Brands and their experiences: the importance of brand voice in UX writing
What is brand voice?
Julia Forneck Pinheiro
About a year ago I started my journey in the universe of writing content for software. Being an advertising student, I never really thought about this as a potential professional field, and what it meant to write for users, and not prospects. Soon I realized that, better than trying to captivate possible customers, I had the opportunity to keep them engaged and help on their journey.
During this process, I was introduced to a lot of design thinking theory in matters of product, and I could see great similarities between the development of a product or new feature and the development of an advertising campaign. It’s all about understanding the target audience and how to tackle problems in an innovative way.
The similarities didn’t stop there since I soon found myself confused among a list of possible terms I could use to explain my role, and copywriting was one of them.
Turns out that copywriters are entitled to write for advertising purposes (and I have Wikipedia to back me up here — and also a dictionary definition because double-checking is always good), but what I was doing didn’t seem like it — and in fact, it wasn’t.
If you want to know more about the plethora of terms that exist to describe what we do (and what we don’t do), you can check out this article by lauxcritora.
With all that, I kept trying to trace the connections between branding concepts that are so relevant to advertising, and how to communicate on behalf of a company, not with the intent to reach potential clients, but to walk them through a product. While I tried to understand this connection, a spark was lit up.
Then, I read Torrey Podmajersky’s book, and it became a flame.
What is brand voice?
You might be already familiar with the concepts of brand voice, but just to recap — or make sure we’re on the same page — , brand voice is about creating a personality.
Brands have singularities to which customers can identify with, and that’s why we remember that really funny advertisement we saw on Facebook, or why you prefer buying at a certain store, even if their price is a little higher than the average you would be willing to spend.
There is a reason for all that, and if you want to know more about identification, logic and the connections we make when opting for a certain product, Martin Lindstrom explores these topics in his book Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy.
After all, you might just like a brand because it speaks to you, and that’s attributed to the experience you get when purchasing and consuming their products — and as with any important person, their voice matters.
I could list here many examples of brands that are well established, and whose voices are noteworthy, but Erin Schroeder already did this in this great article.
Is it all about brands?
Not at all, in fact, is little about brands and a lot about people. As already mentioned, brands aim at being memorable by creating empathy and identification, but the voice must be present along the entire product journey, and consistency for us, writers, is really important.
So here’s where things get mixed, and could become a mess, or a masterpiece.
As we care about grammar, clarity and coherence, we should always care about the voice we use and remember that we’re speaking not as ourselves, but as a product, a company, a whole.
When we aren’t aware of how each word impacts not only our content, but the product itself and its strategy, there might be a gap— this is a well-known problem and it’s is also brought up in Marty Neumeier’s book The Brand Gap.
When brands care to develop a personality, they should also pay attention to how voices in general work. In regular conversations our tone of voice might adapt depending on the context, but never completely change, otherwise we wouldn’t have an identity, and that’s an essential part of making a product distinguishable from others.
From a marketing point of view, a voice has to be recognizable to be memorable, and from the UX point of view, we can all agree that it is disconcerting for users if each message and content seems randomly put together, as if they weren’t part of the same subject.
If you can’t sense familiarity and clarity in communication, it comes with uneasiness and distrust.
Torey Podmajersky on her insightful book Strategic Writing for UX talks a lot about the product and experience journey, and how marketing content and copywriting leads to the experience of the product itself,
highlighting the importance of alignment, not only between development teams, but stakeholders and anyone involved in the product process, from beginning to end.
UX writing is a tool in the perpetuation of brand voice. We should keep in mind the importance of cohesion and consistency while our words are meant for leading people on their journey in the most intuitive and helpful way.
This way, we can create a sense of unity to an extent to which users might not even notice our texts — and that’s when we are doing our job right.
Users are not there to read our words, we know that. People use apps, software and etc. because they want to reach a goal, but unfortunately, during this process things eventually will go wrong and errors will appear.
What we can do is make sure that, when this happens, users don’t need to go through great lengths and read chunks of technical and complex text to find out what to do, because we already made sure that a familiar voice is there to instruct them and allow them to just follow along with their objective.
Julia Forneck Pinheiro
Technical Writer and Advertising student learning more about words, people and tech. Find me on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/juliaforneck/ ;)