News • 26 11 2018

Voice: The most important yet most neglected part of your brand

By Bee Pahnke, Head of Voice, Dragon Rouge

Your voice is powerful.
The way your brand speaks can bring people together and unite them behind a common ambition or purpose. It can change cultures – the way a brand speaks directly affects the way their people speak. It can turn heads, grab attention and stand out.

But for some reason, it’s still the part of a brand that gets neglected most often. Tone of voice is lumped onto the end of a brand strategy project or given a cursory and impractical page in a brand guidelines document. Often, it’s not even written by a writer. That’s bananas.

Especially given the ways language can directly affect profits. Southwest Airlines rewrote their in-flight safety announcements to be more engaging, and as a result, they now estimate their customers spend an extra $140 million a year.

Still think you can afford to ignore your brand voice?

Your voice isn’t like any other brand asset
Yes, your audience gets a feel from your look. But it’s your words they really connect with for the first time. What you say and how you say it is the first tangible impression they get of who your brand is and what you stand for.

You never know when that first impression will happen. It could be your advertising, or the cookies statement on your website. So the smart brands think about their language at every touchpoint. They curate the story they tell and the messages they reinforce, through every step of their customer’s journey.

The conversation is changing – and you need to change with it
Back in the day, brands held court with their audiences. They spoke, and audiences listened. It was a monologue.

Social media changed that power dynamic. Suddenly, brands could be faced with thousands of customers individually complaining about a problem or disappointment. And each of those individuals expected a reply to their personal plight. Social media sparked the era of conversation.

Now, technology is changing the landscape again. Voice user interface (VUI) devices like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home have presented brands with a new challenge. How do you build a brand in a world with no logos, no colour palettes, no typefaces, no graphic assets? Your language is all you have to convey your personality.

Is your voice ready for that?

What does that mean for tone of voice?
Tone of voice is responsible for influencing more than ever before.

How does your brand sound? What accent, what age, what gender? What noises represent your personality – high pitched beeps? Low, bassey rumbles? These decisions need to be grounded in something. Tone of voice is the natural springboard for these decisions – it’s not just words in a letter or on a billboard anymore.

So how do you create a strong verbal identity?
Start with a writer – someone who knows the craft and understands how to best manipulate language. Writers think about audiences in a unique way: they empathise and connect with them. Partner them with designers and strategists. Encourage symbiotic relationships, input on each other’s work, challenge and push each other. Create the brand together.

That’s how you create a strong tone of voice, and how you build a holistic brand, ready for the future.

Bee Pahnke is Head of Voice at Dragon Rouge. She has extensive experience building verbal identity into strong brands, crafting compelling brand stories and getting clients and colleagues passionate about the power of words. She’s worked with the likes of British Gas, BBC, O2, Aviva and Unilever.