Perspectives on Branding and Identity from Franke+Fiorella
Issue No.51

Five Keys to Maintaining a Consistent Brand Voice

How hard is it for brands and organizations to consistently express the right brand tone of voice over time to every audience they come in contact with? As anyone charged with establishing a brand's tone of voice and messaging knows, it's challenging. That is, unless you have the proper framework in place.

In our years working with various organizations, we've seen how critical it is for a brand to establish a consistent voice. Along with a brand strategy and visual identity system, it's the tone of voice that helps the world engage with the brand. It assists in building and maintaining a brand's credibility, developing a relationship and familiarity between a brand and its audiences, and cementing audiences' expectations of a brand. Many brands do this extremely well. Some don't. For those who want to succeed at this, there are five key actions to model:

1. Ensure your brand's tone of voice clearly reflects the brand strategy. Consistently delivering an on-brand experience begins with making sure you know how you want people to feel when interacting with your brand. First define the personality and key messages for the brand. Be intentional about the emotions you want your audience to experience as they're interacting with the brand. Do you want them to feel like they're chatting with their bubbly best friend about how great it is to use Progressive auto insurance, or are they having a conversation with their wise grandpa who recommends Allstate? Once you have defined the personality of your brand and the message you want to deliver, you'll be more able to pinpoint the tone with which both should be communicated.

2. Educate your employees. Now that you have your personality, key messages and tone of voice defined, employees need to be trained on what those things are and how to express them. Without an ongoing dialogue with employees about these brand pillars, it's easy for a brand's personality and tone of voice to morph into what each employee wants it to be or thinks it should be. Rein everyone in. Define it for them, give clear examples, and always remember that the education process is ongoing.

3. Evaluate—watch and listen. From customer service representatives, print ads, spec sheets to apps, YouTube videos and everything in between, monitoring the messages your brand is sending and the tone of voice with which they're delivered is critical. Any given touchpoint may be your customer or end user's only interaction with your brand. From this, they define their relationship with and feelings about your brand. Ensure they're getting the right message, and hearing it the way it was meant to be heard. Dedicate time and effort to being your brand's best critic. If you don't have the time to do it, find a resource that can. It will be worth the investment.

4. After evaluating, continue or course-correct. Some employees, brochures, Facebook posts, product packaging or PowerPoint presentations have the brand voice and messaging spot-on. Others may need clarification. That's okay. Every brand experiences its triumphs and pain points. Recognize the opportunity in identifying on- or off-brand behavior. If you see good work, praise it. If something is a bit off, correct it. Whether it's right or it's wrong, your action reinforces the way it should be. And that action alone creates a significant, memorable impact.

5. Re-evaluate. Times change. People change. Brands change. It's important to periodically re- evaluate your brand's strategy, personality and tone of voice. Does it still make sense to your audiences? Are you connecting with them? Has your audience changed? People mature, and so do brands. What was once important may have shifted. Rather than their bubbly best friend, your audience may now wish they were talking to a sophisticated colleague. Re- evaluate your strategy, personality and tone of voice, then your audience's level of engagement. If they're not connecting, something may need to shift. While it is true that you own your brand and its persona, without customers and end users who adore you, the painful truth is that your brand may become irrelevant. So make sure you remain indispensable to those who matter the most.

So with global brands, multiple audiences, a multitude of touchpoints and thousands of people shaping your brand perception, it isn't easy to maintain a consistent brand voice. But, with the right methodology in place, it becomes a whole lot more manageable.