Branding can often seem like a very abstract term. This is probably because when it is done at its best, it works on a subconscious level. 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. The need to be wanted and included.
This is why we choose one brand over another. We shops in some stores but feel turned away from others. We can identify with one brand and not its competitor.
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. It’s 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.
HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO COPY?
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 plays on the sense of comedy of going to the toilet, sitting on the throne. It doesn’t overload the customer with unnecessary information. 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 DO YOU DO THIS FOR YOUR BUSINESS?
You need to decide on what your brand voice is and what tone you are going to use with your customers. Are you formal or chatty? Do you use personal pronouns? Are their specific phrases you want to use or avoid?
This is all part of a larger branding project, really, but if you are trying to make your copy more ‘you’, then its a good place to start.
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 on their preferences. This builds into their own personal style guide.
Edit, edit, edit. 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.
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.