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How to find your brand's tone of voice

Updated: Apr 3


tone of voice

Why tone of voice is important

Ever read a text message the wrong way? It's because words on a page can be ambiguous. As a marketer, you need to ensure that your tone is perfect and conveys the message you want to get across. The tone of voice is a powerful tool in your brand's marketing toolkit. A unique tone of voice sets a brand apart from the competition. Your tone of voice allows you to showcase your brand's personality. In a saturated marketplace, brands must do more to win customers than offer a good product or service. Customers are increasingly interested in a brand's values, ethical code, and personality. A winning tone of voice is one that customers will warm to, thereby encouraging loyalty.


What is a brand tone of voice?

Your brand’s voice doesn’t change, but the tone can. Like with people, anything you say uses your voice, but your tone will vary depending on who you’re speaking to, e.g., your best friend or boss. A tone of voice is your brand’s writing style, the character you want to present, not what you say, but how you say it.


The tone of voice can sound unimportant, especially to those outside the marketing department, but it is mighty. Your brand’s tone of voice can be as instantly recognisable as your logo. Get it right, and it’s a way to show character and stand out.


Why tone of voice is a crucial part of your brand identity

Consistency is vital: Tone of voice is just as important as your brand’s colour palette, logo, and overall visual style. A consistent tone of voice is crucial, as consistency builds recognition, and recognition builds trust. If the copy in your email campaign reads vastly different in style to the landing page, the email sends your customers; it can undermine your content's trustworthiness and add doubt to the customer’s mind.


Instant recognition: If you want your tone of voice to be super distinctive and instantly recognisable, you need it to have a personality. One brand that immediately springs to mind for this is innocent smoothies. The brand has an instantly recognisable style, often breaking the fourth wall and delivering almost startlingly authentic messaging. Look at the brand’s Twitter bio, keeping it to the point and injecting humour into the ‘location’ tag. Impressive.


Finding your brand’s tone of voice

A tone of voice for your customers: Your tone of voice needs to fit your brand - you wouldn’t want your mortgage provider writing in a funny, jovial style. Likewise, you wouldn’t expect to read overly complex, formal copy from your local cocktail bar. An excellent place to start is always seeing what others in your industry are doing and adapting it for your brand. For a winning tone of voice, you need to know your audience. For this, look at the personas of your customers and prospects. Utilise Dotdigital’s single customer view (SCV) to dive into your most engaged customers’ profiles to learn what makes them tick. Once you’ve got an idea of your customers, you can test different approaches and use reporting features such as heat maps to see where copy is driving clicks.

The core tone of voice principals: There are some fundamental principles to consider when creating or adapting a tone of voice. Do you want to be funny or serious? Formal or casual? Excitable or calm? You have a solid starting point once you figure out what you want to portray. Of course, there should always be flexibility; different marketing materials and communications will call for different styles of copy, but everything should still be recognisable as your brand’s tone.


Tone of voice across different channels

If you’re doing it right, you utilise many different marketing channels. Each channel will require a slightly different approach. Your tone of voice should be recognisable across your website, email campaigns, SMS messages, push notifications, and social media channels - but it doesn’t need to be identical.


Communicate with an engaging tone: You want your message across all channels, inspire engagement, and be recognisable. Different parameters of the various channels will naturally be differences in how you communicate on each channel. For example, your webpage will often allow for a comprehensive amount of copy. Email campaigns can be flexible, but you’re not writing War and Peace. Your SMS messages need to be punchy and get the message out in 160 characters or less, and your push notifications need to do so even fewer.


Cross-channel consistency: Jewellery brand Mejuri manage to squeeze much information into an SMS message, where words are the only medium possible, sticking to the brand’s tone of voice style. The email campaign allows for more text and the addition of imagery, but the message and tone remain consistent across both communications. It is an excellent example of cross-channel consistency and fluidity.


The tone of social media: Social media calls for playfulness. Remember that as much as your tone of voice should be consistent, it shouldn’t be rigid. Like in real life, you must adapt it depending on your surroundings and the present audience. It is even true within social media; LinkedIn has a very different style to Twitter. Stick to your brand’s style; don’t be afraid to elevate your humorous side.


Same message, different tone: Look at the difference in tone banking app Revolut used on LinkedIn and Twitter to celebrate the brand’s eighth anniversary. LinkedIn is a platform geared towards work chat and is much more professional than other social media channels. In contrast, Twitter is more of a casual platform people use in their free time. As a result, Revolut has tailored the eight-year message to celebrate the brand’s employees on LinkedIn and a fun birthday-style post on Twitter geared towards customers. It is an example of the same message and voice, utilising a different tone to appeal to diverse audiences based on where the copy is going.


Tips for maintaining a consistent tone of voice

Once you’ve created your tone of voice, you need to keep it consistent. It can be tricky in a busy marketing team, so ensure you have steps to manage this.


Create a style guide: Create a style guide with all guidance for your tone of voice, and make sure every employee knows about it and where to find it. Include the details of the tone of voice you’ve settled on, e.g. funny or severe, relaxed or excitable, and include examples. Also include the basics such as language, e.g. British or American English, punctuation rules such as Oxford comma usage, bans on ellipses, and more…


Share it internally: If you’re part of an organisation or business where many people write copy, everyone must be on the same page. It is especially true if you have employees outside the marketing department who write and share their materials. Ensure you educate all employees on the importance of your tone of voice; you could even send them this cheat sheet. Then ensure you put measures in place so the marketing team regularly reviews messaging and gets sign-off on all new material.


Conclusion

Your brand’s tone of voice is your chance to bring your brand to life and deliver a massive personality hit. A consistent tone of voice is more than words on a page; it builds trust. When you inject personality into everything you write, you bring joy to every step of the customer journey. These things warm customers to a brand, and winning copy will encourage engagement, regardless of the subject matter.


If your business would like help navigating customer experience in 2024, get in contact with us to discuss further: experience@yourcxc.com

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