Why Are Copy Guidelines Essential for Successful Marketing?
August 19, 2022
Ah, marketing. From storefronts to email blasts, marketing is literally everywhere.
*checks behind shoulders* Yep, it’s there, too.
So what exactly does the word “marketing” make you think of? Maybe graphic design? Social media management? Digital marketing? Those are definitely integral parts of successfully marketing your brand, no doubt about it. But how often do we zero in on our brands’ voice?
What is brand voice?
Communication between a brand and its audiences usually involves writing. “Copy,” or the written portion of an advertisement, is part of every brand - online or not.
Your brand must speak, so make sure your audience wants to hear what it has to say!
With that being said, your brand voice and tone are what establish + maintain your brand’s personality and solidify your brand’s message.
For instance: think of a well-known person. Let’s use Barack Obama. If you’re familiar with him, you’re most likely able to recall his deep, commanding voice as it reverberated through the microphone. The way he took charge as he spoke and captivated cheerful audiences. You might even be able to recall some specific words and vernacular he often used. The words “introverted” or “quiet” probably don't come to mind when you think of his speeches. You’re probably thinking more along the lines of “charismatic,” “personable,” and “empowering.”
The same should happen with your brand. Your ideal clients should easily be able to attach a certain feeling to the words and tone your brand used. They should know what to expect.
Keep your content consistent.
In this ever-changing, overstimulated world, consistency is the key ingredient in the recipe of success. Admittedly this takes time, but it’s essential for producing consistency. Our brains love consistency and will go to great lengths to find it. What’s more, we’re rewarded for consistency! It reassures us, and it helps keep us calm.
In this ever-changing, overstimulated world, consistency is the key ingredient in the recipe of success.
Nestled comfortably inside your brand standards are your copy guidelines: a set of rules to follow when your brand communicates with your audience in any written form. These guidelines can include:
- Brand voice
- Brand pillars/values
- Sample headlines
- Tone adaptations
- Keywords + key phrases
- Formatting mechanics
- CTAs (calls to action)
- And anything else that helps writers stick to your voice
Want to see how easily copy guidelines translate into the real world? (or the stuff your clients + competition see)? Stick around to see examples of how copy guidelines turn boring into bravo!
The bottom line is this: your consumers want consistency. While that’s not the only thing they want, it sure ranks highly on the list.
A few aliases for copy guidelines.
And, as we all know, the internet is muddied with copious amounts of clutter. AKA, stuff online is confusing. But we’re all about clarity + collaboration, so let’s un-muddy the waters a bit. Here are some other terms commonly used to refer to copy guidelines:
- Content style guide
- Communications manual
- Written brand identity
Why do I need clearly defined copy guidelines?
We’re so glad you asked.
Having copy guidelines for your brand is not just some high-level concept. Nor is it only important for one specific niche. A successful brand has a clearly defined message, and a consistent way of communicating it.
We’ve worked on our fair share of brand voices. Check out our work for Moonlight and The Canopies. While you won't see the actual copy guidelines (those are for the client!), you’ll see what we’ve been talking about: a consistent feel throughout the entire brand.
How do copy guidelines actually help?
Here are 3 ways copy guidelines can improve your internal affairs:
#1 - They make your internal processes smoother.
From brainstorming sessions to presentation prep, having your brand voice and tone clearly defined makes for a smoother way of doing business. Your team will be aligned to your brand’s message - like riders on a tandem bike pushing towards a common goal.
#2 - They allow for more seamless content creation.
Think about it this way - you have a team of 10 people working on 4 social media platforms producing content. Left to itself, that would lead to major inconsistencies. But in walks your shiny new copy guidelines! They don't stifle creativity - they just structure it. Now all of your content creators have a solid jumping off point for everything they put out.
#3 - They can help new team members get acclimated to your brand voice quickly.
Now we’re back to the need-within-a-need that is copy guidelines. When you have clearly written copy guidelines to follow, this makes it easy on all of your writers.
Your current writers will become more aligned & in-tune with your brand’s voice. It becomes easier to write like your brand. And if it’s easy for the writers, it’s easier for the readers (psst.. those are your customers!)
And newer writers will slide right into place like a soda can in a koozie. They’ll be able to quickly familiarize themselves with your brand voice, your message, the mechanics of writing like your brand, and so on. Less “figuring it out” and more “wow, you wrote that?!”
Let’s see it happen!
Good copy guidelines are like a house built on a solid foundation. You’re sure to succeed. So here a few examples of brands doing amazing things with their marketing, all thanks to well-established copy guidelines setting the stage.
- Vacation Inc. - Seriously refreshing and rejuvenating copy. Instantly transports you to a sunny, tropical paradise.
- 21 copywriting wins - Prime examples of how powerful copy guidelines (aka a solid message and clearly defined brand voice!) translate into witty, clear, clever copy.
- And of course, us! - We’ve taken the time to follow our own advice. See for yourself!
Your brand and beyond.
If you set up this solid foundation, everyone who’s involved in making your brand move will thank you. But what about your customers? What about the people buying from you, competing with you, or the ones that have no idea what you offer?
Yep. A clearly defined brand voice will help you there too. Here are 4 ways copy guidelines can serve you externally.
#1 - They separate you from your competition.
Psst… not everyone is doing this! Not all businesses take the time to clearly define their brand voice. It’s not common! By taking the time to think through your brand voice and establishing copy guidelines, you’re already ten steps ahead of your competition.
#2 - They allow your audience to familiarize themselves with your brand.
A consistent voice means your audience knows what to expect when they hear from you. Is your brand fun + quirky? They’ll expect a laugh or a witty comment. Is your content more serious, informative, or academic? Then they’ll know to turn to you as a trusted source in that field. See what we mean? Copy guidelines make it easier for your audience to recognize your brand and familiarize themselves with it.
#3 - They build trust + loyalty among your audience.
It bears repeating: our brains like consistency. This takes time, but the more our brains can find consistency, the better. If your consumers recognize that your brand has a certain way of carrying itself, they’ll trust your content more. And guess what? Over the long term, that trust translates into loyalty. That loyalty means they’re much more likely to purchase your product or service - and they’ll be more inclined to trust your results.
#4 - They help independent vendors do their work.
This one’s a little harder to see, but it’s no less important. No matter the industry or department (think social media agencies, web dev companies, SEO vendors, event planners, etc.) - one set of copy guidelines will help all the arms of your brand run smoothly. Independent vendors or freelancers will be able to do their jobs consistently & well without always asking: does this sound right?
So what does all this look like?
Not everyone’s writing out their brand’s copy guidelines - but some brands are. Here are some great examples of well-executed copy guidelines (aka, brand voice and tone).
To sum it all up, clearly defined brand voice and tone are the main ingredients in the recipe of success. Why? Let’s recap:
- Having a clearly defined voice, tone, and message makes it easier for you and your team to create content and communicate with your audience.
- It builds trust and loyalty with your target audience. They expect consistency, so give it to them.
- Not everyone is doing this! You’ll separate yourself from the competition by taking the time to pay this much attention to your marketing approach.