3 Elements That Shape Brand Voice
Have you ever noticed that brand voice (whether it’s called that or not) lives in the realm of the vague, the indescribable, and the undefinable? See if you’ve ever heard one of these statements:
“We need this content to be in a certain voice.”
“This doesn’t sound like our brand.”
“This isn’t conveying the tone that we envisioned.”
The problem here? Each statement lacks specificity and makes brand voice the stuff of intuition and guesswork.
Nebulousness does not produce marketing results. And it certainly does not make for smooth outsourcing of your content writing.
And to address this problem, I’d like to propose that brand voice, at the very least, involves 3 elements:
Preferred sentence structures
Here’s what I mean…
1. Brand Voice Encompasses Raw Facts
Brand voice is as much about concrete facts as it is about “sounding” a certain way. Style can’t compensate for content that hits the wrong talking points.
If you’re analyzing brand voice, start by describing—in plain English—the basics of what is being communicated.
2. It Also Includes Vocabulary Standards
A brand voice also involves the types of words an organization chooses. This includes both the general vocabulary level as well as certain key phrases/terms, something I’ll call preferred verbiage.
For instance, check out this content from WegoWise. Notice how many times the company refers to the terms “benchmark" and "benchmarking,” indicating these words are likely part of WegoWise’s preferred verbiage.
3. Brand Voice Involves Preferred Sentence Structures
A preferred sentence structure occurs when an organization repeatedly builds sentences using a similar grammatical framework.
But before we dive into this point, I need to credit Andrew Pudewa from the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW). Pudewa’s material introduced me to the concept of varying sentence structures—as well as how to analyze and mirror another individual’s written communication preferences.
It’s easier to demonstrate how Pudewa’s insights apply to brand voice than it is to describe this.
So let’s look at a webpage from software company Crazy Egg.
Notice a trend?
Every sentence is imperative. Except for a camouflaging prepositional phrase in the second sentence, each sentence leads with a verb. This makes the tone vibrant and direct.
Now let’s analyze content from the analytics company Alteryx.
You’ll see that nearly every sentence begins with a subject, creating a dramatic and sophisticated tone.
How can you identify the preferred sentence structures of a brand voice? Here are some questions to ask (please note that these questions draw from IEW’s insights/materials):
Do most sentences use the traditional subject-verb-object structure?
Are most sentences in the imperative mood? (I.e., Are they commands?)
Are interrogatives (questions) frequently used?
Do many sentences begin with gerunds?
Do many sentences lead with a subordinate clause?
There’s more to be said about brand voice. However, I hope this helps you quickly identify the nuts and bolts of what makes a marketing tone...tick!