People trust and remember businesses that have a consistent, recognizable brand identity. A distinct personality helps the company appear more reliable and established in the eyes of the consumer and connects with them on a more profound level.
Think of how you associate a certain way of talking with the people you know in real life. The same applies to brands: Once a company manages to develop a unique tone of voice, its audience starts to recognize the brand’s messaging even when the company name is not attached to it.
In this blog post, you’ll learn all about brand tone of voice, why it matters, and how to shape yours. Ready? Let’s begin!
What Is a Tone of Voice?
Although it may sound self-explanatory, what exactly is tone of voice? A company’s communication can be very diverse, including verbal as well as non-verbal interactions with customers across many touchpoints.
Merriam-Webster gives the following tone of voice definition: The way a person is speaking to someone.
This definition mainly refers to the spoken word. However, tone of voice in communication between brands and their customers entails much more. In this sense, the term is mostly used in the context of written content that appears on social media, websites, emails, and conversations with clients.
Brand tone of voice reflects how a company chooses to present itself to the public and share its message with the customer. A lot of thought goes into crafting a brand’s writing style to ensure the latter is consistent with the company’s mission, visual style, and overall identity.
Brand Voice vs. Tone of Voice
The two terms above are somewhat similar, hence the confusion between them. In order to make the difference more apparent to you, we’ll explain the two concepts below.
Brand voice shows your company’s distinct view on any subject matter based on who you are as a brand. It’s integral to your identity and only changes when so does the latter.
Brand tone of voice, on the other hand, is more about the stylistic choice of how you choose to communicate rather than what. Consequently, it’s all about the right choice of words, writing style, punctuation, emotional tonality, pacing, sentence structure, etc.
Unlike brand voice, tone of voice is adjustable and more fluid. It can slightly change based on a few factors:
- Audience segments: Your audience might consist of various groups, depending on demographic differences, behavior patterns, etc. For example, the tone you’d use to talk to teenagers will be different from the one addressing an older audience.
- Communication channels: Similarly, when your brand is present on multiple platforms, your tone of voice might slightly shift as you go from one channel to another. Watch how Starbucks talks on Instagram vs. LinkedIn.
Source: Starbucks on Instagram and LinkedIn
- Content goals: Whenever you create content, there is a particular goal you’re aiming for. Whether it’s educating your audience, spreading brand awareness, making a sales pitch, or sending out cold emails, you need to adjust your tone of voice to the campaign’s objective.
Why Do You Need a Tone of Voice?
Defining your tone of voice will impact nearly every aspect of your company — from its outward image to internal communication. Below are a few key reasons why it’s vital to define your company’s tone of voice.
Create a Recognizable Brand
Just like a unique visual style sets your company apart from the competition, so does a unique tone of voice. What is the level of formality in your written pieces? How do you comment on specific situations? Are you referring to your customers as peers or juniors?
Depending on your answer to these questions, your business will display a particular brand image, thus affecting the public’s perception of you. From human agents to AI customer service assistants, outdoor banners, and online copy, any communication with the user contributes to shaping that image.
Besides knowing what tone(s) to aim for in your communication, you should also observe some extent of consistency. As mentioned earlier, your tone of voice can vary on different channels. However, the tones you choose should still be congruent with one another and with your brand personality at large.
Build Trust With Your Target Audience
Consumers are more likely to trust a business that displays consistency in what they do. And consistency in their way of communication adds a lot of credibility to a brand. Regardless of how casual or formal your brand sounds, establishing a specific tone will increase your company’s authority, as it will create a solid persona to present to your audience.
Improve Campaign Performance
Your choice of words and tonality will alter based on the specific goal(s) you set for your marketing campaigns. A social media ad campaign, for instance, will need concise, catchy messaging, whereas a lead-generating email campaign will need to be more informative. Naturally, the two scenarios will require different tones of voice, each targeting the goals and audience the campaign is intended for.
Specifying what tone of voice to use in each type of project will result in more personalized messages that will better connect with your target audience. SmarterHQ has found that 72% of customers claim they only engage with personalized marketing messages. So picking the right tone to accompany your marketing pitch will increase the latter’s efficiency.
How to Define Your Brand’s Tone of Voice
Finding your tone of voice might seem tricky and complicated, but things will come a lot more easily once you break down the process into actionable steps. The guide below will do exactly that!
1. Study Your Audience
The first step to developing your tone of voice is audience research. Sounds sensible, doesn’t it? In order to figure out how to speak, you need to know who you’re speaking to. As each business has its unique target group that prefers and understands a specific language, jargon, and communication style, it’s up to the company to adapt to those requirements.
Audience research beings by uncovering the demographics of your customers, such as their age, location, gender, occupation, interests, and education. Once you put all the information together, you’ll get a clear picture of who your customers are and how they should be approached. You can rely on Google Analytics, Semrush, or native social media analytics tools to extract the necessary details about your followers.
2. Define Your Values
Every brand asset that you create and share with the world has to derive from your company’s core values. These are the driving forces behind your band that reveal who you are and what you stand for. A set of common values that you and your buyers share will spark a stronger, more meaningful bond, fostering brand loyalty among your customers.
One of the best tone of voice examples comes from Apple — a tech giant that has simplicity and innovation as its core values. Staying true to its promise, Apple observes a simplicity not only in its product design but also in its messaging tone. From the website copy to the slogan, any content produced by this company is clear, straightforward, and simple.
3. Define the Dimensions of Tone of Voice
At this point, you should have enough data about your audience and your brand, which means it’s finally time to put that information into practice and start shaping your tone. There are four main tone of voice dimensions:
- Funny vs. serious
- Formal vs. casual
- Respectful vs. irreverent
- Enthusiastic vs. matter-of-fact
This may seem like a strict, black-and-white radar, but it actually allows quite a bit of room for flexibility. The dimensions create a broad spectrum where you can decide which pole your brand stands closer to. You can also choose to not lean towards either side, declaring a neutral position.
When you look at tone of voice examples, you’ll hardly ever come across companies that are strictly funny or serious. A wide variety of tone of voice types stem from just these four dimensions:
…and many more.
Every established brand has a personality. So think about yours to ease your search for the right type of tone.
Once you’ve identified which characteristics best suit your company, you can take it further and list specific words to describe your tone of voice. For instance, if you’ve determined your tone is casual, are you friendly, flirty, or conversational? Define what exactly the trait entails with the help of describing words.
4. Create a Style Guide
After defining your brand tone, the next important stage is its proper implementation. This means gathering all the findings from the previous steps into a unified document that is accessible to your team members. It’ll ensure that everyone involved in creating and distributing branded content, be it textual or visual, will be on the same page to keep a consistent presentation of your organization.
Your guide will ideally highlight the key characteristics of your brand, the variations of tones for different circumstances, and clear tone of voice examples to demonstrate what should and shouldn’t be done. Take a look at Mailchimp’s Content Style Guide:
Source: Mailchimp Content Style Guide
When you search the web, you’ll come across different answers to “What is tone of voice?” But for brands, it represents the way a company communicates with its audience. Your brand tone of voice should be aligned with your identity to help project a consistent brand image regardless of the platform.
Observe your audience, specify your core values, choose your tone of voice dimensions, and sum it all up in a guidebook to ensure consistency.
Did you know that you can train Hoory, your AI-powered assistant, to answer clients in your unique tone of voice? Click the button below to learn more about Hoory!