Many B2C companies cycle through the same tropes of marketing language that don't do them any favors. Words like "innovative," "disruptive," and "cutting-edge" are all self-congratulatory and fail to describe how a product or service is solving a real problem for customers.
Your organization may strive to embody these ideas -- which is great -- but you shouldn't use them in a consumer-facing capacity.
For one, your brand will get lost in the noise if it sounds like tons of other companies. People will glaze right over your ads and communications. Consumers don't necessarily want cutting-edge -- they want to buy from brands that understand them.
Using the same language as everyone else also means that the unique value of your product or service isn't coming across. What does it do? Why is it valuable? Who should try it? No one really knows what "innovative" means as a tangible product.
Finally, without a well-defined brand voice, a company's messaging tends to be all over the place. Employees -- who should be built-in brand ambassadors -- don't know how to describe the business effectively at conferences and networking events, or even to their families. Executives might talk about it differently in the press, confusing the message further.
If you want to build a consistent and effective voice, these four practical tips will set you down the right path. Here's how to find the words and language that will resonate with customers.
1. Think of your brand as a person or character.
This is an essential exercise of any voice development project. Whether it's a celebrity or an industry thought leader or a fictional character, you can align your team around a recognizable figure to anchor the brand to a concept everyone understands.
Whomever you choose, it should make sense for your audience -- someone they would know, relate to, and admire. Then, you can pull snippets of language that person uses that best fits the tone and style you want, using it as a reference moving forward. Ask yourself, "Would [insert name] say this?"
2. Look at the language your customers use.
Where do your customers gather, online or in-person? Go to those places and pay attention to the way they write and speak. See how they describe the challenges they face that your product or service solves and bring those terms into your official vocabulary. By using their words, you make it easier for potential customers to immediately understand your company's value.
3. Find the defining words and phrases of your narrative.
Building upon the vocabulary above, you'll want to define the key pieces of your narrative. You need to pull out a handful of sentences and words that sum up the story and purpose of your brand most effectively. This becomes the "elevator pitch" that you provide to your employees and executives, ensuring that everyone knows how to describe the company in a compelling, relatable way.
4. Gather feedback and keep refining your style guide.
When deciding upon your defining words and phrases -- and any other time you're looking to lock in language -- it's a great idea to do some user testing. Plenty of affordable tools exist to put your proposed copy in front of real people and get feedback within just hours.
Does it make sense? Is it conveying the right message and tone? With this objective input, you and your team will have confidence in the content of your style guide.
Trends in language shift as quickly as they do in fashion, technology, and everything else. So, it's essential to create a continuous feedback loop and keep refining your brand voice. Something that works great this year might not work in the next. But, if you stay away from tropes and pursue words that resonate with your audience, you can stand out from the competition -- in a very good way.