Spoiler alert: marketing is hard. It’s hard because marketers have lots of competition, not to mention a slew of choices about everything from the most effective channels to reach and engage with prospective customers to the best automation technologies to the most effective ways to increase brand clarity and reach. That’s hard—real hard.
So, if a bunch of eager marketers walked into your office claiming they could take an investment of $100,000 and turn it into a business valued in excess of $1 billion just 6 later, you’d probably tell them to pound sand—and you’d be right. Right? Wrong.
GETTING BRAND STRATEGY RIGHT: DOLLAR SHAVE CLUB (DSC)
Because that’s precisely what Dollar Shave Club did. Admittedly, they had most of their ducks in a row in 2012: a strong value proposition, a palpable gap in the marketplace, a product people wanted, an innovative subscription service—oh, and one other thing: a branding strategy so well-honed it hit its target audience like a bolt from the blue.
Here’s how Medium tells the story of DSC’s meteoric rise:
“From that video in 2012, to selling razors to millions of customers, to its acquisition by Unilever for $1B last year, founder/CEO Michael Dubin and the rest of the Dollar Shave Club team has executed incredibly well on many dimensions. They’ve made quality razors and blades much more affordable for consumers. They’ve built a brand that people love, that speaks authentically, and connects at an emotional level. The team has worked very hard to launch new products, improve margins, spend money effectively on advertising, and more.”
MAKING YOUR VOICE REAL, HEARD AND HUMAN
Taking a quick look at “that video,” the one that’s been viewed more than 26 million times on YouTube, might just be worth your time. And it might just surprise you—especially that tagline: “Our blades are f**king great.” Risky? Maybe. Effective—definitely.
The bottom line is this: DSC knew its target audience (read, they did lots of research). They knew how to talk to them in ways which would resonate. They understood their problems and concerns. In short, they knew how to humanize the voice of their brand.
Great branding strategy is all about colour palettes, guidelines, logos, mission statements, value propositions, integration and taglines. Well, it is—and it isn’t, because you can get all those things right and still get branding wrong. That’s because great branding is about one more thing that supersedes all the others: the fundamental promise you make to prospective customers and what they think about your business every time it comes to mind.
And the one thing they’d better think about you and your business is that you’re human, like them. They know you’re human by the way you talk to them, by the fact that the words you use are the words they’d use. Said differently, they know you’re human through your brand voice.
Of course, Millennials looking for a great new way to buy razors have one view of what it is to be human—Baby Boomers looking for health insurance options have another, and enterprise organizations looking for CRM software another still. In other words, your brand voice needs to match the expectations and sensibilities of your target audience.
PERFECTING YOUR BRAND VOICE
Getting your brand voice right can be perplexing, but there are some simple steps you can take to simplify the process, including the following 7:
1. GIVE IT LEGS
Think of someone you’re close to—like a friend, family member or neighbor. Got it? Great. Now, pick a few adjectives that describe that person. Is he funny or serious, quirky or straitlaced, professional or casual? Thinking of your brand voice as a person will help you imagine how he might talk in various situations. In this way, you can maintain a consistent brand voice across multiple marketing channels, from your website to social media to email marketing.
You’re probably familiar with these fictional representatives of key marketing segments. If you don’t already have them, it’s time to create them. If you do, it’s time to use them to refine your brand voice. What tone of voice will best connect with those personas emotionally? What voice will most effectively persuade them and move them to action?
3. AUDIT YOUR CONTENT
Odds are your brand voice is already out there, tucked away somewhere in your existing content. It might for example be content all created by 1 or 2 writers who managed to capture what’s compelling and distinctive about your brand.
So, you need to scour through all your content. Take everything that sounds like it could have come from a competitor (or for some other reason just doesn’t grab you) and put it aside. What’s left—what in other words is unique to your business and the way you want to relate to prospective customers. Print out these pieces and white board them. Now use them to refine your brand voice.
4. THREE LITTLE WORDS
We’re not talking Dostoyevsky, here. Don’t make your voice overly complex. You should be able to capture your brand voice in 3 words (OK, more if you really think you need more to nail it down) that best describe how you want to come across—words like funny, approachable, knowledgeable, passionate and quirky. Now, expand on those words. For example, if your voice is “quirky,” your expansion might include things like irreverent or unexpected.
5. CHART IT
Now, you need to further refine and memorialize the elements of your voice, and the best way is to create a brand voice chart. The 4 headers should be:
- Voice Characteristic—in other words, each or the adjectives from step 3
- Description: if the word is “quirky,” the description might be “We don’t accept the status quo”
- Do: these are the instructions for how you communicate each voice characteristic, as in “take a contrarian point of view”
- Don’t: this is what you avoid like the plague, as in “Don’t use insider jargon”
6. SPREAD IT AROUND
Now that you know the rules of the road, it’s time to bring together your entire creative team—writers, bloggers, the people who post content on web pages—the whole gang in other words. Walk them through the brand voice chart you just created. Have a freewheeling discussion about the extent to which what you have on the chart matches their understanding of who your business is. Meeting with your content creators is an essential step both to get buy in and consensus—and to ensure that your brand voice will be consistently applied everywhere it needs to be.
7. RINSE, LATHER, REPEAT
Your business is going to change and evolve over time. You’ll have new competitors, new products and new marketing campaigns. To make sure your brand voice stays relevant and compelling, you need to revisit it from time to time. When you do, make the necessary refinements to keep your voice fresh and engaging.
Doing branding right is a lot like professional sports—those guys make it look so easy. Well, it isn’t. In fact, creating and maintaining your company’s brand can be downright confusing.
Fortunately, there are experienced marketing agencies who can give you the guidance and advice you need to get to the top of the heap. To learn more about the ways our branding, social media, web design, content creation and SEO services can boost your marketing and take your business to the next level, contact us today.