Your brand's tone of voice: It’s what you say and how you say it

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When it comes to building a brand, the power of language is something that’s often underestimated. Sure a lot of time might be spent coming up with the perfect tagline or product description, but taking the steps to create and stick to a tone of voice will take your brand the extra mile.

Your brand’s tone of voice is the way your brand expresses itself in writing. It’s the ‘how you say it’ rather than the ‘what you say’ and it should be a reflection of your brand’s personality. Many companies create tone of voice guidelines to ensure all of their written copy is consistent in style whether it’s on product packaging, in an advertising campaign, or simply in a tweet. Tone of voice guidelines can be anything from a document detailing a few personality traits (preferably explained and with examples) or it can be as in-depth as MailChimp’s infamous style guide).

So why should your brand find its voice?


It can make you stand out

Creating a distinct brand is a way to stand out from the competition and with your tone of voice being an important part of your brand it will help set you apart even more. Think about brands like Ella’s Kitchen or Innocent - in many cases, you know it’s them talking before they even say so. Getting your tone of voice right can simply help to build your brand too. Since it’s a reflection of your brand’s personality, having a consistent voice works to give people a sense of who you are. You can be funny and conversational, formal and direct, bold and inspiring - think about how you want to be seen and what suits your brand best.

It can build trust

Aside from helping to distinguish your brand’s identity, having a consistent tone of voice can also build trust among consumers. If you keep talking to people in the same manner, they’re going to become familiar with your brand and voice. It’s this familiarity that creates credibility and trust - people feel at ease with what they know and they’ll be more inclined to keep coming back.

It has the power to influence

We’ve been focusing on the ‘how you say it’ but it’s still important to keep the ‘what you say’ in mind too. Language can carry a lot of influence, even if you’re a smaller brand starting out.

Research has found that certain brand descriptors can impact whether brands are viewed as the best in their category (‘tried and tested’ works wonders, ‘groundbreaking’ surprisingly doesn’t). And of course, how you phrase something can impact the way you make people feel and determine how persuasive you are.

Developing your tone of voice is only going to give you a stronger brand. Make your copy sing, shout, whisper - whatever works best. But make sure the tone of voice guidelines do make it out of the marketing department. They should be shared across the company so anyone who’s going to be creating copy or interacting with customers knows how to write in your voice. That way your brand’s voice will come across clearly and consistently.

Here’s a simple guide we put together that you can use to develop your company’s tone of voice:

Identify your brand’s personality

You want to reflect your brand’s personality in all communications, so start by selecting characteristics that best describe your brand or how you want your brand to be seen. Keep your brand’s purpose, values, positioning, and any archetypes in mind. Get employees involved - hold workshops or interviews and ask them to select personality traits they think reflect the brand. If you end up with a long list of personality traits, try to narrow them down to no more than 5. It’s also worth taking a look at your current communications - is there a consistent writing style that’s naturally coming through? If there is and it’s working for your brand, you can make up your guidelines around your current voice.

Think about your audience

Who is your target audience that’s going to be reading your communications? Are they part of a certain industry who are used to lots of jargon? Or are you targeting a mass market? If you’re going for a more niche group, it’s a good idea to tailor the way you write to them. But if you want to target a wider audience, it’s best not to alienate anyone with the language you use.

Create the tone of voice guidelines

Once you’ve got your personality traits and your audience in mind, it’s time to start making up the guidelines. A simple way to do this is to create a table with your characteristics, explain what you mean and don’t mean by them, and include an example of how it would sound. 

Share, share, share

Now that you have your tone of voice guidelines, you want to get them out there! Make sure everyone in your company knows about them. Have them printed and laminated, put them in a shared folder on your servers - just make sure they’re easily accessible for everyone!