It ain’t what you say, it’s the way that you say it. Your tone of voice plays a big part in whether customers will want to form a relationship with your brand.

You’re on a first date with an attractive looking person.

Naturally, you want to find out more about them and ascertain if they are a good fit for you. Do they share your interests? Have they got a good sense of humour? Are they smart and fun?

Your date responds pleasantly enough … but something is missing. Their language is completely neutral and generic. They speak in short, bland sentences and convey information in a mechanical, uninspired way. Overall, they seem rather dull and uninteresting.

You’re left feeling dissatisfied and curiously disengaged. You like this person and want to spend some time with them, but they’re not giving you the feedback you need to strengthen the bond and progress the relationship.

An awkward silence falls between you. Shortly after, you politely make your excuses and leave.

Such scenes are commonplace in the world of dating. Unfortunately, albeit figuratively, the same is also true in the world of brand marketing.

The first time a customer connects with a brand is usually because they like the look of the product(s) on offer. No surprises there. 

But why they stay with a brand, coming back again and again, goes beyond first impressions. Many other factors might come into play – such as whether they like what the brand stands for, how it speaks to them and if it shares their values and worldview.

Beauty is only skin deep

Sadly, and all too often, brands fall into the trap of believing that being visually appealing is enough.

To this end, they spend huge amounts of money on brand guidelines, making sure that everything from colour palettes to logos looks immaculate and alluring.

But unfortunately, a meaningful relationship is not built on looks alone. Yes, they often provide much of the initial attraction. But without the substance to back them up, the relationship may not progress very far.

And that’s why it’s crucial that brands develop a distinct and original voice. Think of this voice as the personality of the brand. It is the crucial component that allows consumers to form a bond and take the relationship from the merely transactional to something much more meaningful.

From bland to brand

So, how do you go about giving your brand a distinct voice? One that makes it stand out from the digital chatter of a million brands all clamouring for our attention.

Well, there’s loads of different ways of going about it. But here are a few key methods to get you up and running.

1. Turn your brand into a person

Start by imagining your brand as a dinner guest. Not just any old guest; one that stands out for their amazing storytelling ability. One with the rare skill of being able to tell a story with humour, empathy, intelligence and self-deprecating charm, using expressive and evocative language to paint a vivid picture for the assembled company.

Now ask yourself this. Does your brand currently do the above? And if not, what steps can you take to become that charming raconteur?

Here are a few questions to help you get your brand on the right track towards making what you have to say relevant, entertaining and engaging to your target audience.

  • Who am I? (If your brand were a person, what would be its values, personality and interests?)
  • Who am I communicating with? (Consider your customers, their interests and behaviours.)
  • What am I looking to achieve? (E.g., building an audience or selling a product.)
  • How will I go about doing it? 
  • How can the way I communicate support that outcome?
  • Am I authentic and convincing?

Don’t worry. Even if your brand isn’t currently operating at a Ryan Reynolds level of wit and charisma, that’s okay. It takes time to build a brand into something more relatable and engaging.

2. Do a brand voice audit

Maybe you’ve noticed your business publishing a lot of “off-brand” content recently. Perhaps you’ve hired new people who aren’t yet fully immersed in your brand, its voice and values. Or maybe you just haven’t had a good close look at your marketing in ages. 

Whatever your reasons, a brand voice audit is a great way of evaluating your content against your existing brand voice guidelines.

An audit can quickly reveal whether your content conveys a cohesive message and presents an accurate reflection of your brand as a whole.

Start by pulling together all your communications across every touchpoint and analysing them to ascertain which pieces have performed well. Once you’ve done this, try to work out what made those pieces so successful.

  • Do they have common themes and features?
  • Are they speaking your target audience’s language?
  • Do they tap into current trends?
  • Do they match your brand purpose and values?
  • Are they more interesting or better written than your less successful assets?
  • What aspects could you replicate across your brand?

The answers to these questions should give you a much clearer picture of your brand voice, particularly what resonates with your target audience.

3. Create a brand voice document

Brands evolve, objectives change and employees come and go. And that’s why you need a brand voice document.

A brand voice document provides a fixed reference point in the shifting sands of brand marketing, ensuring that all of your communications remain consistent and sounding as if they come from the same source. It should contain everything from your brand values and mission statement, as well as the personality traits to emulate in your copy and even common phrases and vocabulary to be used.

A new employee should be able to look at this document and immediately understand the voice and tone of your brand – which is why broad descriptive terms such as “friendly”, “authoritative” and “helpful” aren’t that … well … helpful. I can pretty much guarantee that every other brand voice document in existence includes those or similar words. 

So instead of simply listing vague descriptors, be as specific and as detailed as possible. And include plenty of examples of your brand TOV in action so that they can get a clear taste of how it works. 

You want each employee to be able to “hear” the brand voice in their head when they write – and for that voice to be the same as the one every other employee has in their head.

Also, make sure you include examples of how the brand voice adapts and functions in different channels and use cases – such as web pages, eDMs, landing pages, blogs, posts, emails and the like. 

4. Finding the right voice

Your language needs to appeal to your target audience. Or, to put it another way, you need to speak the same language they do.

That doesn’t mean you should slavishly change your TOV to suit every different target audience. But it does mean you need to settle on a communication style that appeals to a broad swathe of the population.

Be mindful of current trends and don’t be afraid to use elements of your target audience’s speech in your communication. It shows that your brand is contemporary and switched on.

Also, ensure your voice is sufficiently flexible to adapt to different situations. Just as you likely adjust your tone when speaking to your bank manager versus speaking to your best mate, how you respond to a customer complaint shouldn’t have quite the same jaunty and fun tone as your new promotion for a big brand sale – even if you might draw on the same brand-familiar vocabulary and messaging.


A brand voice allows you to imbue your business with a distinct personality, helping it to stand out from the rest. If your brand voice feels authentic, resonating with your audience at a meaningful level, you’ll have a firm foundation on which to build a stable and fulfilling relationship.