What Is Brand Voice in Digital Marketing?
Brand voice is the style, tone, and vocabulary that make your brand come alive. It’s not your voice; it’s the voice of the guide that leads potential customers to solutions they need.
Your brand is that guide.
Every inch of your website and online marketing materials is a chance to leverage that voice to Persuade, Inform, and/or Entertain prospects (remember PIE from gradeschool English?)—and then nurture them into customers.
A consistent brand voice is one of the keys to building meaningful momentum across all marketing channels from social media to emails, from podcast ads to event printouts. Consistency helps imprint your message in people’s minds and sets the stage for human connection.
Whereas an inconsistent or irrelevant brand voice can shriek with dissonance and repel prospective customers on a subconscious level, before you ever get a chance to demo your excellent wares.
Understanding your niche
My client Kristen Nicoletti (KNA) is a business systems expert and Certified Dubsado Specialist who wanted a new website for her OBM agency—to help entrepreneurs and small businesses automate their lead development, client management, and virtual business operations.
We started with basic benefits of business systems and automations, how they save time and effort in the long run; working in a lot of general SEO related to online business management, tying in her background on executive teams at corporations and startups, adding bright smiling pics of her face, etc.
But she wasn’t satisfied.
The more she talked about her brand, background, and dreams; the more she thought about her future business and who she wanted to serve; the more she considered what would make her happiest—the more it became obvious that she needed to niche down and focus on the food & hospitality industry.
Food and hospitality…now you’re speaking my language!
Once she knew that about herself, she was visibly more excited about the website development process—and as we began revising KNA’s draft website to match her new niche, her brand voice rapidly took on a life of its own. Food and hospitality puns leapt out at every turn of the keyboard. Pain-points suddenly got more specific, more recognizable to our target audience of stressed service-industry entrepreneurs huddled over a laptop in a small cramped office. And the website basically wrote itself.
How to create a consistent brand voice
Developing a successful brand voice is about consistency and human connection. It’s not about spilling all your expert knowledge and jargon in a word-salad torrent.
Speak the language of your brand story hero.
The hero of your brand story isn’t you, it’s your Ideal Customer Avatar (ICA). It’s the person who’s reading your website, trying to decide whether you’re the right guide for them in this moment. Step into their shoes and write in words they connect with.
For KNA, those shoes are the kitchen clogs of a harried chef/owner, the espadrilles of an overbooked bed & breakfast manager, the pumps/loafers of an event planner rebuilding clientele and vendor partnerships after Covid…
They’re not in the mood and don’t have time for a bunch of fluff or business jargon. They want effective solutions that help them get back to the service craft that drives their business and passion.
KNA offers those solutions, at 3 different price points explained clearly in simple language. Every page and description includes subtle hints that she knows what she’s talking about, that she can relate to what you’re going through. Speaking from neat, uncrowded webpages, her brand voice is warm and welcoming, laced with relevant humor and no-nonsense clarity.
And powered by her own Dubsado system of automations, her website offers a streamlined experience for any leads who take the plunge.
What is brand-voice tone & style?
Every industry has unique language, phrasing, and ways of describing things. Tapping into that is an easy way to establish a meaningful brand voice. If readers see themselves reflected in your webcopy, connection is born and trust begins building.
It really doesn’t take much—just a few deft touches of industry lingo, humor, and/or relevant references that will tell readers you’re one of them—or at least understand their business in a profound and personal way.
Brand voice tone is created not only by the words and phrases, but also by the cadence, rhythm, and tempo they’re delivered in.
You can use short sentences. Moving rapidly across the page. Passing simple info about your topic. Snapshots the reader can easily absorb. Create an energetic tone that wastes no space.
Or you might go with longer, meandering sentences with thoughtful clauses, where your reader goes along for the ride and can become mesmerized by the languid pace of what you’re saying, almost meditating on the laid-back, confident tone.
Write how you talk. Your readers are basically interviewing your website as their guide to a better life.
Just like you would in person, your website’s brand voice should build rapport and connection, answer their questions and undercut doubts, and leave a memorable impression that keeps echoing in their memory long after they leave your page. (Don’t worry, they’ll be back)
Character elements for brand voice
Just like your Ideal Customer Avatar is a character who’s going on a journey to a better life, your brand persona is the character who guides them there.
There are lots of character elements to consider when developing your brand voice. And every one of them should reflect what your ideal customer would most jibe with. Not just who you are.
Where on each scale does your brand voice land?
It’s also helpful to establish your brand values—both for your team to understand how to interact with the world when representing your brand, and also for prospective customers to know what to expect from choosing your brand.
These can be incorporated into your mission statement, your primary tagline, and anywhere else it makes sense to do so.
List of brand values
Brand voice vocabulary
Most likely, whatever it is your brand voice is talking about, there’s a specific set of vocabulary words that matter, that demonstrate you’re professional at this and know what you’re talking about.
Distinct from SEO keywords (but sometimes overlapping) your brand voice vocab includes anything relevant to your industry or the factors that make you unique. Keeping a list of relevant terms and words can be especially helpful when wrangling a bunch of writers to sound like one consistent voice—but even on your own, it can help streamline the process of website copywriting.
Here are some examples from my client KNA’s brand voice vocab:
But your brand voice vocabulary can also include a list of words not to use.
For example, therapists (and counselors, coaches, etc) are specifically trained to use the term “client” rather than “patient” because of the subtle implications and nuanced difference in meaning.
Or a cannabis food science consultant might avoid slang terms like “weed” and “marijuana” to maintain a more professional and scientific voice.
Or how a high-end restaurant would never refer to patrons as “customers” but always as “guests”—because the slight difference in perspective subconsciously affects attitude, treatment, and service.
SEO and brand voice
Relevant SEO phrases and keywords are part of your brand voice vocabulary—but they’re only necessary in certain places (namely: indexed webpages). Your emails, for example, don’t need SEO. Just concise, compelling voice.
Take it from a pro website copywriter—before you begin developing your website, build out a list of target SEO keywords and phrases that people use when searching for the solutions you provide. Start with Google’s “suggested searches” as far as it’ll take you…and then use Ubersuggest and/or AnswerThePublic for more ideas.
Having a list of SEO terms and longchains will help you populate your website with searchable keywords to help people find you on Google. And it’s a lot easier than trying to add them after you’ve written something you’re proud of.
Where to use SEO keywords in a website:
Photo / graphic meta names
Page meta titles
Page meta descriptions
Incorporating SEO in your brand voice is necessary—just don’t let it sound stilted and crammed in. It still has to flow like someone talking.
How many SEO keywords you need depends on your business and your offers, but you want enough to capture a range of organic traffic—whatever other marketing channels you’re using. It also depends on how many webpages you have…only so many SEO phrases can fit into each page.
To address that, many businesses publish a regular blog as part of their SEO strategy, to broaden their searchable reach and establish a deeper web presence for each relevant search term.
How to manage brand voice with a team
If you’re like many small businesses, you probably have your younger staff running Insta and TikTok, your warmest nurturer writing newsletter emails, and your assistant writing profiles for directories and networking sites.
So how do you make sure they’re all writing in one consistent brand voice?
Do as the pros do—create an official Brand Voice & Style Guide and distribute to anyone who needs one, listing and explaining all the relevant elements that go into their brand voice, aesthetic, values, expectations, etc.
There are myriad ways to make an effective brand voice guide for a marketing team, depending on your needs. Do some research and include all the important elements—but don’t waste time on stuff that’s not relevant. Brainstorming together with the people who will be using it is a great place to begin.
Want an easy brand voice template to get you started? Learn more here