Brand Voice Guide for Your Email Marketing

brand voice

Entrepreneurship is all about leaving the status quo behind and embracing new ways of doing things. For growing eCommerce brands, this applies to everything from sourcing products, customer care, and communication — and brand voice.

Many startups are eager to do away with corporate jargon and embrace a different voice for their marketing. But defining what you don’t want to be isn’t enough. There’s too much room for interpretation with that simple of an approach. The lack of direction can frustrate employees and the inconsistent voice across marketing channels could confuse customers. Identity crisis, much?

This is why it’s important to establish a brand voice for your email marketing, as well as for your other marketing channels. To achieve interesting copy that resonates, you have to go further than creating lists of words to avoid.

Voice and Tone

A brand is a lot more than just a logo. It’s about the personality of your company and the overall feeling the copy, logo, colors, photos, and employees give those who interact with it. Voice and tone are just one part of that, and they go hand-in-hand.

Voice: The mission. Voice is your brand’s personality described in an adjective. Brands can be lively, positive, cynical, or professional.

Tone: The application of the mission. Tone adds flavor to your voice based on factors like audience, situation, and marketing channel.

Exercise: Defining Voice and Tone

This four-part formula, inspired by Crackerjack Marketing’s framework, is a useful exercise to go through with your team in order to develop a brand voice.


Part 1: Purpose – Why does your company exist? Are you here to educate, raise awareness, inspire…? Draw a line in the sand, have an opinion, and establish what you are here to do.

Part 2: Character – If your brand was a person, what would that person be like? Build a persona that will connect with your target audience and fulfill that company purpose. If you’re a luxury shoe brand, you might want to be a tad proper. After all, you represent the aspirational and sophisticated person your audience hopes to become by buying your product.

Part 3: Tone – What kind of words do you use? What kind of words do you avoid?

Part 4: Language – Get tactical. These are the specific things you do in order to achieve the right tone. Some things to discuss:

  • What words do you say?
  • What words do you steer clear of?
  • Will you coin a term?
  • What phrases will you use? (Example: Chubbies, which sells short shorts for men, uses funny phrases like “Skies out thighs out” in marketing collateral.)
  • Are you quirky? How can that come across in your copy? (Example: Kate Spade writes in all lower-case letters on Twitter.)
  • Are you accessible or aspirational? Do you RT, reply, and follow customers on Twitter? Or, do you keep a distance and stay exclusive?
  • What about punctuation? Is there anything quirky or funny that you do with emoticons and punctuation? Does your company say can’t or cannot?

Part 5: Do’s and Don’ts – The very funny Santa Brand Guide was created as a joke by Ad agency Quietroom this past December. Even though it was a joke and the “Good” example is probably the opposite of what you should do, they had a pretty valuable framework for defining the do’s and don’ts for customer communication.


Use a similar template to this one below and create a list of do’s and dont’s for marketing communication. Distribute this to anyone who communicates on behalf of your brand. That’s actually just about everyone on the team, considering that everything from Tweets to recruiting emails shape the perception of your company.



Additional Tips

  • This should be a collaborative and fun exercise. It’d be a great one to do on a Friday afternoon to end the week on a high note.
  • You might get stuck at first thinking about high level things such as “if my brand were a guy, what would he be like?” To get the conversation started, pick a well-known brand and run through this exercise for that company. The old Apple vs. PC ads clearly show a distinct character for the Apple brand. Imagine from there what tone and language would be appropriate to use to follow through on that persona.

Over to you: How do you develop a brand voice for your emails and other marketing channels? Let us know in the comments.


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