Your Brand Voice and the Detriments of Jargon
Have you thought about your brand “voice” lately? This is way a business communicates, or the tone that comes across in your brand’s writing. While voice is also a big factor in face-to-face meetings, so much information is now available to read online, right at clients’ fingertips. Therefore it is wise to consider the tone of writing, and what kind of message you want to get across with it. In particular, it is important for a brand’s message to be clear, and to not get bogged-down with inaccessible and impersonal jargon.
The definition of jargon as used today is: “special words or expressions that are used by a particular profession or group and are difficult for others to understand,” but in the late middle-ages it was often used to refer to “twittering, chattering, or gibberish.” By the sounds of that, jargon is not exactly a well-respected thing, as it often comes across as words for the sake or words, or trying to sound intelligent without actually saying anything meaningful.
The question is then: why do certain brands seem to fall into the trap of using excess jargon? It may be that competitors are using fancy-sounding terms that then makes other companies feel like they too need to use them in order to compete. It could also be that a business can’t figure out how to parse down what they are trying to advertise, or explain technical information in a way that makes sense to the average consumer.
One of the biggest problems with trying to find a brand voice is sounding impersonal through the use of buzzwords (ie, jargon) that don’t necessarily tell consumers anything about the company, who they are, and what they stand for. Marketo’s Ann Handley has a suggested exercise:
“Mask the logo on your site. Do you sound different, unique—like yourself? Or do you sound like everyone else… including your competitors? Said another way: If the label fell off… would people know it was you?”
Your brand voice is not about what you are saying, but how you are saying it. Having a unique, strong voice can be beneficial in leaving a strong impression on potential clients and consumers. Fortunately, there are a few factors can be considered to help determine your brand’s voice:
What makes you you?
Often described by marketers as developing a “mission statement”, the big picture here is to define what makes you you and your company values. A few questions to ask yourself that can help develop this defining image are:
What about your business is unique?
What makes your products special?
Is there something special about the way you approach your business?
Do you have a specific company culture with your employees?
How do you want to be regarded by your community, both in terms of customers and business peers? For instance, in what areas are you a trusted or go-to source?
Handley suggests coming up with three words that best define who you are, and writing them down as a starting point. Try to avoid cliches or buzzwords like “cutting-edge”, “revolutionary”, etc, and try instead to identify specific, interesting descriptors of who your brand is and how you want it to be perceived. Once you have these terms nailed down, flesh them out with a few anecdotes or sentences to explain how they relate to your brand.
Be Aware of your Audience:
Always consider who you are speaking to when creating written content. For example, writing an article or speech for peers in your industry with shared knowledge will look different than writing basic information about your company for the general public. Understand that different audiences will understand different terms, or may need things explained in a different way. When trying to come up with a coherent brand voice, it is therefore important to consider who the intended audience is for your content at any time.
Speak, Don’t Spin:
When trying to get information into the minds of real people and consumers, use a language that real people speak. It may be tempting to dress things up in a poetic manner, or use big terms to show expertise, but this may ultimately end up feeling disingenuous, and therefore create issues in building consumer trust. People want to be treated like human beings, so try to develop your brand voice with just that in mind: being the real you to reach out to real people.
Identify What Technical Terminology Is Useful, But Be Clear on Meaning:
Sometimes, especially when talking about the specifics about a product or service, technical terms are necessary; sometimes technical specifications are even directly asked about by clients, and jargon can indicate a certain shared mindset or depth of knowledge in an area. In these cases, using technical terms and jargon may be useful, but it is always important that the client understands what this means for them. Take for instance, cars: there are a whole lot of different technical terms involved in the advertising of cars today, but what do all these advertised features really amount to when it comes down to the act of driving? Take the time to explain the real-world benefits of what you are talking about, and how this will extend to the experience of the client. This way, it doesn’t just sound like a bunch of words thrown out there to confound meaning; instead, it is more an act of reaching-out to try connect to the client through education.
The bottom line is that jargon can often get in the way of a company trying to develop a clear, coherent, and individual voice for their brand. But as long as you approach your brand voice with clear intent, and a feeling of what makes you you, your brand can overcome these barriers and stand out as a unique voice among all the technical buzzwords that consumers may get lost in. Your brand voice won’t just tell people what you do, but leave an impression on them of who you are.