Why the tone of voice matters. And how to use it.
Talk to me in that tone of voice.
Behind every big business is a powerful brand language – the tone, terms and words that the company uses to describe itself and its products. Brand language is as important as brand identity. Like visual signals, it has a big impact on how consumers perceive a company – raising awareness, building trust, differentiating them from competitors.
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The tone of voice is a crucial part of how a brand shapes and performs language, and it is the essence of the brand that is brought to life through words. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it – the type of language used, how the sentences are written, the rhythm and sound of the words. Most people have heard the term “tone of voice” at business meetings. But let’s dig a little deeper into what it’s like to use it when it comes to the game.
The first point of reference for developing any tone of voice is your brand positioning and core values. What does your brand believe in? Is it dynamic and empowering? Is it caring and empathetic? Is it funny and rogue? Or is it a smart, smart expert in your field? And how could all these positions become a tone of voice?
Once you’ve established your primary location, you can use your brand values to create tone of voice principles or rules of thumb for what you write. A dynamic brand like MailChimp can make bold statements and use a lot of verbs with a positive start to capture attention. An empathetic and trustworthy brand like SSE can use warm language and lots of personal pronouns to show its customers that they care. A more tedious brand, such as PaddyPower, can make fun of and use pun.
What, where and when
Staying true to your brand’s core position and values allows you to maintain your tone of voice consistently across all your comedies, from press releases to packaging, to web copy newsletters, press releases, social posts, or UX copies. However, you can select up or down certain elements of your voice tone, depending on which channel you are communicating with. For example, your humanity may show more in your UX copy, your humor in your Instagram post, and the breadth of your knowledge and experience on your website.
Showing who you are. Reach who they are.
Let’s think about how two very different brands could use their tone of voice to express their nature and reach two different audiences. A prestigious brand with an older, more traditional audience can use the word “exquisite” to describe its products, for example, but a more informal brand can simply say “our sweet things” when talking to a younger audience. A traditional brand can say “Please click here” on its website when consumers value clarity and brevity, while a more informal brand can say “let’s do it!” So that a Gen-Z customer who wants to can communicate with them.
Two different brands offer a million distinctions through tone of voice. This gives brands the opportunity to promote their true self – from professional, professional or neutral to gossiping, unique, exciting or bold.
From identification to belief
People express themselves mainly through words and phrases. So why should it be any different for the company? The tone of voice is fundamental because it expresses YOU. How your brand thinks. What he believes in. What is it passionate about. What he’s trying to do. It is an expression of our deepest personality. And it is personality, not products, that allows consumers to go beyond mere identification with business to believe in them wholeheartedly.
In a junk trademark market with more communication channels available to us than ever before, a popping logo and eye-catching visual identity are no longer enough. Each brand has its own voice. And every brand should use it.
A consistent tone of voice helps to build lasting consumer confidence. As we have already touched, identification with tone of voice means identification with personality. And if consumers feel familiar with the personality, they are likely to be loyal to the brand behind it. So while the tone can be made flexible for different scenarios and different audiences, you don’t want to go overboard.
Don’t get too keen on Gen Zi and a banker with a stiff upper lip in your CRM emails. Find a balance. But most importantly, keep something in mind when writing something about your brand’s core values. This means that even if you express things or coins differently in different contexts, your customers will know at a deeper level what you stand for.
Bringing your voice to life
Once you’ve captured your brand positioning and brand values, and based on the voices and principles you create from them, you can really start bringing your voice to life. And the best way to do that is to write, write, write! First, create a message research document that shows you how to select up and down your tone values and policies. Then write for your website, write for Instagram, write your newsletters, enjoy headlines, standfirsts, microcopies, customer emails.
One of the most powerful incarnations of your brand
Finally, remember to show, not talk. Many brands have tone guidelines, but many do not have a truly memorable tone. This is because they get so hard about the rules that they forget to go ahead with them and have fun with them.
Your values and principles give your voice consistency, but you should never fall victim to creativity. Don’t write it because you think it’s right. Or because your instructions dictate it. Write it because you know it. You believe that. And you think that’s the best way to reach someone right now. Then your tone of voice has unlimited potential and can become one of the brightest and most powerful embodiments of your brand.