UX writing

Brand voice vs product voice: What's the difference?

Different teams use voice and tone to communicate and accomplish different goals. Learn the key difference between brand voice and product voice.
brand voice vs product voice
In: UX writing

We’ve defined voice and tone broadly. Thing is, different teams use voice and tone to communicate and accomplish different goals.

The two main teams that use voice and tone similarly, but also differently, are the marketing team and the product team. In specifics, the copywriting team vs the content design team.

The marketing copywriting team owns, develops, and maintains the brand voice, while the product content design team owns, develops, and maintains the product voice.

Two voices… What’s the difference?

What’s brand voice?

The brand voice is the brand’s personality. That means it’s the personality of everything trying to sell someone on using a product.

Think about when you’re interviewing for a job. You put your best foot forward, come with high energy, strong attention to detail, and an air of professionalism. You do that because you’re trying to, effectively, “sell” yourself as the best candidate for the role. And in this case, your personality is a bit different from day-to-day you because you’re trying to achieve a specific goal that a tweaked version of your personality can help you achieve.

That’s similar to the purpose of the brand voice — it exists to sell someone on signing up for a product. And to do that, it needs to create an emotional connection while competing in a saturated market. Brand voice helps companies develop an identity and create a connection with their consumer, just like you try to do with your “interview personality.”

What is product voice?

No, imagine you get the job (yay, you 🎉)

Since you landed the job, your new goal is to keep the job and build friendly relationships with your co-workers. And to accomplish that, your personality isn’t going to be the same-buttoned up person you were in the interview. You’re going to relax a bit and let people get to know the “real” you.

That’s similar to the product voice — it doesn’t necessarily have the same goals as brand voice. Instead of being there to build an emotional connection like the brand voice, the product voice is there to help the user along their journey through the product in every way possible. Just like your personality on the job is partly to make sure you keep your job for as long as you want to.

But landing the job didn’t change you as a person or anything — you’re still the same you at the core. You’re just emphasizing a different shade of your personality that will help you thrive in snack room chit-chat and in tense disagreements.

The same is true of companies — the brand voice deals with the happy things, like singing up, and sells a vision of a better future. But once they get to that future (aka inside the product,) things can go very wrong, and the product voices need to be able to sound authentic and honest in those scenarios.

Brand voice vs product voice in action

For example, the brand voice and marketing copywriter get to sell things like this:

And the product voice and content designer need to find a way to deliver messages like this:

Imagine you’re helping your younger sibling create their first bank account. You get excited about telling them how much easier it’ll make their life. That’s the brand voice talking.

You open a bank account for them, start setting it up, and then you find out they can’t use it. And this is after you’ve sold them on the idea and input their personal information.

Now, imagine explaining to them why they don’t have the bank account any more and what happened to their personal information. That’s the product voice talking.

In both conversations, you’re the same you. But you lean on different values in each conversation to make sure it goes well.

For example, when selling your sibling on the idea of a bank, values you might lean on are:

  • Optimism
  • Altruism
  • Caring

And when you’re delivering the news that their account got deleted, you light lean on values like:

  • Dependability
  • Trustworthiness
  • Caring

Both are “caring,” but because they have different motivations, they diverge on other core values. But the collection of values can still work together to form one cohesive personality.

Happy UX writing 🖖

Written by
Slater Katz
As founder of The UX Gal, my mission is to make learning UX writing fantastically-simple and landing a job easy. I've held UX writing jobs at companies like Netflix, Fitbit, Verizon, Afterpay, & more.
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