A brand’s voice is a tricky thing to find, let alone define. In the marketing world a ‘tone of voice’ is the personification of the brand’s identity into written marketing materials.
Smashing magazine defines ‘tone of voice’ this way:
“It’s not what we say, but how we say it. It’s the language we use, the way we construct sentences, the sound of our words and the personality we communicate.”
The Spruce Point Inn, an oceanside resort in Maine, recently went through a complete makeover, which included redefining its voice. For those wondering how to go about finding a brand’s voice, here’s what the owners at Spruce Point Inn did:
Evaluate your brand
To create a voice, you have to define your brand. What does it stand for? What’s its mission? What’s your customer base? How do you interact with customers? What’s your priority as a business?
Innkeepers Angelo Digiulian and Joe Paolillo did just that. They teamed up with a marketing company to define its brand.
The team worked to define the brand’s voice in one sentence, explains Stephanie Seacord, senior PR counsel at Leading Edge Marketing, and came up with this: “Spruce Point Inn speaks directly and personally to guests, and in their own voice as cultured, well-traveled people who appreciate Maine heritage, family traditions and classic New England hospitality.”
The team started to brainstorm messages that exemplified the brand, but would also resonate with its main audience, Seacord says.
“We started wordsmithing the core descriptions and brainstorming a core vocabulary to be used,” she explains. “The team came up with a few descriptive elements, like ‘locally fished, farmed and harvested’ to describe the food from the restaurant, and ‘marine palette’ to describe the décor in the resort.”
Aside from descriptive terms, the team also created a tagline for the resort: “Oceanside memories, made in Maine.”
These terms are used throughout the blog, website and on marketing materials.
Create and revamp marketing materials
With a new tone of voice, Spruce Point Inn did a content audit. They looked at the content on the website, marketing brochures, posts on social media – basically any piece of content the resort uses as a marketing tool – and made sure every piece fits the voice.
For Spruce Point Inn, that also meant evaluating its visuals. The resort took new images of its remodel, trying to “capture the feel of a classic Maine vacation that brings visitors back, generation after generation.”
The pictures, which are prominently displayed on the resort’s website, show the Inn’s charm, and its picturesque location in Boothbay Harbor.
Moving forward, the brand’s voice should be consistent and present in all marketing materials.
“We all use the same vocabulary,” Seacord says, explaining how the brand plans to keep its voice consistent. “The consistency is maintained by the innkeepers’ oversight and, again, continued use of the core vocabulary.”
It’s not difficult for this small brand to keep consistency, especially since one person creates most of its marketing materials. However, brands with multiple writers and marketers should create a “style guide” for every member of the team. The guide should define the brand’s voice, list vocabulary to use and explain specifics like whether to write in the third person or not.
While defining a brand’s voice is time consuming, it’s a worthwhile endeavor that keeps your brand relevant to customers with consistent, meaningful marketing messages.