The U.S. legal system’s attempts aside, businesses aren’t actually people. Yet we often speak of brand personalities – and in fact, many of our purchasing decisions are influenced by not just how good the product or service is, but whether we like the brand and if it aligns with our values.
For a startup or small business, creating and managing a brand identity is both more difficult – a tiny marketing budget! – and easier. It’s easier because as a small business owner, you can keep your communications more consistent and effectively showcase your brand personality.
Here’s a five step guide to doing this.
1. Decide on a persona that works with your values and strengths.
In other words, get your strategy in place. What do you envision your brand to be? Are you pedantic or casual? Experienced or youthful? Staid or vibrant?
And if you haven’t figured out your values yet, start now: are you for innovation or efficiency? People or results? Individuality or conformance? Artisan or mainstream? (Not that each pair is mutually exclusive, but you might want to decide what you care about most.)
Remember: you can’t be all of them at the same time!
2. Develop a unique voice.
Now translate that personality into a voice. This is easier if you are a one-person business: you can match your tone of voice and your persona to your real-life personality and just write in your voice. But if you have a team of writers, it gets more tricky. You can make some decisions in advance, and take some as they come. What kind of decisions?
Do you swear on the blog? (Options: of course, heck no, only if something is so terribly important that milder words won’t do)
Do you point out what competitors are doing wrong, or do you stay polite and just talk about what to do right?
Should you be careful (and maybe boring) or edgy (and maybe wrong)? Do you make bold predictions or play it safe?
These are just a sample – you’ll face more and different ones, but having a defined brand personality will make it easier to decide what to do.
3. Adapt your tone of voice to different channels.
You can’t adopt the same tone on your press release as you do on Twitter (or you can, if that works for your brand personality). You need to figure out how to maintain your tone across different media. You might need to be shorter for Twitter, but if you have a sweet brand personality, you don’t want to sound snarky by mistake (or the other way around).
4. Match your visual design to your personality.
If your brand is edgy, an old-fashioned website with serif fonts won’t cut it. If it’s playful, a staid blue and grey logo might not be the best idea. Whatever your brand personality, make sure it’s represented well in your visual design. (And if you want to come across as a contemporary business, don’t neglect to have your site work well on mobile devices – otherwise you look out of touch.)
Modcloth’s website does a great job of showcasing its fun, playful personality.
5. Be consistent.
And this is the rub. It’s easy to be snarky for an hour, but to do it consistently, across all your marketing communications, all the time? That’s extremely difficult and takes a lot of thought and effort. I think the music events brand NH7 Weekender does this really well, keeping all their communications – emails, Facebook photo captions – fun and breezy. So does Jabong, with it’s ‘Yoohoo’ text messages and the casual language on the website.
This isn’t easy – especially as, with a startup or small business, you might decide a few months down the line that you want to change the brand personality a bit. Which is fine: after all, people change too! But make sure everyone across your organization knows what your brand’s values and personality are, and works in sync with those.