are not. During the 1980s, brands regularly defined themselves by comparison with their main competitors; Honda and Yamaha, Nike and Reebok, Pepsi and Coke – all six sought to grow and communicate by highlighting how the differed from their foe and establishing what they weren’t.
Remember the viral “happy birthday” video Mercedes Benz published for BMW in March on Instagram? Well, in case you don’t, here it is. Their back and forth advertising banners are notorious already.

Brand personality constructs

  • Absolut vodka is personified as a cool, hip, contemporary 25 years old;
  • The personality traits associated to Coca Cola are cool, all-American and real;
  • Pepsi is young, exciting and hip
  • Dr Pepper is non-conforming, unique and fun
  • Driven by distinct user imagery, Virginia Slims tends to be thought of as feminine; Marlboro on the other hand tends to be perceived as masculine
  • Based on pricing strategies, Saks Fifth Avenue is regarded as upper class, whether Kmart is perceived as blue collar.

Your brand voice will also encompass your marketing lexicon – those of you who use MailChimp, you’ll instantly know what I’m talking about. From the moment you enter their website till you send a campaign, you will see consistent, catchy and dynamic text phrases, chimp/banana related. Yowza! *smile

Also, when creating your brand voice, please make sure you also think of your messaging architecture. You and your team both need to have unitary responses in your communication process.

For instance, think of daily social interactions: if someone asks you something about the delivery process regarding product X from your online shop, will you respond with a detailed answer, or will you add a general text response such as: “Thank you for your comment. You can check the information provided on our website at Delivery Information.” When deciding your process, just remember that a recent survey found that people expect a response time of maximum one hour on social media, when communicating with brands. And I am pretty sure they actually expect a descriptive answer from the brand they are talking about and not a robotic type of reply. *wink

Furthermore, think of how you will react in times of PR crisis! It’s a fundamental aspect and it can impact tremendously your reputation.

Defining Your Brand Voice

What’s the personality you think your brand should convey? Can you relate to the “Big five” personality traits? If not, which are the best traits you can add to your brand?

Your brand voice guidelines could include these factors:


  • What’s the brand’s name?
  • Does it have a nickname?
  • How do its customers, employees, and suppliers refer to it?


  • What are the core values of your brand?
  • What does your brand believe in?
  • What is your brand passionate about?
  • What does it hate?
  • What is it striving for?
  • Would you think of your brand as being an extrovert or an introvert?
  • Is your brand female, male or gender neutral?
  • What would be your brand’s guilty pleasures?
  • Does your brand have friends?
  • Who are its friends?


  • What is its catch phrase?
  • What words should it be remembered by?

Visual style

  • How does it look? Is it colorful, neutral?
  • Does it have a mascot? If yes, is it a human mascot or is it an animal type of mascot?
  • Does it wear clothes? A necktie, a bowtie, a suit, a sweatsuit?
  • If it were a movie, would it be a drama, a comedy, an action type of movie? What movie would it be?
  • Is it modern or contemporary?
  • Is it class related? High end, blue collar?
  • If it were a celebrity, who would that be?

Verbal style

  • What language and tone does your brand use?
  • Does it use contractions or slang?
  • What kind of jokes can it tell?
  • Does it whisper or shout?
  • Is it smiling or smirking or stifling a yawn?
  • How does your brand pronounce words? Think pirate voice or another type of voice

Once you answer all these questions, you should have a compelling brand voice guideline you can use in all your communications.

In case you need some inspiration, you might want to take a look on Mozilla’s Copy Tone.
For even more inspiration, here are some examples from Stanford University that might come in handy: Brand Voice Guidelines 2011 – Stanford University [PDF]

Also, after you will start deploying your brand voice, you should conduct an Image-Identity Gap Analysis. To nurture and sustain a brand effectively, you must constantly be in touch with what your stakeholders (consumers, users, members) think about your brand and what you and your organization think of your brand.

Your brand voice will be personalized on the values of your company, your core values as an organizational leader and the feeling you want to transmit.
If you are a Millennial, visionary team, tech savvy and disruptive, selling hip t-shirts, an overly formal message might not be appropriate.

You need to be authentic and create the story of your company. Don’t be a copycat because people will recognize this and your reputation will suffer in the process.

Some Good Reads on Branding

If you want to broaden your information on brand building, you might want to take a look on the following resources:

  • The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding by Al and Laura Ries
  • Designing Brand Identity: A Complete Guide to Creating, Building and Maintaining Strong Brands by Alina Wheeler
  • The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier
  • Strategic Brand Management by Kevin Lane Keller
  • Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout


  • How to develop your brand voice guidelines
  • The “Big Five” dimensions of human personality
  • In order to build brand affinity, your voice and personality must be relatable to your community.
  • The word “brand” is derived from the Old Norse brandr meaning “to burn.”
  • 5 great branding books you need to read to broaden your know-how on the subject

“People don’t always remember what you say or even what you do, but they always remember how you made them feel.”

Taking Maya Angelou’s advice, if you want to create and grow a successful brand, define and refine your brand’s personality and decide what you want to tell your community. After you know what you’ll say to the world, use your distinct tone of voice, personality traits, and storytelling to convey your message. And don’t forget to listen as well because your community will talk back! *wink

Back to you, guys: Are there any brand voices you particularly like? Tell us in the comments!

Author avatar
Emilian Alexandru

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