Today we offer a guest guest post from Michael Kilcoyne, the Marketing Director at 360W3, a web design company that is finishing a refresh of our own site. Here, Michael explains how a brand's tone and style in play an important role in how customers relate to the brand.
Coined years ago by Alan Siegel, founder of Siegel + Gale, "brand voice" refers to the unique tone in which a brand typically communicates with its consumers. Creating an effective brand voice is a matter of discovering how a brand communicates when they are at their best.
Prior to social media, that communication generally came in just a few forms -- print, TV, radio, and perhaps web, but none were as always-on and involved as social media has quickly become.
Now, with the advent of social media, brands have been forced to rethink how they communicate with consumers, and to become far more willing in their communications. (And maybe that's why the notoriously secret Apple has generally avoided social media, for the most part.)
But discovering your brand's voice doesn't have to occur through a series of increasingly complex brainstorms by the marketing department. Sometimes it's just as a simple as:
1. Listening to Your Audience
Although social media is frequently portrayed as medium that is rife with broadcasters (which works okay for someone like The New York Times), it's important for brands and individuals alike to actually pay attention to what consumers say about them through those channels.
According to a study by Socialbakers, last year, only around 5% of all wall posts that were posted on a brand's Facebook pages were responded to, even though a report by Arnold Worldwide recently indicated that nearly 60% of consumers expect to receive a response from brands regarding service. One shining example of a great listener is Whole Foods, a company that spends about 40 hours a week listening and responding to their consumers:
Beyond encouraging consumers to interact with your brand, listening to consumers can also help you find out who you're communicating with and how to best position your brand's voice to appeal to those consumers. Facebook already provides brands with an exceptional amount of information regarding their fans (including their age, gender, and location), but other channels like Twitter and Instagram require more research. The earlier that your brand asks questions like, "How do our consumers communicate with our brand? What do they like?" the more successful you'll be in crafting messages that align with those questions.
2. Telling Them What They Want to Hear
If your brand's target audience is teenage girls, you probably won't ask them about a UFC fight. Old Spice provides one of the best examples of a brand that has learned to cater to their target audience, providing an over-the-top, unconventional approach towards men's personal hygiene. What started off as peculiar (and extremely successful) has quickly crossed over into full-on strange territory, including Facebook updates like this:
Old Spice discovered that their consumers love this stuff, and their social media successes have enabled them to craft a brand voice that isn't only unique in nature, but also something that people enjoy interacting with.
3. Maintaining A Consistent Tone
The biggest thing to take into account is the importance of maintaining a consistent tone. A communications guideline -- like this excellent example from designer eyewear company Warby Parker -- can help ensure that all of your brand's external communications positively reflect your company and your brand's unique voice so as not to confuse or put off consumers who have become accustomed to a particular tone.
Social media has enabled brands to be more human than ever, opening up a seemingly endless flow of conversation between consumers and brands. The most successful brands are the ones that are not only listening and actively engaged with their followers, but are also locked in on what their audiences want from a content standpoint.