If someone who knew your brand read all of your marketing material without any mention of your brand name or any sign of your logo, would they know that it was yours and that all the materials belonged to the same company? If the answer to this is yes then congratulations – you’ve nailed your brand’s tone of voice. If the answer is no, then you should probably read this blog post.
When you communicate with someone, you listen to the words that they use, the tone of their voice, and you read their body language. When it comes to brands speaking digitally to their customers, there’s no way of reading body language through a phone or computer screen, which is why pinning down a strong tone of voice is a huge part of marketing.
Ok, so what actually is tone of voice?
It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Tone of voice is the way your brand communicates. It makes a business a brand and it’s an expression of its values and way of thinking. Just as when you’re speaking to a person and their tone of voice can help you gauge their mood and the way you are going to react to what they are saying, the same can be said for a brand and their customers.
Tone of voice ties in very closely with your brand’s personality. It informs all your marketing communications; from site content, to social media and email marketing. A customer will start to form an image of your brand based on the tone of voice within all of your content straight from the get-go. You can use this personality to attract and appeal to your ideal customer. If your perfect audience is high flying businessmen and women, then you’ll probably want to adopt a professional and authoritative tone. For teenagers and young adults, you will be better positioned with a fun and quirky vibe.
It’s not only attracting the right customer base that a tone of voice is good for. With a strong and consistent tone of voice comes a sense of trust or familiarity that will make your current customers feel at ease. They know who you are and they know what to expect. If your tone of voice is inconsistent or weak, it can actually be quite a discomfort for customers, whether they realise it or not.
How do I find my brand’s tone of voice?
Rule number one: stay true to your brand. Choose a tone of voice that reflects your genuine values. Don’t do what your competitors are doing and don’t try and be something that you’re not. Don’t try and be fun and goofy if that’s not you. Equally, don’t try and be serious and direct if that’s not you.
Here’s a little exercise to get you started. Ask yourself – if your brand was a person, what would they be like? If it were a biscuit, what biscuit would it be? (we’d be a party ring). Try and see your brand as a person who speaks in a certain way and has their own unique set of values, attitudes and behaviours. Why does your brand do whatever it does, and why is it so passionate about it? Create the backstory.
From this image in your mind, pick three core human values for your brand. Human values are the key to strong marketing, after all. Ask yourself, where on the line would your brand’s personality fall on each of the below integer characteristics?
By now, your brand’s personality might be taking a little more shape. When it comes to actually implementing this into your marketing material, think about your choice of words, the length of your sentences, the rhythm and pace of the content and the emotion and possible humour that it conveys. Every word and comma should feed into this brand identity.
And remember, it’s okay to alter and adapt this tone of voice depending on the platform you’re speaking on, and where in their journey a customer might be. For instance, you’ll probably want to speak differently on social media (on a more human level), to the way you speak on the services page on your website (more professional and detail-heavy).
Your brand might also have to speak to different audiences. The most common example of this is in products marketed to children. Adults are the ones purchasing the product, but children will be the users. You need to find a way to speak to and appeal to each group.
Lastly, your tone of voice will have to morph into different moods. Although the underlying character of your brand won’t change, it may have to adapt to different situations and areas of the customer journey. Whilst it might start out bright and breezy when inviting customers in, at some point when you get down to the nitty-gritty of your services or products, you’ll need to drop this a little to make way for important detail and straight forward information.
Consistency is key
When a tone of voice is consistent, your customers hear the same person speaking whenever and however you deal with them. It’s a voice that they’re familiar with and they trust, which can only be a good thing. An inconsistent voice can kill that trust pretty quickly.
Imagine; you order a burger in a restaurant. It arrives and it’s cooked to perfection – it’s the best burger you’ve ever had. A month later, you visit the restaurant again and order the same burger, but it arrives overcooked. You’re annoyed but you let it slide, however if this was to happen again then you’re probably going to lose faith in the restaurant and the amazing burger you started out with will feel like a distant memory. This is why consistency is key.
Once you’ve really nailed that tone of voice, it’s down to everyone else involved in your company to carry this through to every area and aspect of the brand. Creating a set of tone of voice guidelines for everyone to work from is probably the best way to keep things tight – especially if you’re ever outsourcing your content to third-party content writers.
Without a strong tone of voice, your business has no real personality – or not one that your customers will be able to identify and connect with anyway. It’s the route to gaining trust, credibility and authenticity.