Building a Brand Persona for Voice, Video, and Beyond

So what exactly is a brand persona anyway?

Simply put, it’s the manifestation of a company’s brand being brought to life with… well, a persona. It’s the voice, the tone, the attitude, the values, and the linguistic idiosyncrasies which reveal the personality you want your brand to take on in the minds of your consumers. If your product or company walked into a room, what would they look like? How would they speak? How would they behave?

Some strong examples of brand persona include Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google’s Assistant, Flo from Progressive Insurance, and the GEICO Gecko. Successful brand personas are capable of lasting for years and being used successfully across market segments. Flo, for example, has been around since 2008 and has been used to target home owners, an average buyer, motorcyclists, and RV owners, with her “persona” adjusted for each segment to speak to them clearly.

Why Brand Persona?

Consumers today have unique reasons for making the purchases they do. Like many, they want a good deal, they want quality, and they want choice. But they also value experiences, a sense of belonging to something bigger, and personal recognition.

As you look at building a brand persona, you need to clearly understand what motivates your customers. Get this step wrong and you’ll land off target. If the voice of your brand persona is off, you’ll appear to be tone deaf to your audience.

Having a dedicated brand persona will allow you to stand out and position yourself in an increasingly visual world. Having a defined brand persona lends itself perfectly to video, chat, and voice engagements. In fact, roughly 80% of today’s businesses report using video as a marketing tool, and consumers spend about 1.5 hours a day watching all those online videos. On YouTube the average viewing session is 40 minutes.

Regardless of the medium, there are common steps in building a brand persona.

How Do You Build a Brand Persona?

Collect Your Data

Understand your brand.

  • Who have you been over the last decade? Your actions help define your persona.
  • Interview stakeholders (marketing, brand, customer experience teams)
  • Review your style guide and brand book, and your traditional ad material — including print, TV, etc.
  • Use the product yourself to understand the experience of using it, visit your contact center, and speak to people who interact directly with customers
  • Watch social media to see what surfaces in relation to your brand (and specific products or services)
  • Visit the retail locations selling your product and watch interactions
  • List words that describe the company or product, or that you want to be associated with (e.g., reliable, quality, approachable, trustworthy)

Understand your customer.

  • Review the entire customer journey and learn context along the way
  • Detail the customer demographics and attempt to understand who they are
  • Map the frequency of their engagements with you
    • If frequent, keep voice prompts short
    • If infrequent, include longer prompts
  • Define and understand customer requirements, expectations, and needs

Understand their task.

  • Review the entire customer journey and uncover the discrete elements of information needed to accomplish the task at hand
  • Think of each step a customer needs to accomplish to complete their desired task, and list each step out

Choose the medium for your video’s audio.

  • Text-to-speech (TTS) or custom recording (voice-actor)
  • TTS scales well, but sounds robotic, and is much cheaper
  • Real voice doesn’t scale easily, is expensive, but is also much more professional

Design a Personal Bio

Create characters who might be a good fit to embody the persona based on everything you learned when you collected your data. Use that information to create a personal bio for your brand persona.

  • Define the “register,” or the degree of formality (the social context) of who your persona is going to be: peer, boss, advisor (you can create one of each here).
  • Create a character monologue — a paragraph or two that might be spoken in a casual conversation that provides a sense of this character. Consider a wide range of topics. This is not a sales pitch, but an insight into who they are (what they did on the weekend, travel plans, etc.) This can help get your voice actor into character fully.
  • Create sample dialogue — like a script (customer, persona, customer, persona, etc.).

When you have the personal bio completed, you can build your brand personas using the bio as a baseline. This is the basis for developing a brand persona, and you can change or tweak it at any time.

Further Resources

Building a brand persona is not a quick or simple task, as you can see. But it’s a critical one if you want to be truly memorable to consumers. If you’d like an excellent deep dive, Wally Brill from Google provides one in this video, and the examples clearly illustrate most of the listed information here. The examples shared are based around a focus on smart-speakers, but can be applied to video and chat ecosystems as well.

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