Why Does Global Brand Voice Matter?

What's your brand's global personality?

Last Updated: July 4, 2019 8:17AM

Have you ever met someone whose personality seems to change completely when they’re in different situations? It’s unnerving. In each situation you’re talking to the same person—but somehow it feels like you’re not.

Other people are just the opposite. They’re genuine and authentic. There’s a continuity to your interactions—no matter what you discuss. Talking with them feels much more comfortable.

The same is true for brands. Some have a personality so distinctive  you can identify the company from its voice and message—even if you can’t see its name or logo. Others are chameleons, pandering to to different audiences with different messages and styles. When they do this, they dilute brand personality (and customer trust) in the process.

What’s the difference? It lies in the consistency of a company’s brand voice. The first type of brand speaks with a consistent voice, no matter the language or market. The second does not.

What Is Brand Voice?

A brand voice is the personality that a company presents to the world. It communicates a distinct attitude, style, and value set.

Some people find that it helps to think of brand voice as a character. If the company were a person, what would his or her name be? What would s/he wear? How would you describe this person to a friend?

The clearer a company’s brand voice, the more of these questions you can answer. Try it with a company that has a recognizable brand identity, like Disney or Goldman Sachs. Imagine putting these two “personalities” in a room together. You’ll find it’s very clear that they have very different voices.

What Are the Benefits of a Distinct Brand Voice?

Proactively crafting a distinct brand voice can have myriad benefits for your company. Among them:

1. An identity that consumers and clients can recognize

Just like strong personalities help people to stand out from crowds, a distinct brand voice can set your company apart from the competition. When your company has a personality that stands out, customers are more likely to recognize and choose you.

2. Stronger customer relationships

When people have open and inviting personalities, you get to know them better as you spend more time together. Your relationship deepens and you feel a stronger connection.

The same thing happens when your company’s brand voice is consistent. Each piece of content reinforces your company’s personality, values, and aesthetic.

In time, people learn what to expect when they do business with you. They begin to trust you, and this engenders a sense of brand loyalty.

3.  Memorable personality traits

Everyone has characteristics that others associate with them. Some people are inherently joyful, for example, while others are more serious. If your company has a consistent brand voice, you can control the personality and message you convey to your customers. In time, these traits will help your customers remember your company and its values.

Coca-Cola, for example, has a brand voice that is joyful, genuine, and friendly. Coca-Cola is all about connection and sociability, and we feel that every time we see one of their advertisements. In turn, when people buy a Coca-Cola product, they may feel they’re buying more than a beverage: they’re buying an experience.

4.  More cost-efficient marketing

When your branding is consistent, you don’t need to establish your brand’s personality every time you create new content. Through repeated exposure to your work, your consumers have already learned who you are.

Think about advertisements you’ve seen for Apple products. From its iconic silhouettes that permeated the early iPod advertising campaigns to the sleek and minimalist ads for the latest iPhone releases, Apple doesn’t need to waste ad time telling you what to expect. That’s because everything Apple produces, from its packaging to its website, clearly communicates the company’s style, innovation, and simplicity.

Brand Voice Goes Global

Apple’s clarity in branding is an excellent case study for global companies. Because their brand depends so little on verbal descriptions, it crosses borders easily. Not everyone can be Apple—really, only Apple can—but every global brand can create that level of consistency across its campaigns.

The keys to a global brand voice are a flexible content framework and universal core characteristics. Your imagery should be iconic, and your message should be able to carry across cultures without losing anything essential.

In short, crafting an effective global brand voice can be a lot to think about. Here are some strategies to help you develop a brand voice that’s strong enough to stay consistent in the global marketplace:

Choose adjectives to describe your voice.

Select several pieces of existing content your company has produced, ideally not all from the same media type, then think of three traits that would describe all three pieces.

Your content might be quirky, or it might be academic. It could be hip or traditional. Once you’ve chosen three words, take each one and create a list of do’s and don’ts.

For example, if you’re going for “quirky,” you might advise your writers and designers to be irreverent but not sarcastic. A more academic company, however, might instruct content creators to be authoritative but not condescending.

The more descriptive words you can develop, the more effectively your localization team can keep your brand voice consistent.

Create a style guide and glossary.

Brand voice descriptors are a great place to start, but you can be even more helpful if you give your translators a complete style guide. These kinds of guides usually include:

  • Voice and tone
  • Usage and grammar guidelines
  • Preferred sentence structure and writing style
  • Desired types of visuals
  • Formatting standards

Many companies, especially niche B2B businesses, may also need to provide a terminology glossary. These provide localization teams with approved translated versions of terms specific to a company, industry, and audience, as well as required keywords in each language.

Develop global design templates.

Visuals are as important as verbal content in developing brand consistency. If you create a template that your localization services team can use for every target market, you build consistency into your campaigns.

Template creation also gives you the chance to specify design elements, such as color and imagery, that maintain your brand voice when your content is transformed into a new language.

Offer creative briefs.

When a campaign undergoes localization, creative professionals often need to develop new content to ensure the campaign feels as authentic in the new market as if it were created there in the first place.

Help your localization teams by offering detailed guidance regarding what on-brand content looks like. Important elements include:

  • A description of the target audience
  • The primary campaign message
  • The desired audience reaction
  • An overall brand voice description

These specifications tie the details of each piece of content to your overall brand voice. They maintain consistency while clarifying the intent of each campaign piece.

Check templates, style instructions, and vocabulary with your localization team.

Part of your localization team’s job is to check the cultural relevance and appropriateness of your style and content choices. They can help you ensure your chosen adjectives suit the cultural norms of your target market, helping you to avoid accidental social missteps.

This process also helps you to ensure that your message will come across clearly. Without attention to these details, a lot can get lost in translation.

The Takeaways

  1. Your brand voice is your company’s personality. The more consistent it is, the better consumers can get to know you.
  2. A strong brand voice gives a company a clear identity and inspires connection with customers.
  3. Global companies need to make sure their brand voices stay distinct across international boundaries.
  4. You can keep your global brand voice consistent by clarifying your needs and preferences with your localization team.

At Lionbridge, we’re committed to making sure you retain your brand voice as you enter new markets. Reach out today to learn about how our services help you retain your brand’s key attributes when you go global.