We have no idea why, but for some reason a brand’s tone of voice is one of the last things that business owners think about. Maybe it’s because your logo and visuals are so tangible, and visual language is easy to comprehend. But the problem with this picture is that unless you have a clearly defined tone of voice that represents the personality and values of your company then you have only done half the job in bringing your brand to life.
“Your words can permanently influence a life.” ― Jerry Falwell
If you’re going to connect with your customers on a level that makes them want to follow you and become an advocate, then you need to say something that matters in a way that feels personal to your audience.
And it needs to be consistent, it shouldn’t vary just because a different person wrote the copy on that day. Your brand is bigger than that. This is where a tone of voice makes all the difference.
What is a tone of voice?
Tone of voice is how the character of your business comes through in your words, both written and spoken. It’s not just about what you say, but rather the way you say it.
Think of this as the order, rhythm and pace of your chosen words. But most importantly a tone of voice is about the impression it makes on everyone in your audience who reads or hears you.
A company’s tone of voice will inform all of its written copy, including its website, social media messages, marketing collateral, emails and packaging.
Your tone of voice…
- Is an expression of your brand personality defined in your brand strategy.
- Sets you apart from your competitors. It should be distinctive, unique and recognisable.
- Builds trust. When your audience becomes familiar with the way you communicate they feel more at ease with you, they feel like they know you.
- Is a tool to influence. It’s often the way you say things that creates a certain feeling. Imagine asking someone for a book. How would your brand ask them? ‘You wouldn’t happen to have a book I could borrow, would you?’ ‘Do you have a book I can borrow?’, ‘Pass me that book.’ The way your brand speaks, impacts the way your audience feels about you.
Tips to help you define your tone of voice
Writing a tone of voice can seem daunting, so we have outlined a few tips to help you along the way.
1. START WITH YOUR PURPOSE & VALUES
What is it that you want to tell the world? What do you stand for? Why was the company set up in the first place? The influence you want to have on the world needs to come through in your language. Your belief system, your code by which you operate, all needs to be expressed.
2. WHAT MAKES YOU UNIQUE?
Understanding how you are different goes a long way to creating an interesting tone of voice.
For example you may be a brand that makes ceramic plateware. But if you hand make that plateware with natural products using artisans from around the world then your focus may be more about travel, and cultures and living close to nature, and your language may be more soft, earthy and approachable.
If you create plateware that is meticulously made in a factory and every piece is exactly the same, your language may be more about precise processes and feel quite crisp and structured. How you are different informs the way you speak.
3. DEFINING YOUR BRAND PERSONALITY
Imagine your brand is a person. What kind of person would they be? What would they look like? What would they wear? Where would they go? What would they do? How would they speak? Imagine you were this person and you were having a conversation with another person. Document that conversation.
4. ATTRIBUTES TO DEFINE YOUR LANGUAGE
What attributes can you give the language of your brand? Here is a list of attributes to get you thinking. Do any of these resonate with you?
Choose 3 or 4 from the list below, or find your own and write out how each of these attributes sound. It’s also helpful to document how the attribute doesn’t sound. For example ‘sounds sophisticated, but not stuffy’.
How three big brands describe their tone of voice
Virgin Mobile use their tone to differentiate from their competitors by using 5 main rules: stay positive, keep it simple, use humour, be human, make it fresh.
“Our values and personality bring an emotional richness to the IKEA Brand and are reflected in our tone of voice.” Ikea describes their tone of voice as playful, common-sense, truthful and curious.
Airbnb explain their tone of voice as straightforward, inclusive, thoughtful, and spirited.
In building your brand it’s important to develop a distinctive language. It helps differentiate you and helps you create stronger connections with your audience.
We would love to hear about your brand’s tone of voice, or if you need some help in defining your TOV, please feel free to get in touch.
Jodie + Em xx
PS If you need help answering those super important questions for your business like purpose, values and differentiation check out our How to Build a Rockstar Brand online course which covers everything you need to build your own rockstar brand.