Contribute your creative work to our new edition of the Brand Cards coming out this summer. Let’s add some beauty to this world together. Gain worldwide exposure.
This new edition will be curated by Gintare Karalyte. Watch the video below to learn more.
The Brand Cards 2021 Edition will feature rising talent and cutting-edge visual work of diverse disciplines created by artists and designers worldwide.
Hundreds of brand strategists, creative directors, designers worldwide have used the first edition of our Brand Cards. If your work is selected, it will be seen by a global audience.
We’re looking for all types of works and ideas that showcase cutting-edge, upcoming, and mesmerizing design. The discipline range is wide open – it can be branding, graphic design, 3D, production design, architecture, interior design, art, fashion, street art… or a visual category of its own.
We’d prefer the work have a message to society – that it embodies a timely idea. See the guidelines below for more specifics.
If you’d like to submit your work or if you find something you love and want us to check it out, send it our way!
The work should be professional and created between 2019-2021.
You should have a high-res image of your work (printer-friendly version). You don’t need to submit it for us now though. You can send jpg or png for review.
If we select your work, we will contact you and request permission to use it in the print and digital versions of the Brand Cards.
You will be credited as the author of the work, and you will retain all of the rights.
We do not offer payment for using an image of your work.
If you’re a brand strategist, consultant or branding agency, you probably know that one of the trickiest yet most important parts of the branding process is articulating the personality of the brand. Why is this so crucial?
You’ve probably heard the saying: People want to buy from people. To connect, a brand needs to be more than a company, service or product. It needs to personify itself so people relate to it like they do to another person – via emotion.
95% of customers are likely to make purchases and decisions based on their emotional connection to a brand.
— Gerald Zaltman, How Customers Think
In this article, we’ll show you how to create this connection during a brand strategy workshop. You’ll learn the three main areas that are crucial to include in the brand personality session of the workshop, as well as which tools help engage participants effectively. There’s also a handy checklist to help make sure your personality session runs smoothly and generates stellar results.
How “Look and Feel” Translates to Connection
Brand Personality is an essential part of the foundation for all marketing. If a brand is not using their specific personality to shape how it looks and feels – in everything from messaging to website to store design – it will be impossible to connect with leads and resonate with their ideal customers. Even the priciest marketing efforts will fall flat.
Can you imagine a soft-spoken, refined woman who’s looking for a gorgeous leather handbag going into a store that has aggressive signage and bad lighting? No way. The look and feel of that brand’s personality won’t resonate with her emotionally. She’ll walk right on by.
However, when she comes upon a window display that features luxurious textures and warm colors echoing the tones of their fine leather handbags, she’ll feel an emotional tug that lures her in. It’s like she’s found a kindred spirit.
It’s this type of emotional connection that leads to sales, loyalty, and even advocacy.
People make decisions quickly, often based on whether something has a familiar or aspirational vibe. (This is why celebrity brands are so popular – in a bottle of perfume, customers see someone they admire and aspire to!). If a brand’s personality doesn’t grab their emotional attention, they’ll just keep on scrolling (or strolling).
3 Essential Elements to Include in Your Online Brand Personality Session
Now that you see why brand personality is so important, let’s make sure your Brand Personality Session is top-notch. This will be where stakeholders uncover (notice we didn’t say formulate) the brand’s authentic essence, so it’s important to have good structure to let ideas flow.
The Brand Personality Session usually comes at the end of the overall Brand Strategy Workshop. This works well because participants have already explored the product, ideal customer, positioning and messaging. Everyone is primed and ready for this next big step.
To uncover a brand’s true personality, there are three key areas that must be explored in the Brand Personality Session of a branding workshop:
Beliefs and Values
Brand Archetype, Personality Traits & Tone of Voice
Whether starting from scratch or leveling up a brand’s image, it’s important to include all of these areas to make sure participants are developing an overall vision as well as sussing out the finer points. This can be challenging even in person, but it’s even harder when the workshop is happening online.
Visual Tools: Your Secret to Engaging Workshop Participants
To make the Brand Personality Session engaging and effective for participants, it’s helpful to include visual tools that assist them in articulating their ideal version of the brand. This will lead to the most positive result: a brand personality that feels authentic, accurate and stylistically representative.
One easy and effective way to do this is by using the Brand Personality Cards. The images and words on the cards stimulate creative brainstorming and generate useful discussion. (Much better than awkward silence!)
The Brand Personality Cards are designed to work in tandem with the digital Brand Canvas. This useful template is where the whole Brand Strategy Workshop comes together.
Here’s how it works: All participants can see the cards on a whiteboard and are able to actively select the ones they think are the best fit. Then you can easily drag and drop the final card selections into the corresponding spaces on the Brand Canvas.
This streamlines the process: by the end of the workshop, the Brand Canvas provides a concise “‘snapshot” of all the information generated. It gives the team a complete picture of where the brand is heading.
👉 Pro Tip: After the workshop, The Brand Canvas acts as a guide for implementing the Brand Strategy. It keeps everyone on the same page and is useful when creating briefs for designers and copywriters.
When the overall marketing reflects those personality traits, your customer will recognize and feel a connection. A new friendship based on trust and loyalty is born!
Checklist for a Successful Online Brand Personality Session
When you’re pitching a Brand Strategy service to prospective clients, it’s essential that you’re able to demonstrate your understanding of their unique needs, problems, and goals. Even when it’s clearly time for a brand to level up, the stakeholders probably don’t know how to make that happen effectively.
In your pitch, you need to show them that you’re the right professional – with relevant experience, a proven process and a methodology – who can take them through this crucial time of transition and get them to their desired destination.
The Brand Strategy service contains multiple milestones so it’s best to package it into a Brand Strategy Workshop with multiple sessions. The process becomes more structured and feels more tangible for everyone.
The first step in this sales process is to create a bond with your prospective client by asking the right questions that build trust.
In our many years of running brand strategy workshops, we’ve come up with several key questions that are essential to ask your client. By starting with these, the client will see that you understand what they want and how you’re going to get them there. That’s what you want – their confidence.
Here are our essential questions.
1. Why do you want to level up?
The answer to this will give you the big picture you need to show the client you’re aware of their ultimate goal and will tailor the Brand Strategy Workshop to their needs.
They might say they want to change their image or their positioning in the market. That’s very different from just wanting a refresh. Knowing their why gives you key information that will help you successfully pitch a Brand Strategy Workshop.
2. What outcomes are you expecting?
It’s essential to know how they want to measure the results of the branding mission. If they’re unrealistic, now is the time to give your expert advice about why, and also to present goals that are more achievable. Doing this won’t discourage them, it’ll help them trust you. It also helps you by preventing disappointment.
3. What isn’t working?
The answer to this question will give you insight into problems they might not even be aware of. You can bring them to light and then map them to the 10 essential pillars needed to create a successful brand experience.
When you showcase a prospective client that you understand how these problems create bottlenecks in their business, and then explain how you can remedy them through the branding mission, you position yourself not just as a designer or a consultant, but as a partner who cares about the overall success of their business.
This is exactly what good clients are looking for.
Our Brand Experience Design Framework (BXDF) details these 10 essential pillars so you can zone in on which areas your prospective client needs help fixing to ensure they’re building on a solid foundation. The client will see that you have tailored your approach specifically to their needs and feel confident hiring you.
When you can show a client that you have the insight, expertise andall of the tools for helping them create a successful brand strategy, they’ll put their trust in you. They’ll see how you can ultimately help them provide a unique and memorable experience for the customer, which leads to their main goals: better leads, more sales, and bigger impact.
If you’d like to dive deeper into how to sell a Brand Strategy Workshop successfully, watch our class “How to Sell a Brand Strategy Workshop?”. I’ve collected my best tips for getting everyone’s buy-in before you run this workshop.
You asked for a digital version of our signature branding process and now it’s here – The Brand Strategy Framework! Team Karalyte has worked their magic to create this all-in-one tool that helps brand leaders and teams streamline their remote branding process.
The Framework includes a virtual workshop, along with a complete set of digital tools that help you save time and get real results. You’ll also get access to the international PRO group, which gets you a front row “seat” for live Q & A’s, special discounts and the latest product updates.
If you’re a CEO, brand agency owner, Brand Strategist, or entrepreneur who is launching a new brand or polishing one up, this Framework has you covered. It’s based on our years of experience helping brands of all sizes level up their game.
Included in the Brand Strategy Framework are:
The Brand Strategy Workshop
This Workshop shows you all of the steps for effectively facilitating a branding workshop for your team or client. Learn how to use key questions to uncover vital information that creates the foundation for a successful branding project. Slides and Exercise Templates are included with the Workshop.
The Brand Canvas
As you go through the branding process, you’ll capture key points in this digital tool (also available as a PDF). By the end, you’ll have a strong foundation and a clear map for carrying out your vision.
20 Tone of Voice Cards
This printer-friendly deck will help you and your clients sculpt the brand’s voice so you can speak authentically to your audience. Each card includes an explanation and real life examples.
52 Brand Personality Cards
These personality cards help you define your brand’s core principles, which is the first step for effectively telling your brand’s story and connecting to ideal customers. Easy to print or use online.
Access to our PRO group
Stay sharp with live Q & A’s, make sure you’re up to date with the latest industry and product developments, and be the first to know about special offers.
So, if you’re ready to level up your branding and make a positive impact along the way, learn more and get immediate access to the Brand Strategy Framework here.
Questions? We love to talk about the Framework (and all of our other offerings) so don’t hesitate to reach out here.
Now let’s explore the tools you can use to generate fruitful and productive outcomes after your brand strategy workshop.
A room full of people offering ideas can feel expansive at first, but too much brainstorming without any structure can become unwieldy and even frustrating. The right brand strategy tools will not only structure your workshop and maximize everyone’s time and input, but will also make it a fun, positive, and organized experience.
We recommend orchestrating the brand strategy workshop around the key topics that need to be unfolded and clarified in order to weave a successful brand strategy together. They are:
Each topic can be explored through a set of exercises that bring everyone together to generate ideas. To keep the event manageable without curtailing the creative flow of ideas, it’s helpful to use a brand strategy workshop tool for each of these topics. Not only will a tool provide a structure for an exercise and a common “language” so participants feel heard and understood, but it will also corral the vast quantity of information generated into usable formats.
So let’s explore the exercises and tools that can be used to uncover the needed information for each topic.
Now + Next
The purpose of this exercise is to make sure the client is clear about why they are undertaking this branding or rebranding project and how they will measure its success. It’s important to make sure everyone is on the same page about where they are, what they’re doing and, most importantly, why they’re doing it. If you need more clarity, refer to our previous article on Brand Strategy.
An overall exploration of what “success” looks like and what the next level is will help to guide the branding strategy process. It’s also useful to look at obstacles, strengths, and opportunities for change.
It’s essential to explore all these questions and topics in an order that builds upon itself, instead of just throwing out a random jumble of questions. A brand strategy workshop tool like the Brand Strategy Workbook will guide this journey in a useful and productive way.
This Workbook gives structure to the workshop process by asking the right questions so you can home in on what’s truly important. You can use it to guide participants so they can feel free to brainstorm creatively and build on their ideas in a logical way.
The Brand Strategy Workbook explores the company’s strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures, hopes for future growth/success, and what might be preventing those next steps. It also delves into the product, providing opportunities to see it and think about it in fresh ways, ones that are helpful in the overall branding process.
Product or Service
This is what’s at stake, so it’s important to take a fresh look at both the product or service and the ideal customer. Looking at this vital relationship, along with a sober glance at the competition, can provide new insights that affect the brand strategy.
The Brand Strategy Workbook and Brand Canvas probe into all of this. As you move through the process outlined in the Workbook, there will be certain pinnacle points that become the foundation of creating a successful brand strategy. The Brand Canvas will make it easy to capture them.
This template captures all of the vital information generated throughout the workshop and provides a clear plan for moving forward.
Use the Brand Canvas to paint the picture of a brand as it develops. You’ll use it to coalesce all of the answers generated by the Workbook process into one visual representation – clear and concise – so you can click into the “a-ha” of the brand.
Ideal Customer Profile
A company can have the best product on the market, but if they’re unclear who they’re selling it to, it might never reach the right buyer. Although it’s tempting to think that everyone is a potential customer, it’s essential to connect with the most likely customers so you can build real relationships and show them why they need this specific product.
The Brand Strategy Workbook includes a template for creating the ideal client profile. Using it during a brand workshop will help the group visualize and define the target customer.
By identifying the demographics and values of the target customer, this brand strategy workshop tool keeps the company focused in the right direction: meeting customer expectations. It’s also a solid base that will help marketing departments zero in on where to put their ad dollars.
As you can see, we start by understanding the current state of our client’s business and projecting a bit into the future of where s/he would like to be next.
Your job, as a brand strategist, is to prime our clients for this next level success by putting the right pillars in place to serve as a springboard for this transformation. It’s quite a forward-moving, clarity-igniting and impact-making mission!
A brand connects to its customers through the unique story it tells. If a person identifies with a brand’s values and purpose, then they feel understood and hopeful; they want to be part of the story.
The Brand Strategy Workbook includes a template that fleshes out the brand’s story and its reasons for doing what they do, or selling what they sell. This exercise uncovers the larger “why” – this is the purpose that drives the business, and it’s also what gives customers a feeling of connection.
A crucial element to creating an effective positioning statement is taking a look at the competition. This brand strategy workshop tool is a simple and effective way to declare what’s different and valuable about this particular brand.
Coming up with a product or company tagline is possibly the most daunting exercise. This little phrase or sentence carries so much importance. It needs to capture the vision, purpose, and personality of a brand in one tight and clever line, and convey all of that effectively.
The beauty of the Brand Strategy Workbook and the Brand Canvas is that they naturally bring you to this point – creating a winning core message. Everything you need is there on the Canvas, just waiting to be molded into the essence of the brand.
The brand personality establishes the emotional connection to the consumer. This is key for turning prospects to consumers and for creating loyalty. It also paves the way for successful collaborations and employee retention. This emotional connection is established through the tagline, the brand story, the brand style, and the brand content.
There are four exercises for uncovering the brand personality: uncovering the brand tone of voice, the brand archetype, the brand values, and its style. Here are several brand strategy workshop tools that you can use in these exercises to accurately reveal a brand’s personality.
These cards help pinpoint the personality of the brand. Is it soft and sweet, or loud and commanding? It can be hard to get this exactly right – often it’s a combination of very specific traits.
We’ve identified 40 common personality types and created a Brand Personality Card deck that makes it fun and easy for workshop participants to choose the ones that represent the brand. Is it Traditional or Visionary? Witty or Rebellious?
This is a useful branding workshop tool because it brings the brand to life in a new way. By exploring who it is and why it exists, your group can flesh out the brand’s story and develop a strategy based on its core principles.
Brand Tone of Voice Cards
The way a business speaks to its audience is crucial. (“Hey, howya doin’?” won’t fly when you’re selling a $10,000 watch.)
A brand’s tone of voice needs to be consistent with its style and personality. This is one of the hardest things to master, especially when developing a brand strategy that will be used by various team members, like social media staff, copywriters, and graphic designers.
The Tone of Voice Cards are a useful tool to help you identify communication style. Each card features several specific words on the front. Participants can choose the ones that seem to match the produce/service, then flip it over to find further explanation and real life examples.
With these 20 cards, there’s a comprehensive overview of common tones of voice. Is the brand creative, but also practical? Or is it energetic and playful? Being precise matters – your audience is listening closely (or, if the tone is off, not at all).
When discussing style, it’s important to establish a common language. One person’s idea of what “timeless classic chic” looks like is not necessarily what another’s might be.
To avoid going around in circles trying to figure out what everyone is envisioning, use a workshop tool such as the Brand Style Cards. This 200-card deck will help you lay it all out on the table – literally! – and let the images speak for themselves.
The cards are grouped into 10 main styles that represent today’s cutting edge in the design world. Participants can play with the cards to create a moodboard that accurately reflects the brand. These powerful visuals will guide the design direction and ensure that everyone is on the same page moving forward.
You can certainly DIY a brand strategy workshop, but if you want a tried and tested tools package that hits all the essential marks and minimizes chaos, consider the Brand Strategy Kit. It includes all of the tools mentioned above. The inspiring visuals and well-thought out processes will ensure your workshop is both enjoyable and productive.
Most important: have fun! Branding is a major step forward and you want it to carry a bright energy of new and positive beginnings.
If you get stuck or want a more personalized approach, don’t hesitate to reach out – we love making the brand strategy process successful for everyone involved.
Tone of Voice is one of those subtle elements that helps to portray your brand’s personality and contributes to creating resonance with your target audience. Many brands skip the vital step of uncovering their tone of voice, which means they’re missing out on opportunities to connect more authentically with their customers, fans, and supporters.
This Guide dives into the process and best practices for uncovering and effectively using your brand’s authentic tone of voice. Let’s start at the beginning.
Tone of Voice is the style in which your brand conveys its personality and values. It gives people an idea of your brand’s flavor and attitude. Is your tone sweet, sassy, or serious?
When you interact with people, you pick up on more than just their words. Think about when you call customer service and the representative says: “May I help you?” The way they say it alerts you to how that session is going to go. You can tell if they’re already annoyed at yet another complaint or if they’re happy about trying to help you.
An in-person conversation provides many more clues: eye rolls, short responses, looking away, pursed lips. But a brand doesn’t have the luxury of face-to-face conversations. Instead, they often need to convey everything they’re about in just a few sentences or a short tagline. “Just do it” let’s you know that if you wear these sneaks, you’re going to sweat.
Why is Tone of Voice Important?
Your brand’s tone of voice can either pull people in or push them away. Imagine an accounting company greeting you on their website with a flashing neon message:
“Hey all you crazy kids… Come on down for the best deal in tax preparation because we’re ready to party!”
You might think twice before trusting them to handle your finances, right? They might be a stellar accounting firm, but already they’ve caused confusion because their tone doesn’t match the values you’d be looking for in that type of business.
An authentic tone of voice helps to build trust and credibility with your brand’s fans and customers. Along with visuals and content, tone of voice conveys the brand’s overall vibe. If all of these pieces don’t feel aligned or consistent, people will sense there’s something “off.”
Articulating your brand’s tone of voice also helps to brief your copywriters, designers, new employees, and collaborators. Everyone who delivers creative assets needs to make sure they’re “on brand.”
How Is the Tone of Voice Used?
There’s an art to using your brand’s authentic tone of voice consistently across all communications. It’s important to master this because a brand’s language, and the style it’s presented in, reveals your company’s intentions and values.
Tone of voice applies to all of the ways your brand communicates, from emails to website copy to social media posts. More than just word choice, tone of voice also includes writing style, punctuation, and emojis (they can be super tricky!).
Even a short email needs to translate your brand’s personality. Here’s an example of the same message delivered in two different ways.
See you at noon. Uh oh, I’m in trouble. See you at noon, K? :)) Yay, I’m having a fun lunch with the boss!
What’s the Difference Between Voice and Tone?
There’s a subtle difference between voice and tone. Think of voice as the message itself — the information. Tone is the attitude with which you deliver the information.
Some brands make the mistake of thinking that what they want to say is all that’s important. The message is certainly important, but the way it’s delivered is also crucial for attracting and connecting with a loyal audience.
Continuing with the example above, you could convey the same message three different ways:
I would like to see you at 12 p.m. sharp. (formal voice, serious tone)
See you at noon. (casual voice, serious tone)
See you at noon, K? :)) (casual voice, friendly tone)
How Tone of Voice Reinforces Emotion and Facilitates Connection
To connect, and eventually to sell, your brand needs to tell the story of its reason for being. If that wasn’t true, no one would care what brand of sneakers they bought. Consumers buy the dream a brand is selling. Do they want to be an athlete? A champion? A cute and comfy go-getter? A philanthropist? Tone of voice helps customers find the shoe that speaks to them personally.
Here’s an example of two companies that sell similar products but have very different branding. Their tones of voice specifically convey the values of their particular company.
Keds and TOMS sell casual canvas shoes. Although both have styles for everyone, a large part of their markets is made up of tweens, teenagers, and twenty-somethings.
Keds ads feature mega-star Taylor Swift because she has a unique style that’s girly with a tomboyish twist. Their website uses short, punchy phrases such as:
“Break out your sundresses.
Taylor’s picks have arrived.”
“Brave takes a chance.”
“A true original.”
From the confident, bouncy tone of voice, the company’s values are clear: be true to yourself, even if that means breaking the mold, and look cute while doing it. Notice the word choice: break, brave, chance, true, original.
TOMS’ website copy says:
“A sandal for every story.”
“One for one. With every product you purchase, TOMS will help a person in need.”
“From everyday men’s shoes like Paseos to fun and flirty Strappy Wedges, we are passionate about both the fashion and compassion we offer.”
The tone of voice is calm, quiet, and flows easily. It relays a heartfelt story about real people who benefit each time a pair is purchased. The customer buying the shoes is also part of this story: they are wearing their compassion, generosity, and global focus on their feet.
For these canvas shoes companies, the tone of voice distinguishes the brand. You can be a unique and powerful non-conformist with Keds, or put on a pair of TOMS to be someone who cares about making the world a better place while rocking a unique and hand-crafted aesthetic.
Most Common Types of Tone of Voice
Every person is unique, of course, but we also use familiar adjectives to describe ourselves. Maybe you’d say you’re friendly, dependable, or whimsical.
It’s the same for a brand’s tone of voice — it’s unique, but it also contains recognizable qualities that helps your audience connect on a personal and even emotional level.
In this section, we’re going to look at some of the most familiar tones of voice and the types of brands that they are associated with. These examples will help you to further understand tone and maybe even inspire you to think about your brand’s tone of voice in a new way.
Casual – easygoing language, very personal, “we got this” vibe
Used for big box stores, Amazon, mid-range clothing, sports equipment, mid-range travel.
Tough / Masculine – short phrases, bold words, terse.
Used for pick-up trucks, gyms, aftershave.
This is by no means a complete list. There are many other tones of voice.
You can discover more examples through our Brand Strategy Kit or Brand Personality Cards. Both of these tools contain 40 Brand Personality Cards and 20 Tone of Voice Cards that are designed to help you uncover your brand’s authentic tone of voice. Each Tone of Voice card has an example included on the back to help you get crystal clear.
Here’s a good example of a brand that effectively uses tone of voice to convey their personality and values. Their overall tone is what consumers want to feel in their own lives, which is why they gravitate to and buy this particular brand.
“Freedom and ease captured in structure. Inspired by him, defined by her, and touched by the artisan hand.”
— Donna Karan
Let’s break it down: The message straight up tells you what this brand offers: high quality basic clothing that lets you do your thing. But that’s not what the company chose to say here. Notice their specific word choice, the length of the sentences, and the short phrases separated by commas that guide you on a slow, flowy journey. You feel calm when reading it, maybe even liberated to take a breath and conjure the inspiration to pursue your passions.
That’s what tone of voice does. It draws your audience in by connecting to them via emotion.
How To Uncover and Articulate Your Brand’s Tone of Voice
Articulating your brand’s tone of voice is part of the overall branding process. One of the most important parts of that is running a Brand Personality Session. The goal of that is to uncover the personality of your brand and articulate its values, character traits, tone of voice, and style.
Good branding is about creating a brand image that expresses what the company truly stands for. This sets a solid foundation that enables your company to expand into its full potential. If your branding is not aligned with the company’s true essence, you’ll create tension (or worse, failure) because you’ve created a false image that you won’t be able to deliver on.
To create a leading and long-lasting brand in the marketplace, you need to make sure you’re branding your company in a way that is truly aligned with its essence. This will help you connect with your target customers in the most authentic way, which puts you a few steps ahead of everyone else.
In order to uncover and articulate your brand’s authentic tone of voice, we recommend asking these three questions during your Brand Personality Session:
What kind of impression / feeling do you want your overall brand experience to create for your audience?
What kind of impression / feeling do you want your overall brand experience to create for your employees?
What impact do you want your brand to create in the wider world?
Important note: during the process of uncovering and articulating a brand’s tone of voice, you’re not trying to come up with something new. A brand’s tone of voice is inherently part of its values, so the goal is to let it rise to the surface by exploring how those values can best be conveyed via communication.
That’s why these three questions are key — they bring out the values around which the company has been created. Values are the foundation of a brand’s personality. They are weaved into the company’s governance and become an integral part of the legacy that will be left behind.
Remember that you want your brand to shine across all communications, so it makes sense for a wide range of people to be involved in uncovering and articulating its authentic tone of voice at the Brand Strategy Session. You’ll want to make sure everyone feels comfortable and inspired to answer these questions, and as a result, feel good about contributing to the brand’s success. To facilitate this, create a welcoming and supportive environment that encourages people to connect into the company’s mission and engage in a fruitful discussion.https://www.youtube.com/embed/Z27W-jWnXic?wmode=opaque&enablejsapi=1
The Brand Personality Cards (digital) and the Brand Cards (print) are excellent tools to help you facilitate this part of the Brand Strategy Session in a playful way. They’ll act as prompts that get creative juices flowing and help spark answers to the questions above.
Instead of asking a question and getting complete silence because no one wants to speak first, the Cards provide an easy way for everyone to contribute.
Here’s how it works: When asked a question, each person picks the cards that resonate with them. Then, as a group you read both sides of the cards, discuss, revise, and finalize your selection. If the tone “sounds” off, it’s probably not your brand’s true essence speaking. Iterate until it feels right for everyone.
Specific Ways to Convey Your Tone of Voice
Now that you know what your brand’s tone of voice is, it’s time to start using it effectively. There are several elements that help convey tone. Some of these are the same as when writing fiction and non-fiction; others are more specific to brand communications and marketing.
Here’s a breakdown of some common ways to tailor your writing so it accurately expresses your brand:
Words – Well, obviously. But which ones? Try to be as specific as possible. Most writing/editing programs have a synonym function or a built-in thesaurus. Home in on what you truly want to say and find the perfect words, phrases, and sentences to give audiences the best experience.
Punctuation – This might be the easiest way to sound conversational because it can mimic pauses, inflections, and even smiles. But it’s also easy to over-use punctuation, which can be distracting and sometimes misunderstood. So, use it sparingly and effectively for maximum impact.
Emojis – Our ever-present phones have made us a little lazy with words. It’s easier to insert smiley faces, hearts, and that raised eyebrow squinty face. There’s nothing wrong with emojis — they’re fun and they give off a friendly vibe. The key is to not use them to replace integral words that might be way more effective. Instead, use them as an accent, like you’d give someone a wink, not to replace a whole emotional sentence.
Pronouns – It’s become common in marketing to talk to people directly, even if it’s a mass email going out to thousands. Savvy marketers want to establish a connection with their audience, and saying “you” instead of a more generic “we” or “they” draws people in. Just be careful that you’re not making assumptions or coming on too strong too fast in some formal situations. Also, be extremely careful when using “he/him” or “her/she” — do not assume; use “they” or ask what they prefer.
Common Mistakes Brands Make When Using Tone of Voice
As we’ve said, tone of voice is based on a brand’s inherent values. Mistakes in using it occur when a brand tries to be something it’s not. Here are a few things to watch out for in all communications.
Being inauthentic – don’t try to sound like another famous/successful brand. People see right through that and won’t put their trust in you. That brand is successful because it mined it’s uniqueness.
Instead: Uncover what makes your brand one-of-a-kind.
Inconsistency – if customer service sounds way different than the copy on your website or your Instagram captions, people will be confused and move on.
Instead: Make sure your brand’s tone of voice carries across all communications.
Not updating your communications style – although tone of voice is baked into a brand’s values, all companies grow and change over time, as do their customers.
Instead: Annually review how you’re using your brand’s tone of voice and make sure it stays current. (For example, if “hip” is one of your values, you don’t want to be using lingo from 2012.)
Being unaware of your audience – if your target customer speaks “a different language” your communications are not going to connect with them.
Instead: Listen to how they talk and see how your brand’s authentic tone of voice can be used to connect to them.
Forgetting to include personality (yawn) or trying too hard to be liked — the most annoying people at the party are probably doing one of these.
Instead: Your brand’s natural tone of voice is what will resonate — as they say, just do you.
To see if your brand is making any of these tone of voice mistakes, do an audit of your communications. Choose a few pieces from each category — say emails, website copy, social accounts, customer service transcripts — and run them through each of the items above. Take notes on what seems to be working and what’s off base, then make adjustments as needed.
If you need help harmonizing your tone of voice across your brand’s communications while making it “more you,” get in touch and we’ll be happy to help you.
Developing In-House Guidelines for Using Tone of Voice
It’s essential for a brand to be consistent across all of their messaging. This includes graphics, photos, website copy, social media, newsletters, and even customer service.
Whether you’re a solopreneur or a large company, it can be hard to stay aligned with the brand’s tone of voice for every single piece of communication and marketing. If a potential customer encounters inconsistencies, where messages don’t mesh with values, they’ll lose trust and look elsewhere.
Prevent that by creating In-House Tone of Voice Guidelines to make sure everyone is on the same page. Here’s our step-by-step advice for creating a document that’s user-friendly and effective.
Identify everyone who will be using this guide and provide a clear description of the brand’s tone of voice
This can be a list of all staff and freelancers, and also what they’re responsible for. Remember that even customer service needs to understand and know how to use the brand’s tone of voice.
Provide a clear description of the brand’s tone of voice. Use the general categories we mentioned above — like Luxurious/Elegant or Playful/Witty — and include descriptive adjectives, style points, and useful examples.
The 20 Tone of Voice cards included in the Brand Cards (print version) and the Brand Personality Cards (digital version) include explanations and real-life examples for how to speak to your audience. This makes them a fun and effective tool for ensuring your team is fully equipped to communicate effectively.
Ensure everyone understands how to use the brand’s tone of voice effectively and consistently
Consider establishing a vocabulary guide or identifying a writing style. For example, does your brand have “clients” or “customers” or “subscribers” or “buyers”? Choose the one term that best represents your tone of voice and then use it across the board.
When you communicate with your audience, is it long, in-depth newsletters or short, friendly tweets? The form you use is also a way to convey your brand’s tone of voice.
Offer Do’s and Don’ts
Comparisons help people understand the finer points. For example, you might include:
use authentic language
be personal (this can happen even with a formal tone)
use emotional words
get a second opinion if you’re not sure you’ve captured the tone of voice
try to sound like something we’re not
use generic language — this waters down the message
use too many words to fluff it up — this confuses the audience
be overly casual or friendly (unless that IS your brand’s personality)
go overboard with sentimentality
forget that tone of voice is based on the brand’s values
Show real-life examples of your brand’s tone of voice. This could be some website copy or an ad that’s particularly on-point in its tone. Also consider showing examples (maybe these are fake ones) of tone of voice that are not effective in conveying the brand’s tone of voice.
Include a special section on social media
These days, nearly every brand has at least one, if not several, social media accounts. This can be the main way they reach, connect with, and ultimately convert browsers into customers.
Your brand might find that its authentic tone of voice translates seamlessly onto all of your social media platforms. Chances are, however, that you might need to tweak some of the finer points of your tone to make it resonate with your fans and followers.
Social media is unique because it needs to feel personal and intimate, like you’re talking directly to one person. This generates familiarity, trust, and that warm feeling of connection.
This can be fairly easy for lifestyle brands, but practical businesses like banks and mechanics use social media too. Regardless of the type of business or organization, it’s still essential to be consistent with tone of voice.
For example, let’s say you are a bank or a serious tech company. How can you use your “reliable, serious, dependable” tone of voice in a way that is still personal and connecting?
All brands can work within the more casual and personal nature of social media platforms, it just might take some extra thought. Here are some questions to help you adapt your tone of voice for social media so it still “sounds,” and even more importantly feels authentic.
How will your brand’s tone of voice be the same as on the website or in print?
How will it be different?
What qualities of your brand’s tone of voice can or should be emphasized?
Will posts be in the same tone as when responding to comments?
If your brand needs a specific section in the Guidelines for social media communication, be sure to include all of your platforms and keep it up to date.
Include a special section on verbal communications
If your team members are often speaking to your audience, maybe via Zoom meetings, podcasts, or customer service, consider including pointers on how to use tone of voice verbally. This is especially important for keeping a brand’s image consistent when many people are speaking on behalf of the company in a variety of functions. Remember, consistency leads to trust and loyalty.
Every person has their own way of communicating. Their natural style may be super serious or ultra bubbly. There’s no need to suggest tamping down someone’s personality, but they should be aware of how they are representing the brand.
Having speaking guidelines similar to those for writing can be helpful for making sure the brand’s messages are delivered in ways that enhance its authenticity. You want fans, supporters, and buyers to feel like they’re making a real connection over shared interests.
When there’s a visual component, like a Zoom meeting, it’s also important to address body language, gestures, and eye contact. All of these small tone-related details add up to one big impression. Make sure your brand’s values translate in any situation.
Shake Hands with the Brand
Remember, tone of voice reflects the personality of the brand. Just as each person is unique, so is a brand’s tone. It offers an entrance point for your audience to connect, just like when you meet someone and shake hands (or elbow bump). From there, communication can flow in a two-way dialogue that builds trust, interest, and loyalty.
If you’re getting ready to embark on uncovering your brand’s tone of voice, or you’re a brand strategist who wants to sharpen your game, check out all of the useful tools in the Brand Strategy Framework.
The 40 Brand Personality Cards include the 20 Tone of Voice Cards, which are also sold separately from our Framework. Use them to level up your branding game, amplify your brand’s voice, and meaningfully connect to your audience.
When you fine tune your brand’s tone of voice, it feels specific, original, and personal. Get it pitch perfect, everyone wins!
If you are planning to brand or rebrand your business or that of your client, you are embarking on a path of transformation. It’s an exciting path full of twists and turns with an end that is yet unknown.
Before we embark on this journey and start imagining the future that awaits us to be created, we need to prime ourselves for success. The best way to do this is to kick off your branding mission in the right direction through a well-run brand strategy workshop.
I’ll share what I’ve learned when running brand strategy workshops at various companies and incubators around the world: Google Campus London, Paris Telecom Incubator, Barcelona Makers space, Beirut Digital District, Casablanca Technopark, MTV Lebanon, etc.
So let’s get started!
What’s the end goal of a good brand strategy workshop?
Your role, as a brand strategist, is to lead this workshop towards creating a solid foundation for a new or refreshed brand that will help your client to get to the next level of their success.
You’ll have to catch all the floating ideas about the future, explore them together with the client, review the previous successes and fall-outs, aspirational brands and, in the end, help your client narrow in on their vision. This will give them the utmost clarity for what the next level of success looks like. This is a great moment to witness. Celebrate this blissful moment of clarity!
After this, the exploration phase is over and you’ll need to map out a brand that would help your client to reach that next level. You’ll need to find the best way to position the business, the best words to describe what the brand is all about and the right image that would resonate with the target audience pulling them your client’s way like a siren’s call.
The Brand Canvas
You’ll be uncovering a lot of new information along the way. There will be a lot of ideas floating that you’ll need to consolidate and prioritize.
In order to stay on track and focus on the essentials, I’ve created a Brand Canvas. It will help you to write down the most important pillars of the brand and steer all the workshops in the right direction. Download the brand canvas for free and read how to use it. An A2 printed version of the Brand Canvas is included in the Brand Strategy Kit.
What should be asked during the brand strategy workshop?
I orchestrate the brand strategy workshop around the key topics that need to be unfolded and clarified in order to weave a successful brand strategy together. Here they are:
1. Now + Next
I like to start the workshop by taking the client out of their daily work routine and exploring what has made the biggest impact to come to this point? What were the previous successes and fall-outs? How does the next level of success look like? What are the blockages to get there?
2. The Product or Service
Then, we can dive deeper into understanding the nitty-gritty aspects of the product or service on offer.
3. The Ideal Client
Then, we can explore the current target client and the aspects of an ideal client for this product or service. If possible, it really helps to talk with the client’s customers.
4. The Positioning Statement
Knowing where the client wants to go next, we should then explore the best way to position this business. We need to structure all the key elements into one coherent statement which will be the backbone of a brand’s story. The Branding Workbook included in the Brand Strategy Kit gives you a template for doing this easily.
5. The Core Message
In order to develop a successful brand story that will pull the right people in, we need to clarify one more component – the core message that the brand will share with the world. This one can be a biggie.
But don’t worry, you don’t need to get it right at this point. For now, it’s more important to capture all the floating ideas around and get a copywriter on board. S/he will take it forwards from here.
6. The Brand Personality
This part is the fun part! We’ll be shaping the brand’s personality and setting the right direction for its visual identity. Now is a good time to involve a good brand designer.
We’ve created a fun tool – the Brand Cards – to help you successfully facilitate the conversation around the Brand Personality. The Brand Cards will surely add more life and playfulness to your brand strategy workshop!
As you can see, we start by understanding the current state of our client’s business and projecting a bit into the future of where s/he would like to be next.
Your job, as a brand strategist, is to prime our clients for this next level success by putting the right pillars in place to serve as a springboard for this transformation. It’s quite a forward-moving, clarity-igniting and impact-making mission!
Whom to get involved?
Developing a successful brand strategy is a collaboration between the client, sometimes the client’s customers, your collaborators, and yourself.
I’d suggest clarifying the brand’s future direction with your client first before you start involving external collaborators to crystallize the nitty-gritty of the brand strategy.
Since you’ll be collaborating with quite a few people and distilling information from multiple sources, being a good facilitator is at the core of a successful brand strategy. Here are some tips to help you fine-tune your facilitation skills:
1. Every project starts with a kick-off meeting. Its purpose is to create synchronicity with your client and collaborators so everyone looks in the same direction. During this meeting, reiterate the purpose of the project, introduce the decision-makers, the team, and your process, present the schedule, and explain everyone’s responsibilities.
It is important to ensure that everyone is on the same page and takes ownership of their tasks. Provide enough space for everyone to ask questions in order to clear the air for a successful flight.
2. Schedule all the upcoming sessions upfront on your Google Calendar and invite everyone relevant to join in. This will help everyone to plan ahead. If you are conducting your sessions online, I suggest using Zoom. It is the best tool for successful meetings online from my experience.
3. Create an agenda for every session and send it out before the session starts. It will help to keep things focused by structuring the meeting.
4. During each session, reiterate the common goal. This will ensure that the vision is not lost when the discussion gets hot or when the feedback time arrives.
5. After each session, send a follow-up email to everyone on board. Reiterate the key points discussed in a meeting and outline what is coming up next.
6. Structure feedback giving into sprints. Business decisions taken during the brand strategy development phase are instrumental for business success. We can’t take this lightly and we shouldn’t rush it because it could backfire. So give enough time and space for everyone.
For example, if you need to make a decision on a particular topic, give 1-2 weeks for everyone. During this time, you might need to have additional calls or meetings with your client in order to help the client explore all the angles and crystallize the details. This is part of the decision-making process. Don’t rush it. Clients will appreciate it.
7. Enjoy the process! If you do a good job as a facilitator, you’ll help your client uncover a lot of interesting insights that could spark those blissful “aha” moments of clarity. It’s great to witness them! There will surely be ups and downs along the way so don’t forget to have some fun to keep things balanced.
The Brand Cards are a visual brainstorming tool for brand strategists, designers, and creative teams to generate mood boards and transform their ideas into tangible brand or design concepts.
You can use these cards during the Brand Personality Discovery session to help you effectively articulate what the brand is all about. They are here to give you ideas for defining the personality, tone of voice, and look and feel of a brand.
The Brand Cards box contains 3 sets of cards:
The Brand Personality Cards (52) – this set has 12 Brand Archetype cards and 40 Personality Trait Cards;
The Tone of Voice Cards (20);
The Style Cards (200).
If you’ve purchased the complete Brand Strategy Kit, the workbook included in the Kit contains precise instructions on when to pull in these cards during the Brand Strategy sessions. Please follow the steps within the workbook, starting page 23.
If you’ve only purchased the Brand Cards, here’s a bit more on how to use them.
Lay the cards on the table
When running a workshop, you can pull the sets out of the box and lay them on the table. The sets could be stacked or the cards could be freely arranged on the table calling for play and exploration.
Running a workshop with one participant
If you are running a workshop for one participant, then ask him/her to select 3-5 cards that s/he thinks best describes the 1) brand personality 2) tone of voice 3) look and feel of the brand.
Here are the questions to ask:
Which brand archetype(s) are the most suitable for this brand to embody?
Which archetype(s) are the least suitable for this brand to embody?
Which personality traits should this brand embody?
Which personality traits are on the opposite of the spectrum of what this brand is all about?
Which tones best reflect the feel of this brand? Which ones would resonate with the target audience?
Which tones don’t resonate with this brand at all and would never resonate with the target audience?
Have a look at the style cards. Each card has an image that sends a particular message. Which images best reflect what this brand stands for? Which images would best resonate with the target audience? Shortlist those cards. Feel free to create a mood board if you feel like it.
Running a workshop with multiple participants
The workshop should be orchestrated around understanding each participant’s point of view and then finding common touchpoints between them. Everyone should be more or less OK with the final cards that were chosen to represent the future brand identity.
Lay the cards on the table and ask people to gather around it. The moderator should ask the questions mentioned above.
Your role will be that of a moderator. After each question, listen to the answer of every participant to understand all the nuances. Help him/her to better articulate his/her feelings about the question and the answer.
The outcome of both workshops should look something like this:
I hope this walk-through has been useful. If you have more questions, please post them on our Slack channel.