Brand Tone of Voice: How to Define and Use in a Marketing Strategy
The brand voice is integral to the brand image and corporate culture that all employees support and the customers share. The tone of communication with the audience largely determines whether existing customers and prospective leas will stay loyal to the company. So, what is the brand voice, and what is the brand's tone of voice? How to use them in your marketing strategy? Let's find the answers in this guide.
What Is a Brand Tone of Voice?
So, let's get started with understanding what brand tone is. In pretty simple terms, brand tone refers to how you communicate with your audience and how they perceive your brand. That is, the brand tone is about how and not about what.
It is also possible to define the brand tone as the style of communication, and the brand's sound, which we can trace at all points of interaction with the customer.
Hence, defining that voice is the identity that sets the company apart from others is crucial. The tone depends on the context, while the voice always sounds the same.
For example, there is no doubt that you can recognise your best friend by voice in any situation. The same thing happens with a brand that has formed Tone of Voice.
Speaking about written language, it is what words you use. For example, several branded phrases in your publications and email newsletters will help develop a strong personality with your brand.
If we return to the example with a friend, surely among your friends is someone who uses some unique word. And when you hear it somewhere, you will immediately remember your friend. This is how the tone of voice works in practice. But what about the brand voice?
What Is a Brand Voice?
The brand voice is based on brand values and some unique features of your brand personality. This is what makes your brand stand out from the competition. We are discussing something special that makes your brand different from others—for example, an emphasis on eco or a particular segment or value. Suppose the tone of voice is about how, and the brand voice is about what.
What's the Difference Between a Brand Tone and Voice?
So what's the main difference? It exists, although these two elements form a single whole in the final result. Namely, your brand image. But if we talk about the development of brand tone and brand voice, then one will follow the other. That is, the formation of these elements will take place together. Let's go back to the difference:
- Brand voice: it is about what. This is the overall identity of your brand.
- Brand tone of voice: it's about how. This is how you will communicate with your audience.
By the way, the brand's voice serves as a starting point for developing a tone of voice.
Why Is There a Need to Create Brand Voice and Tone?
So, the tone of voice is the style of the company's communication with the target audience. That is, how the company positions itself in the market. A brand can be a rebel and provocateur, like Burger King, or show family values like Pampers. The tone of voice is the tool that helps develop the right customer relationships.
For each segment of the audience, it will evoke different emotions. Someone likes a friendly attitude, and someone wants to see a more formal style. Therefore, it is crucial to study target consumers, their tastes and preferences to attract and satisfy the demands regarding communication.
How is it possible to define and track the tone of voice? The company's tone of voice can be seen in:
- Content on the site;
- Social media communication;
- Online and offline communication with the consumer;
- During the speech of official representatives of the brand.
What Are the Key Features of Such Marketing Tools?
Both brand voice and brand tone are the tools to evoke the right emotions and associations among the customers. However, they can also work for other aspects of brand promotion:
It is responsible for forming a trusting relationship between the consumer and the company, even during the first touch with the brand. If a person has never bought your product, they will still intuitively trust the company more if its name is well known.
Show company values and mission
Those brands that, through their actions, strive to change the world for the better are more likely to survive any crisis. If a brand positions itself as a friend on social media, but, at the same time, managers casually communicate with customers, it will crush their reputation.
Build an emotional connection
The consumer should feel positive emotions when the brand is mentioned. Emotions guide most audiences. They are more likely to choose a company with a positive image, even if the prices for its product are higher than those of competitors.
The brand's constant presence in the audience's life is the right tool to increase sales. When consumers demand a product or service, they are more likely to choose the company they know about, which often flashes on social networks.
Help you stand out from the competition
The brand's voice makes it possible to stand out among similar companies. Therefore, it is essential to develop your corporate style of relationships with the consumer, which will be associated with your company.
What Kinds of Tone of Voice Are There?
Today no strict rules exist. But four most popular strategies are used in marketing when defining the tone of voice and promoting a brand with its help, among other marketing tools.
A Friendly Brand
A company with a friendly tone of voice seeks to gain trust by building friendly relationships with the audience. In its blog articles, for example, it refers to consumers directly, like to the best friend. Often there are stories and photos of the other side of the coin.
To increase the degree of trust, the company honestly discusses its failures, presenting them humorously. Information about achievements is presented without pathos in a friendly manner. The content is usually free from dry facts and statistics; instead, the brand focuses on emotions, and real-life situations, betting heavily on storytelling.
A Provocative Brand
Such brands seek to shock and attract attention with the help of ambiguous statements and jokes. They often become the initiators of “hot” topics that cause a strong reaction from the audience. Such companies find themselves in the centre of various scandals, but at the same time, they attract more and more attention and an army of fans.
Some brand provocateurs walk on thin ice, while their humour can play a bad joke. For example, in 2017, Audi launched a commercial to sell their second-hand cars and shot a video of a mum examining his son's bride before letting them marry. The campaign had the slogan “an important decision must be made carefully”, but the meaning the viewers got was clearly sexist.
A Useful Brand
These companies are experts in their niche. Their content strategy is focused on benefiting the consumer, so they frequently share helpful life hacks and valuable tips related to a product or service. The team often holds online conferences, creates podcasts on complex topics, and engages in outreach activities.
Some brands prefer a more dry style of communication with the audience, using infographics, statistics, and so on. Others have a friendly tone. The main thing is not to go too far with expertise and not to load consumers with professional terms, but to help deal with the problem. For example, you can discover how the Howly expert assistance company communicates with its audience by sharing exclusively helpful content.
Such a strategy is often chosen by eco-brands and representatives of beauty products and services. By the way, as for the latter, they often mix this style with a friendly brand if the target audience allows it.
An Entertaining Brand
Such companies try to differ from competitors with the help of humour. It's a fragile line between good and bad jokes, so not every company manages to embody such a tone of voice.
Brands that rely on humour and audience entertainment use much interactive content: polls, tests, games, etc. They publish exciting and original facts about their products and non-standard news.
However, the company doesn't always need to joke. Humorous content skillfully alternates with information about the company's future events, charity events in which the brand takes part, the announcement of a new product line, and so on.
An example of such a strategy is M&M's brand and provocative TV ads. In this case, it is possible to see the mix of entertaining and little provocative brand tones.
How to Create your Brand Tone of Voice
So, how to create the right strategy? Some practical tips will help you in this matter. You will find a brief but practical guide that will help you reboot your marketing strategy.
Select Key Communication Objectives
Ask yourself the question, “Why? For what purpose am I doing this?” And “What do I want to get? What is the expected result?” Further success will depend on the correctness of the questions and the answers found because strategy is a visualisation of the way to achieve the goal through consistent tactical tasks.
If you choose the wrong goal, you can go down the wrong path that will not bring the expected results. Ultimately, you may encounter the fact that the brand's voice does not work.
Therefore, concentrate on the essence and principles of the company. So, for example, the fundamental goals of communication can be:
- To attract attention;
- Drive involvement and motivation to action;
- Any other reasonable purpose.
Define Target Audience
When you know the brand's target audience, you begin to navigate how and what to talk about. This allows you to build an understanding of what the “language” of communication will be (directly the brand voice) and its “dialect” (tone of voice), which will take one form or another depending on the communication channel.
It's no secret that every product or service has its own target audience, even if it's a daily consumer product. It is also essential to understand that no product is needed by everyone equally and with a single goal. Here are some quick tips for identifying your target audience:
- Define your target audience and its fundamental characteristics.
- Distribute the general target audience into 3-5 main segments.
- For each type of audience, write down a portrait of a typical client.
Now, understanding the audience's interests, not just their gender or age. Discover generally accepted standards of representatives of a particular generation, and after that, you can find your audience on social networks and look at competitors for the following:
- how representatives of the target audience speak (the basis for the future tone of voice style);
- what they talk about (what topics to cover on the website, blogs, instant messengers, and social platforms);
- what worries them (what pain points to use so that the brand is heard and the target action is achieved).
After all, a brand should strive to become a well-known and an old friend that will softly and smoothly merge with the audience.
It is essential to understand that behind every competitor is a brand that wants to be heard. And behind each brand, the same specialists strive to raise the degree of its recognition to the top level. Therefore, competitor analysis is an opportunity to find a good idea and do something competitors do not. But be careful! Don't copy their brand voice or tone. This is the dead path for your marketing strategy.
Analyse the Internal Environment
We have already discovered that the brand voice is about the company's values, principles, philosophy, and corporate culture. It's time to talk about this in more detail.
Knowing the target audience, competitors, and what drives the company to motivate and develop it creates an understanding of whether the brand will have a protagonist or speak for itself. This allows you to understand what idea it will carry and ensure that it talks about the same corporate principles and values. This will further understand how to create a tone of voice. Maybe it is better to create a protagonist, or it is better to stay on the brand.
Choose the Right Style
First, the voice should sound clear, concise, practical, competent, and natural. And it should always be in the same manner and the same style. Choosing the right style is worth developing rules. These rules should include the following points:
- Find style and manner of communication;
- Define the main areas of competence;
- Develop trigger phrases that you can later use to form a logo and other promo materials for your brand;
- Indicate what is unacceptable for the brand (for example, jokes about movie stars, singers, and politicians).
Prepare the Tone for the Communication Channels
So, we have already mentioned that the communication channel determines the tone. What is this about? Here is a short guide:
- When communicating with the audience on the phone, it is optimal to sound helpful, informative, and concise.
- When communicating on a company blog, it will be appropriate to be helpful and relevant.
- When communicating on Facebook, you can be both playful and formal.
- When communicating on Instagram, you can be funny.
Creating a structure for all channels of communication with the audience is necessary. For all this to look appropriate, one should not forget the need for a brand voice that will form a single brand image.
Finish with Testing
After you follow all the above tips, you need to return to the very beginning, namely to the question of why we need a voice for the brand. What for? Firstly, this will make sure that this marketing element is needed. Secondly, it will help to analyse what result you got.
The final step includes questions such as:
- What is the purpose of consumer interaction with the brand?
- What does the consumer feel at the moment of communication?
- What emotional trigger did you want to use with the brand voice?
- Was the goal of consumer or partner communication with the brand been achieved?
- Has the brand achieved its goal of communication?
What will be the answers to these questions? If you get a single answer for questions like 1, 4, and 5 and one for questions 2 and 3, you can be sure that you have developed the brand voice correctly.
This means that the developed brand voice sounds appropriate and relevant. That is, it is ready for implementation in all communication channels.
Empower Your Brand Voice with Visualisation
Logos, the choice of colours for your site, and even the choice of font are all things that should go hand in hand with your brand voice. Your audience will be wholly bewildered if you choose to be an informative brand and use provocative logos and aggressive colour schemes. Therefore, it is worth balancing everything to a single style after determining the tone of voice.
Logos, colours, fonts, and images must suit your tone of voice. Only in this case, it will be possible to form a single brand voice. So pay attention to such an issue to align all to the one style. Hence, if you created the logo and other things based on the values and missions of your company, there is no doubt that you will cope with this task successfully.
The Inspirational Examples of the Brand Voice and Tone of Voice
How does it all work in practice? All the world-famous companies have their brand tone and voice that are easy to recognise and make these companies stand out. Below you will find a couple of examples that show that it all works in practice.
The voice of a well-known clothing manufacturer sounds bold but, at the same time, respectful. The brand conveys freedom of choice, rebellious spirit, and emancipation, but within the bounds of decency. In their advertising campaigns, they motivate the audience to enjoy life, to get vivid impressions and emotions.
McDonald's broadcasts family values, especially in its TV ads. The company is cheerful and kind. Also, they actively call for participation in charity events.
The legendary phrase “Just Do It” is known worldwide. This motivational phrase created a feeling that everyone can do everything when buying clothes from this brand. The result is obvious: the brand has a crowd of fans among both amateurs in sports and professionals.
Most likely, now you have immediately experienced a feeling of softness and cleanliness. This is not surprising because the company has long focused on family, love, and care in its advertisements.
The brand voice and tone are some of the main components of the company's image. With the help of the company's voice, you communicate with the consumer, engage the audience and broadcast the values and mission of the brand to them. It would help if you focused on the target audience's preferences when choosing a tone.
Do not copy the style of other companies. Come up with an original image, taking into account the corporate culture. The tone may change depending on the context, but you do not need to change the voice altogether. Always stay within the original vector.
And remember that tone of voice should positively influence the company's reputation, not destroy it. Therefore, following a single protocol of a brand tone of voice by the whole team is what will allow your brand to win the hearts of the audience and become recognisable.