The Business of Branding: How to Establish Brand Voice & Position

Have you noticed that the oldest and most established companies change their voice and messaging over time?  In the 1980s, for example, Pepsi’s “The Choice of a New Generation” campaign used Michael Jackson’s iconic music along with other popular culture idioms to attract the ears and eyes of a youthful audience. (As early as 1961 Pepsi branded itself as the cola for “those who think young.”) Through the years, Pepsi Co. successfully positioned itself as the brand for a younger, hipper generation. (This messaging adversely marked Coke as the soda for a more mature demographic.)

This kind of messaging is powerful and it keeps brands growing, thriving and competing with one another. Company branding is fluid and should be intuitive to the voice of its consumer base and a constantly evolving marketplace. As this week’s “The Business of Branding” post, we will focus on creating a brand voice that not only speaks directly to your target customer, but that also stands out amid a sea of competitors.

First, it is helpful to define what brand voice IS NOT. Brand voice is not music, jingles or sound effects. Once you have reached the point of creating your brand voice and position, you ideally have your visual elements in place, including your color palette, imagery, patterns and other cues that draw the eye in and create an aesthetic identity. Your brand voice should work in collaboration with visual elements to build a cohesive, unforgettable message.

Six basic steps to creating a brand voice:

  1. Define your brand’s personality in words. These words should precisely say who you are. They should speak definitively to your target audience. At this point in building your brand, you should have a strong idea of who you’re trying to reach. Are they young, energetic and ready for the latest trends, or are they older, more mature and established in their beliefs? For decades, Pepsi chose to reach out to a youthful audience, while Coke was the “classic” of soft drinks. Start with 3 words that define your brand, and build from there. (Example: Young, bold and energetic, or mature, established and steadfast.)
  2. Stand apart from the competition. Review what your top competitors are doing. What messaging and verbiage are they using to speak to their customer? Once you find out, DON’T copy what they’re doing. Say something unique. What do you offer that your competitor doesn’t? Reflect this uniqueness in your verbiage.
  3. Ask yourself “How does my audience communicate?” Are they sarcastic, funny or formal? Once you understand the way they speak, you can use this to communicate with them.
  4. Use a call to action; don’t be passive in your messaging. Your visual elements and written communication should work in tandem to grab your customer’s attention.
  5. Find a way to engage your audience. No matter how formal your business is, or how serious your products are, you can find a down-to-earth conversational way to engage your target customer. Speak to them. Consider what is important in their daily life, and how your brand can help solve their problem. Don’t be afraid to use humor or even daily annoyances to get on a human level with your customer base.
  6. As mentioned above, don’t feel confined to your brand voice. It can change over time and fluctuate in response your audience’s needs. Pepsi and Coke are 2 of the oldest and most successful commercial brands, and they continue to find ways to engage their customer while competing with one another in the marketplace.

Positioning your Brand and Product:

At this point, you have ideally pinned down the audience you want to speak to and you’ve begun establishing the diction and visual language you will use to reach them. These elements will also help you position your brand in the marketplace. Consider Pepsi and Coke once again. Which is your favorite and why? If you can answer these questions, you can begin to understand your own business’s position. Is your product essential and affordable, or luxurious and uncommon? Only you can answer these questions, but once you do, you’re on your way to a distinct voice and strong position on the market.

Information we found useful in the creation of this post:

Author: Amber Bailey

Amber Bailey has a Bachelor of Science in Communications from the University of North Florida and a Master of Fine Arts from Jacksonville University. She is dedicated to providing the latest information and trends in business branding and marketing.

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