If you want to create brand copy then you’re gonna need a good set of solid brand guidelines that includes tone of voice. Only this bit of brand building is often missing.
“Hey there new client – can I get a copy of your tone of voice guidelines?”
“Er… yeah so the thing is we started this but it’s not actually knocked into shape yet and we’ve been meaning to do it for some time but…”
This is a conversation that happens a lot. Or there is a tone of voice guide but it doesn’t go deep enough.
What does copy mean in branding?
I can’t stress enough how important it is to have some kick-arse guidelines around brand copy. This is the difference between noticing when you’ve got three different people writing your copy and when you can’t tell if 17 different people wrote it.
Copy when it comes to branding means that the words on the page or the package or the ad tell the brand story. And it does so in a way that matches everything else in the brand to the point that it has its own personality and connects with people on a deeper level.
This might sound very abstract but that’s because when brand copywriting works on a subconscious level when it’s done well. You don’t notice the familiarity of colour, tone, and feeling working together to give you a level of comfort. It satisfies a need within ourselves to feel part of a tribe or gang. Our need to be wanted and included.
This is why we choose one brand over another. We shop in some stores but feel turned away from others. And why we can identify with one brand and not its competitor.
We’re going to look at some great examples of this later on but for now, let’s look at how branding works.
How branding works
If you’re still unsure how branding works, think about your supermarkets. Waitrose is trying to attract a completely different customer to Morrisons. It does so with its colours, ethos, marketing messages and the layout of the store. Its brand is appealing to people who care more about quality than price point. Whereas Morrisons is cheap and cheerful. More money in your pocket and food in your basket.
But where you choose to shop can also say something about you. It can tell people what your tastes are, your perceived income, and which shopping tribe you belong to.
This is called brand loyalty and it is why a brand is more important than just a logo. It’s why you need a brand BEFORE you build a website. It’s also why you need to get consistent with your copy because if the voice is off then it will chip away at some of that trust.
Writing copy in the brand voice
Copy should always be written in the brand voice. These are words that you carefully select to convey your message to your ideal customer so they still feel part of your tribe.
Get this wrong and your brand message starts to feel confusing.
A great example of copy using brand voice is that of Poo-Pourri. It’s a toilet air freshener. Not the most glamorous of products of subjects to write about but the brand plays on this.
It uses the comedy of going to the toilet and sitting on the throne. It doesn’t overload the customer with unnecessary information. And it has a tongue-in-cheek, informal style.
Using phrases like ‘lock and load’ to describe doing, well, you know. Or naming the about page as ‘The story of poo’. All of this adds to the brand voice and lets you know if this product is for you.
Take a look at the packaging. Every detail of the copy, every single word chosen for the purpose of brand voice.
They use ‘to anoint’ rather than ‘to use’, ‘porcelain throne’ rather than ‘toilet’ and this language is carried on through the side of the packaging where you can see how much has been used and when you need to refill.
How to create brand copy for your business
You need to decide on what your brand voice is and what tone of voice you are going to use with your customers. Are you formal or chatty? Do you use personal pronouns? Are there specific phrases you want to use or avoid?
Then you need to make a style guide for your voice. When I work with clients, I have a document for each of them and make a note of their preferences. This builds into their own personal style guide when they’ve not got one of their own.
My favourite moments are when members of my own family can’t tell that I’ve written the copy. It doesn’t sound like me, the copywriter, it sounds like the brand.
But the real key to writing good copy is to edit. And edit some more. Go through your copy before you send it out there into the big, wide world. Check that it stands up to your brand voice test. It can be those little things like how you refer to the word ‘toilet’ or your customers.
For an example – go check out Stephenson Law – they call their team the flock and every post, blog, or piece of copy on their website either plays with this or brings it through.
Try this exercise:
If you’re still unsure how tone of voice and branding works, do a little writing exercise to warm you up. Take a normal, everyday item, such as a meal and write up a basic description of what it is. Then re-write it in another brand voice to position it differently. Like this:
Beans on toast.
Organic haricot beans hand-baked in a sauce of tomatoes with selected herbs and spices. Served across two generous slices of freshly baked sourdough, toasted and spread with salted butter.
We’ve essentially described the same thing but for two different audiences.
Why is brand copywriting important?
Brand copywriting is the most important tool in your marketing kit. Okay, I might be biased but unless you’re standing there in person right in front of your future customers, they need the words on the page to convince them to buy what you’re selling.
This means your copy has to do a bloomin’ hard job. It needs to tell your brand story, it needs to answer your customer’s problems, it needs to build your credibility and also calm any worries or hesitancy in that future customer. And so they don’t get bored and go off elsewhere, it needs to do so in the simplest way possible.
Need some help kicking your brand copy into shape?
Book a content clinic with me and I’ll take you through all the steps you need to build your brand voice.