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What is a brand’s Tone of Voice?

It’s a common discussion amongst marketers and their clients - do we need - *insert element of brand*? Is that necessary? The answer is almost always yes. Each element of a brand, from vision to design has its own impact and relevance. We’re taking a look at what it means to have a clear and refined tone of voice, how it helps and impacts your brand, plus why it matters.

What is a brand’s tone of voice?

A brand’s tone of voice is described as the way a brand communicates, how it says things, rather than what it says. This means factoring in the types of words and phrases you use and even how you order them.

Tone of voice is arguably one of, if not the most crucial element in determining how a brand is perceived by its audiences and relates closely to that brand’s values and personality.

Just say it - why tone matters

Some of the world’s most famous brands invest millions in the creation and maintenance of their brand and its tone of voice. When you really think about it, this makes perfect sense. Consider how the conversations you have with people you meet impact your perceptions, opinions and feelings about them; brands have to foster relationships, largely without personal or consistent face-to-face contact with the founders/creators that devised them. Instead, they do it with their marketing, be that their straplines, packaging, website, social media or advertising material. So, how do they nurture a positive experience and sentiment around the brand? They develop a considered, consistent tone that shows people what the brand stands for.

Connection with your audiences is vital to develop lasting, loyal relationships with consumers and audiences and this has to be done in a variety of ways.

The tone of your brand is influenced by your:

  • Brand personality

  • Brand values

  • Brand mission and purpose

  • An in-depth understanding of your audiences

How do we choose the correct tone for a brand?

If McDonald’s suddenly changed their tone and spoke to you in ads or on social media the way a traditional bank does, you’d notice…it might feel overly formal, serious and likely very clunky. Same applies to if an accountancy firm started speaking the friendly, chatty and humorous way we know Innocent smoothies is famous for. These would not necessarily be bad interactions, they may pique interest or grab attention, but it’s the lasting impact we’re focusing on. If you build your brand in such a way that a lighthearted tone aligns with your values and carries through your marketing, that becomes synonymous with your brand and it works, if things change quickly, or are inconsistent, trust and recognition are compromised.

All of this is about speaking in a way that resonates with your relevant audience(s) and builds trust. We trust things that sound inherently ‘us’ or familiar to the way we ourselves speak. This is found in your brand’s personality - if your brand were a person, who would they be? How would they speak? What would their interests be? We’re going to walk you through the ways we work with brands to build a tone of voice that is authentic, robust and aligns with their values.

Top tips to find your brand’s tone of voice:

To develop your tone of voice, you first need to consider, understand and ensure you have an agreed vision, mission and values.

1. Understand your vision, mission and values

Your vision - This is your aspirations and what you hope to be synonymous with in the future.

Your mission - This is your purpose, why you exist as a brand.

Your values - This is what you stand for, a reflection of your brand’s principles.

2. Focus on your audience types, likes, behaviours

Once you know all of this, it meets the information you know about your desired audiences; things such as age, interests, shopping habits and digital activity websites/apps etc) to form an outline. You’ll also know your competitors at this stage and be able to draw some conclusions about how these people like to engage with brands and how you want to communicate your values.

3. Define your brand attributes

It helps to then consider your brand attributes, to ask yourselves some questions to further shape your understanding of the brand and what you want others to understand about it too.

A table showing the various components of a brand's attributes

4. Create a word bank

Then, we encourage you to draw up a word bank, a list of things your brand is and things it definitely isn't. It can be useful to do this as a basic list, then to run those words through a ‘slider’ to lean towards or away from certain attributes and traits. Here is an example:

A sliding scale showing various qualities of a tone of voice, for example serious vs funny

This all works together to steer you into a place of understanding what you want your customers, clients and relevant audience to feel when they engage with your brand. If you know you want to be chatty, casual and enthusiastic, you have a direction that will sound and be written very differently to a brand that is seeking to sound formal, technical and corporate.

The next step is to consider this application across all touch points, so you need to know what they are. Consistency and authenticity are vital to building trust and making your brand sounds inherently ‘you’.

If you think this sounds like a lot of hard work, or you just don’t know where to start, then let us help you. Drop our team of experts a message today, or give us a call on 01423 396959.

Need a hand with your Tone of Voice?

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Post by

Team Amy K


Head of Brand & Content

Amy joined in 2014 to set up our Content department. She now heads up a growing Brand and Content team, utilising over 13 years’ experience to deliver brand awareness through targeted, multi-channel copy. As well as engaging content for websites and blogs, Amy delivers PR strategies and tone of voice exploration, helping clients to communicate the purpose and values of their brand with maximum impact.

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