When you think about marketing, you think about advertising, lead generation, colours and logos, a dynamic website that attracts interest, keeps the user engaged and ultimately converts that interest to sales. Brand tone of voice - what your company ‘sounds’ like - is not an element that is often taken into account. It is, however, the one element that underpins and brings together all elements of a marketing campaign.
What is a Brand Tone of Voice?
Your company’s brand tone of voice is the overarching personality of your organisation. It is the words and language it uses, the emotions that drive it, the stories that illustrate who you are as a company, what your place is in society, how you relate to your customers, and what your core values are.
Your brand tone of voice comes through in all areas of your company. From the more obvious areas, such as your marketing and communications materials, to how visitors are greeted by your staff, to how the phones are answered. To be most effective, your brand voice needs to be adopted and absorbed into every area of your business.
Aligning your marketing activities with your own unique tone of voice ensures that your impact on your target audience is deeper, more resonant, and longer lasting.
When creating your tone of voice brand, it needs to be congruent and consistent with who you are as a company and relevant and relatable to your customer base. A potential client will scan your email or your website and immediately relate to your message.
Brand Tone of Voice Examples
If you are a hip young company selling e-scooters to the 18 to 25 year old market, you are not going to use the same language as a distillery selling barrel-aged whisky to an older demographic. While that may come across in your visual marketing, if the words and tone do not match the graphics, this creates a conflict in perception; it can be jarring, and you lose that potential customer.
However, if the language that underpins all your marketing flows seamlessly from the smartphone or computer screen through to the audience, then the user experience is enhanced and engagement increases.
In short, your brand voice reinforces the first impression the audience has of your company, connecting with them on a more emotional level.
One of the most famous brand tone of voice examples is Nike - the tone is upbeat, positive, powerful, motivating, inspiring. The message is to get out there and ‘Just Do It’, feeding into the collective desire to be active and get fit.
Not all successful brand tone of voice examples have to be based around multi-billion dollar global brands. The Hans Brinker story is a perfect example of how a small business can benefit hugely from a cleverly executed tone of voice strategy, and has become renowned as one of the best brand tone of voice examples out there.
Hans Brinker is a budget hotel in Amsterdam - the sort of hotel you would go to as a backpacking student with nothing more than a fiver in your pocket. Communal rooms with multiple bunk beds and the most basic of amenities. Instead of pretending to be something that they weren’t in their advertising, the hotel owners went all in on their basic status - embracing the very sparseness of what they had to offer, wallowing in their own ‘grossness’, the fact that there is no pool, no room service, no little bottles of shampoo or shower gel. In summary, pure unashamed bog standard accommodation - and proud of it.
Brand Tone of Voice Guidelines
The sooner you establish your tone of voice, the better. If you are looking at overhauling your digital and traditional marketing, then formulating your tone of voice brand guidelines will ultimately guide and streamline all future marketing decisions. Below we have highlighted the key steps you need to take to formulate your tone of voice.
IDENTIFY YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE
Who is buying your products or services? How old are they, what gender, what age? Where do they live and work? Where do they hang out? How do they communicate with their peer group?
This is one of the most important areas for you to explore and research, and a great source of information is your current digital presence - your website and social media analytics. Deep dive into the back end of your website hosting platform, dig down into your social media analytics and get a real understanding of who is looking at your content, how they are engaging (or not) and how effective it is at turning that engagement into sales.
You also need to understand your customers’ pain points. What problem are you solving for them? When you are dealing with them, how do you already speak with them? How do you best engage them? What do they react most to?
STAND OUT FROM THE COMPETITION
Do a similar exercise with your competition. The information you gather may not be so in-depth, but you will know from insider industry knowledge how your competitors are managing to engage and retain interest from potential customers.
Knowing what your competition is doing will enable you to create your own identity. You don’t want to mimic another’s branding tone of voice but to carve out your own that sets you apart (and ultimately above) your competition.
IDENTIFY YOUR CURRENT TONE OF VOICE
Even if you have not proactively set out to create your own specific brand voice, it will evolve over time. Chances are, though, there will be inconsistencies across all your content. You may have used different copywriters over time, built one campaign on top of another, and bolted one strategy onto another. Carry out an audit of all marketing and content that is live and being delivered to your audience to identify any inconsistencies and areas of improvement.
Once you have done this, take several steps back and, along with your team and with the audience knowledge that you have, start to formulate your own brand tone of voice.
Examples of different tones of voice include positive, upbeat, inspiring, proactive, romantic, tongue in cheek, sarcastic, absurd and weird, sweet and romantic, street banter, emotional, exclusive, academic and intellectual, and simple.
CREATE CLEAR GUIDELINES
It is essential to establish your tone of voice brand guidelines and implement these throughout every area of your organisation. Include every single employee that you have and create workshops around how they can incorporate tone of voice in their own day-to-day activities. Make sure that internal communications reflect your brand voice as much as external communications. Develop phrases and statements that encourage daily adoption of the values incorporated into your brand tone of voice so that it becomes part of the very fabric of your business.
Finally, once you have done all that, don’t just rest on your laurels. A company that grows is one that is always reassessing and improving its strategies. Your brand tone of voice is no different. As technologies change, trends change, people change, so does language. Make it a part of your annual marketing strategy to audit your tone of voice and, if required, update it to bring it back to hyper relevancy.
Creating your tone of voice is a complex and all-encompassing task that often requires external support from those who have a more objective view of your organisation. i3MEDIA is skilled in assessing and formulating tone of voice in the wider context of your overall marketing strategy and can guide and support you through the process. Contact us to discover how we can help you pin down your brand tone of voice to drive a growth in sales through digital marketing.