Why Brand Voice Matters and How To Form It
A distinct and unwavering brand voice is one of the core attributes of a strong online brand presence–but it is also the most vulnerable.
At Hard Rock International, we fiercely manage and protect our brand voice. Why? The risk of not enforcing brand voice is scattered messaging, which confuses brand presence and can ultimately tarnish relevance and reputation. If someone can cover up your logo and can’t identify your brand or differentiate it from a competitor, weak brand voice may be to blame.
Below are three steps Hard Rock uses to develop brand voice and carry it through every platform and industry evolution.
Step 1: Figure Out Who You Are, and Own It
Brand voice is the focused, consistent heart of a brand. It’s easy to get sucked in by evolving culture and spit out something that doesn’t align with established brand voice, but doing so can endanger your business online. Above all, it is crucial to stay true to your brand to connect with people in an authentic, dependable way.
As an historic brand with a New Age tone, it is vital for Hard Rock to convey the comfort and quality of a world-class hospitality brand. With deep-rooted passions across new music, music history, and philanthropy driving the message, we use the below approach when writing anything from a caption to an email subject line.
- Establish substance and relevance
- Condense the message
- Say it with confidence
Identifying words, phrases, and moods helps us communicate effectively. As an adventurous, authentic, cultural, energetic, and “good vibes” brand, our voice speaks volumes without shouting. Hard Rock isn’t stuffy and is never rude: we keep it cool without being cocky. Knowing who we are and what our fans expect of us is the basis for a valued and effective brand voice.
Step 2: Keep It Consistent, But Keep It Flexible
Sustaining a brand voice that is cool doesn’t mean always keeping it the same.
Our brand voice pivots based on business unit and need. Depending on the situation, we’ve found successes in amplifying or dialing down our voice based on topic, conversation, and, most of all, platform. For example:
Low Volume: On Twitter, we use more formal, softer tones to accommodate one-on-one customer service.
@Mark77Wallace Hello Mark! We do carry a guitar strap lanyard however, not in these venues currently.
— Hard Rock (@HardRock) January 27, 2017
Respected House Party: For Facebook, we dial it up a little more with irreverent industry knowledge and more playful language to talk about the fun stuff.
Full-Blown Concert Mode: On Instagram, our brand voice shines through completely. Evoking spirited and witty language to match informal and compelling content, it’s our most casual space, and it gives us more freedom to be bold.
A post shared by Hard Rock Cafe (@hardrockcafe) on
By reading each situation individually and keeping each platform strategy in mind, we can adapt our voice to best fit our needs. Successful brand voice is about consistency, but it’s important to remember that a customer may not appreciate a witty response for a legitimate complaint – or may not want a canned response when they are singing your praises.
Step 3: Put Into Action and Maintain
Maintaining brand voice isn’t just about words – it’s about ACTION.
At Hard Rock, we have more than 200 global locations that act as content engines and speak on behalf of the brand on their local social media channels. Throw in different languages, local customs, and different regional business priorities, and that’s a lot of conversation in a lot of different ways. For a content manager, that’s awesome. For a brand voice enforcer, it can be daunting.
After defining and establishing brand voice, it is key to get teams on board so that they can infuse their local content with brand voice at every touchpoint.
For us, showcasing best practices and never wavering on main brand channels has helped show our units how to embody brand voice and implement it in real-case scenarios. We distribute content around tentpole campaigns that align with the brand and are tailored for each platform. By providing copy and demonstrating how activations can adapt messaging to fit each platform, our units can correctly represent our brand voice around the globe.
It is important to keep the lines of communications open internally. If something can be improved, we say it. If something is executed flawlessly, we praise it. By working with individuals on a real-time basis, we have the opportunity to shape and enforce brand voice at every turn, which benefits the leadership team, local groups, and ultimately the brand.
Bottom line: Protecting your brand voice is important. Although social media is changing, it’s critical to remember who your brand is and to maintain those standards during platform evolutions. By establishing a brand voice that is easy for your team to digest, being strategic about how you adapt it based on the situation, and maintaining it no matter the circumstance, your brand voice will shine through every time.
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Tanya (Gabrish) Cramp is a Digital Content Manager for Hard Rock International. As the chief brand voice enforcer and content curator for the brand, she serves as primary content developer for all brand initiatives and all social media content concepting and implementation. Overseeing a community of 16+ million engaged fans, her working knowledge of music history and witty dialogue oozes in every post, from caption to commentary. Prior to her life at Hard Rock, Tanya helped brands like JW Marriott and SpringHill Suites with social engagement and content and served as Digital Director for a team of six for an integrated communications agency. When Tanya isn’t strategically incorporating hospitality and dining stories into marketing campaigns, she’s hanging out in Orlando with her husband and rescue dog and pretending to be a ballerina at her favorite barre class.