Brand voice is what your readers hear in their heads when they read your copy.

It’s the way your brand’s personality comes through in your messaging.

To set yourself apart from others in your industry, you need to have something distinct in your business.

What does it mean to differentiate?

Differentiation happens when an aspect of your business differs from other similar businesses.

You can differentiate your business in a few ways:

  • Signature service or product
  • Process
  • Brand voice
  • Education or experience
  • Niche or specialization

By focusing on the one feature that makes you stand out from the crowd, your business can become top of mind for people.

People will begin to refer others to your business because they know you offer something specific that is desired (a better product, a funny voice, a specialization in a small industry).

Brand voice

For this post we’re looking specifically at brand voice as the main differentiator.

So here’s a quick brand voice definition:

The brand voice is your business’ personality. It’s what you say and how you say it.

This includes the tone, word choice, sentence lengths, and stylistic choices (like punctuation) you choose to include in your copy.

Can brand voice be the differentiator?

Possibly.

A lot of people think that writing in their voice will be different enough – which it might be – but often, your brand voice also has to be different than the majority of others in your industry.

Take Lemon.io, for example.

They match developers to businesses that need them, and plenty of other companies do the same thing.

To differentiate themselves, they chose to take on a brand voice similar to a cult leader. This voice is very different than most others in their industry.

Text Reads: We are Lemon. we’re not your usual freelance platform.
we’re not a dev shop either.
we’re not a software development company.  lemon is the exclusive community of startup sidekicks.  you are the hero of your story.
the one who fights the dragon and rescues the princess.
us? we’re just here to help you find that extra pair of hands.
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Let’s compare Lemon’s brand voice to this example from Toptal; a company also helping businesses hire freelance developers.

They take a more general approach to their copy – wanting to sound “professional” and “authoritative” probably.

And you can bet that most other companies will have copy using the same words.

This is an example of copy trying to speak to all types of clients.

Brand voice as a differentiator can be seen as lacking in this example. The company uses the same words as everybody else. And their headline is: Hire the Top three percent of freelance talent.
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If you look at Lemon’s copy, it speaks to a different type of client.

They know their ideal client will be a bit of a geek who would find the humor in this copy—someone who loves the wordplay and outlandish images that take over Lemon’s home page.

Brand voice as a differentiator can be seen in this example because this copy is different than the other companies. Their headline is: Behold! The almighty devs you've been searching for.
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While I’m sure both companies do great work, Lemon stands out because they’ve taken that risk and gone with copy that speaks to their ideal client and repels everyone else.

Watch this Tutorial Tuesday as Joanna walks through her website project with Lemon.io and demonstrates their brand voice as a differentiator.

How can you use brand voice to differentiate?

Let’s look at some companies who use their brand voice as their differentiator and see how they make it work.

Poo-Pourri

Poo-Pourri stands out by giving their brand not just a voice but a whole character.

(Read more about their brand voice as a differentiator here)

They chose to embrace that talking about going #2 is a taboo subject.

And to get around it, they use a comedic brand voice that breaks the ice when having these conversations.

Poo-Pourri's home page. They're a great example of brand voice as a differentiator. Text reads: New at -Pourri. Whether you want your poo to smell like birthday cake, or you're trying to get high on the low, we've got a killer roster of new products you're going to funkin' looooove.
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Which is vastly different than other companies (like Lysol) selling toilet bowl cleaners or air fresheners.

Oatly

Most milk and milk alternative websites (like Natrel) aren’t much to scream about.

That’s why Oatly‘s brand voice really jumps out at you.

Rather than using copy that creates images of rolling, green hills, and happy cows, Oatly wants you to form opinions for yourself, and they have no problem sharing theirs.

Their brand voice differentiates based on sharing their unique viewpoint and picking a fight with what they see wrong with their industry.

My favorite part? They even mention that their brand voice will inevitably turn some people away – and they’re OK with it!

Oatly is the perfect example of brand voice as a differentiator. 
Text reads: If you haven’t noticed yet, we are a company that has some pretty strong opinions, whether about how we can shift consumption of animals to plants in order to help secure the longevity of our planet, or about whether the Seattle Mariners will ever play in a World Series.  Most companies think that having a strong opinion means scaring away customers who think differently. We think it’s a good way to make some new friends. So, for the record, we believe we should grow stuff to eat instead of growing stuff to feed animals that we then eat.  Everybody—regardless of spiritual beliefs, birth country, race, gender, sexual orientation, or color of their nail polish—is of equal worth. The reckless pursuit of profits without any consideration for the well-being of the planet and the humans that live here should be considered a crime. Companies have as much responsibility as politicians do for building a society that every one of us living in this world can admire.
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Liquid Death

Liquid Death makes still and sparkling water in cans.

And their tagline is “Death to plastic.”

If that doesn’t pique your interest, their website will – overflowing with visuals, they have a very small amount of copy.

And much like Oatly, they have strong opinions about their industry.

This is how their brand voice differentiates their company from the rest that create the same product.

They’re not afraid to actively seek out and destroy other companies for not considering the planet when making beverages.

Compare this company to one like Coca-Cola (they own Dasani water), whose copy creates a happy world where everything can be solved with a drink.

Brand voice is a strong differentiator in this company.
Text reads: Most major bottled water brands are actually just processed municipal tap water. Liquid Death comes from a deep underground mountain source protected by a few hundred feet of stone. The water is tapped right from the source into our bottler where it goes directly into air-tight cans after a fancy purification process that 100% maintains the original mineral profile of the water. And these natural minerals (aka electrolytes) aren’t just good for your body, they will murder your thirst. Instantly.
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Can you stand out with your voice?

Of course you can.

Once you figure out what you want your voice to sound like and create some guidelines to give you consistency, all you have to do is stick to the voice when writing your copy.

To effectively use brand voice to differentiate, you need to say something new or in a new way from others in your industry.

This is why software companies often have difficulties with copy because there are so many competitors in the same space.

Joanna offers some solutions in this podcast.

And for more training on brand voice as a differentiator, immerse yourself in Justin Blackman’s masterclass inside Copy School.