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The Big Book of Ecommerce Marketing Chapter 1: Ecommerce Marketing Essentials

Lesson 3:

Say It Like You Mean It: Brand Voice, Style, and Tone For Ecommerce Brands

Whether you know your brand voice like the inside of your favorite sweater, or you could use a little help echolocating your power vocals, this brand voice guide for email + SMS marketing will help you inch even closer to who you are, what you sound like, and how you communicate with your customers. If you’re an ecommerce brand peddling a sweet product, all you really have in the way of initial customer connection are your words, what and how you use them, and your lewk. All three should be unique to you and, newsflash, looks can only take you so far. 

With social media making everything sparkle, how else do you expect to stand out from other brands in your industry or niche? However fabulous it may be, your product or service is the same as the next product or service. Unless you find your own voice and use it without apology.   

Before we start pushing the buttons we need to push to get at your specific voice, let’s start with a quick framework. Something to keep in mind while moving through this interactive brand voice guide. If in doubt, always return to the following one-two punch: 

  1. How do your customers talk and communicate? What do they sound like, and what kind of slang is in their repertoire?
  2. What do you want people to experience and feel when they hear from you? Whether on social media, your website, IRL, or through email and SMS.  

Say it like you mean it

You’ve written your brand story and infused it into every element of your business. You know who your customers are and what they want on a variety of levels—or at least you’re learning everything you can about them using Drip’s deep-dive analytics and segmentation. But what about how your brand sounds? What about its voice (which, really, is the voice of your target audience)? Where does it come from, how consistent is it, and do you encourage it to speak up across all touchpoints, including your email and SMS marketing? 

While it’s 100% essential to have your brand story on lockdown, if you don’t tell it in a voice that’s true to you and your people, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Without a clear, honest, and distinct brand voice, you are far less likely to be heard, seen, and understood—especially in the ever-rising sea of ecommerce. And far more likely to miss potential conversions and engagement as a result. Brand voice (and story) builds brand affinity. Period. 

With your very own voice (nope, brand voice is not style or tone—we’ll get to those a little later), you can draw in and connect with the right kinds of customers. How? When customers feel heard, seen, and understood through your language and lexicon, the seed of emotional connection is planted and there’s no turning back.

Ready to scooch a little closer to the heart of your brand voice? Well, we’ve put together a handy (not-boring), interactive Brand Voice Kit to help get you started. Mini in size but mighty in effect, this kit includes a fun list of questions to get you feeling around in the dark for your voice. Plus a fillable, throwback-style Mad Libs to help you connect more with whomever it is you want your brand to sound like. Madonna? Obama? Shirley Temple? Either way, we’re excited for you to get a whole lot closer to finding your voice and using it. 

What’s your vocal range? A quick note about voice, style, and tone

Voice is different from style is different from tone.

Voice is who you are, innately and across the board. As such, your voice is the constant in the following equation—voice + tone = the specific message you want to send. 

Like voice, style is a constant. It’s how the text you write lives and looks on the page, across all touchpoints (digital or otherwise). Do you Oxford comma? Are you on that AP Style vibe? Em dash queen—or full-stop prince? Active or passive voice, babe?

In order to maintain consistency across all of your material, always remember that voice and style are the constants while tone is the variable.

Tone changes depending on what you are talking about, to whom, and where. Within your ideal customer profile, you likely have a few different personas. You typically are reaching those personas with different content, through different marketing channels, specific subscriber list segmentation, or targeted marketing. As such, you’ll adjust your tone for the channel, topic, and customer while still remaining true to your overall brand voice and style. 

Pretend you’re selling bespoke cabins in an off-the-beaten-path village in Norway. As this bespoke cabin seller, the tone you might use with, say, a young couple looking for somewhere rustic and remote to settle down and grow a small business will differ from the tone you would adopt with a pair of retired snowbirds wanting to trade compressed city life for open spaces and a slower daily pace.

Here’s an in-action example of how tone will shift (while voice and style remain constant) according to your audience Note: the sender is an organic t-shirt brand wanting to reclaim abandoned cart sales through SMS. 

  • Audience/Customer A: Millennials interested in 90’s pop culture, Clueless-era outfits, eco-friendly manufacturing, and Gia Tolentino.
  • SMS A: Whew—your cart (filled with tees we know would look cute AF on you) was rolling away and we caught it for you! Come rummage through it with us and we’ll send you a FREE organic cotton tote for hitting Buy Now in the next 24hrs. P.S. Good call on the Chartreuse V-Neck—a fab match for any of your chunky platforms. 
  • Audience/Customer B: Gen X’ers who value universality and function over fashion, eco-friendly manufacturing, comfort, and Joan Didion.  
  • SMS B: Don’t worry, dear. We saved your cart for you (you know, the one filled with capsule-worthy, laid-back tees perfect for any occasion). Head back to your picks and we’ll apply 20% OFF at checkout for the next 24hrs. Oh, and don’t forget to let yourself feel good about your smart, comfy, sustainable purchase. 

Want to work out your own voice so you can start playing around with different tones for different folks? Download our interactive Brand Voice Kit and get things rolling!

Bonus tracks: subject line formulas (and why every character counts)

Email subject lines are the very first impression you make on existing or potential customers. Throw in a generic subject line and preheader, and you’ll get a generic response (read: none at all). Even worse, you could end up making a subpar impression. The takeaway? Inject your brand voice into your subject lines. Don’t sound like every other brand in your niche.

If every marketing email, even the unopened ones, makes some kind of impression (which they all do), then don’t you want every email you send to make the best, most connective, on-brand impression possible? 

The answer is yes. No email or SMS is too small to not care about infusing it with your brand voice. Every message in an inbox is like a mini-billboard. Even if folks just drive by without opening much of anything, every subject line seen adds up to a larger cumulative impression. Every send you make, contributes to the overall connection someone ends up having with your brand. 

So, either you build that connection through a consistently strong voice across every single touchpoint (drops in a bucket, baby). Or you waste your time sending your brand out into the world using a voice that either doesn’t know itself, or doesn't speak up, and miss out on making a bunch of new besties.  

To start turning heads (or at least stick inside them) with your email subject lines, check out this article on subject line formulas and put them to good use. Oh, and don’t forget to let your brand voice shine through!

On a more personal parting note…

Like our Chief Evangelist Stephanie Griffith says, “Just because it’s personalized, doesn’t mean it’s personal.” So, while you’re busy nailing your brand voice across every email and SMS you send, don’t forget to think about how you’re making your segmentation work for you. Between brand voice, subject lines, and segmentation, you’ll give every customer that “I see you” kind of vibe.