The strongest brand voices are so recognizable, you could hear them from another room and guess the company.
How do they pull it off? It starts with a series of strategic language choices. Are they chatty or direct? Casual or formal? Playful or serious? Braggy or humble? Taken together, the answers start to create a memorable and distinctive personality. Ideally, that personality sticks in customers’ heads and helps achieve commercial objectives, too.
Just like people, the language a brand uses shapes the way we feel about them. At its most dramatic, it can be the difference between a Target (youthful, energetic, aspirational) and a Sears (RIP).
Almost every brand wants to nail the basics to avoid sentences like: We enable companies to optimize operations through innovative, cost-effective solutions. But the best take it up a notch.
They make gutsy creative decisions. Invest time and talent to embed their voice in every communication. And think deeply about language and what it signifies to carve out a niche of their own.
Here are three brands that nail it, plus a look at how they pulled it off.
Oatly: Maximalism that works
Oatly is the poster child for how tone of voice can transform a business, and for good reason.
Here they are before their rebrand:
It makes me vaguely sad. Setting aside the fact that the logo feels like it belongs to a company making industrial printers, this brand is a “milk replacement,” not a delicious disruptor taking on the dairy industry.
They likely didn’t have a brand voice at all. There’s just a bit of functional copy. Basically zero personality.
Here they are after:
It speaks to the reader like a person. Less Stockholm insurance regulator, more fun-loving Swede who invites you to celebrate the summer solstice on their eco-farm. They play the ukulele and harmonica at the same time, and make their own clothes. You want to hang out with them.
This is the type of voice that builds a cult brand — and it did. They’ve also done the hard job of nailing consistency, which is crucial to a successful brand voice: hiring strong writers, training the team, checking that everything they put out into the world strengthens their personality instead of undermining it. See how this video captures the same voice in a totally different medium.
Same for their social posts:
It’s over the top, but it works. There’s a clear persona that inspires writers to take risks, but with guardrails that keep it distinctively Oatly. It takes a lot of effort to pull a voice like this off. But if you can, it’s transformative.
Patagonia: Authentic commitment
Patagonia is similarly mission-minded, but takes a different tack. It’s a clarion call, upping the urgency and embracing a full-on activist approach. They speak with frankness, clarity, and conviction. Their voice can even lean mournful, which is something you rarely see from an apparel brand.
In a sea of greenwashed consumer brands and reams of milquetoast sustainability messaging, what sets Patagonia apart? The sense of authenticity and real commitment. Their values aren’t a branding exercise – they are genuine and deeply held beliefs.
That impacts the way they speak. Patagonia isn’t afraid of provocative, direct, and even combative language. They say things others wouldn’t, even if it means alienating potential customers and losing out on business. Which, of course, makes their core customers love them even more.
That ethos led to an iconic bit of copy in 2017:
Formula 1: All adrenaline
We get to give ourselves one – it’s our blog after all.
Formula 1 is all about speed, adrenaline, guts, and glory. But they’d ended up sounding like a corporate boardroom discussing Q4 operational costs.
We brought the voice back in touch with what people love about F1. Real emotion. Real stakes. Human stories. All with language that feels sharp, vivid, and tangible. It was a perspective shift that helped F1 speak to fans that love the sport, while showing the rest of the world why they should, too.
For example, driver biographies go from boilerplate facts to setting the stage for drama. Evocative details, snappy sentences, and a meaningful story raise the stakes:
Their new voice helped F1 pivot from a race organization operating in the background to a major player with a brand of their own. And it’s language that drives it all home.
Building a brand means making high-stakes choices. Your name, your logo, your visual identity – it all plays a role in who you’ll be to the world, and each element should reinforce the others. But the truly great brands – the ones that stand out from a crowded category, thrive against trends and expectations, and build true loyalty – know the way they speak is just as important. And that even small decisions around language are worth taking seriously.