If you’re looking to create written content or invest in content marketing for your business, you may see the term ‘tone of voice’ referenced a lot.
I’ve written quite a few blogs about copywriting and content marketing but I’ve realised that I haven’t really covered what ‘tone of voice’ is. To rectify this I’ve put together this guide so you can get to know what is meant by ‘tone of voice’ and to arm you with the information you need to create a tone of voice for your business.
What is tone of voice?
Let’s start at the beginning. A tone of voice doesn’t refer to what you write, instead, it covers how you write; the words used, the sentence structure and the formality of your written content. You could say that tone of voice reflects to your brand’s personality.
A tone of voice gives direction to your written communication, including webcopy, email, social media, packaging, instruction materials…Instructions on how to relay your tone of voice into your written content can be contained with a document called ‘tone of voice guidelines’.
A tone of voice document (something that outlines what your brand stands for and words and terms to use to describe your business) is vital for every brand. This document is used to guide your messaging and to help you to maintain consistency. This becomes even more important if you outsource any part of your marketing. The agency or freelancer will use this document to ensure that whatever media they’re producing for you will be in line with your brand’s messaging.
Why tone of voice is important
Consistency in marketing messages is what makes your brand memorable. Not only will this give you an edge over your competition. It will also help you to build trust with your audience. Which in turn can shorten their buying cycle – turning them from browsers to buyers in a shorter time.
How to find your brands personality
Just like everyone’s personality is unique to them, your brand’s personality is unique to your business.
It may not be seemingly obvious to you what your brand’s personality is. If you’re having trouble thinking of it, go back to basics. Relook at what made you start the business, what it is your business does and who your customers are. If you can, why not ask your customers what feelings they get when they interact with your brand.
Connecting personality and tone of voice
Once you have your brand’s personality pinned down, you can move on to what tone of voice your messages will take. Are you going to be like Innocent who is ‘chummy’ or like Ryanair and be bold and unapologetic?
Nielson Norman Group has done a lot of the leg work for us and has come up with four dimensions you can use to define your tone of voice:
· Funny v serious
· Formal v casual
· Respectful v irrelevant
· Enthusiastic v matter of fact
You may feel you’re not one or the other. That’s fine. You can choose to place yourself somewhere in the middle of each dimension.
It’s not uncommon for a brand to have several tones of voice, depending on what services they offer. Also, you may choose to use a different tone when communicating with your employees, stakeholders or investors. In this instance, it may be more appropriate to use a casual but professional tone of voice.
Brands with a strong tone of voice
What every brand hopes to achieve is being recognised for its marketing messages without their brand name or logo being attached to it. For example, someone passes an outdoor poster and from the written content alone they recognise it’s from a brand they know.
Lots of brands try to achieve this and fail, but the brave ones who do it right benefit. Here are three brands who I think have a strong tone of voice:
It’s definitely not to everyone’s taste but Paddy Power’s tone of voice can be classed as ‘tongue in cheek’. Apart from not taking itself seriously, it’s not afraid to be controversial.
Whatever your view is on Paddy Power, they make sure that their tone of voice is consistent across all their marketing messages, including betting shops posters, website content, newspaper or TV adverts, social media etc.
Now you’d think that getting your eyesight tested is a serious thing? And it is, but Specsavers make booking an eye test and getting glasses fun.
Ideas for their marketing campaigns are based on mishaps that could happen when people aren’t wearing glasses when they should be. And, their slogan – ‘Should have gone to Specsavers’ acts as the perfect bunch line.
Credit also has to go to the social media team at Specsavers as they’re incredibly quick to pick up on things that are happening and make it relevant to them. For example, they’ve started a hashtag #SteamySundaySelfie for people to post pictures of their glasses becoming steamed up from wearing masks!
The grocery market is incredibly competitive and it’s often fought around price. Marks & Spencers food department decided to differentiate itself based on the quality and the selection of the products they offer.
Their marketing, particularly TV and in store advertisements focus on creating a delicious dining experience instead of who has the lowest prices. Their slogan – ‘This Is Not Just Food…This is M&S Food’ is used to show their food’s superiority to other brands.
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Tone in, so your customers don’t tune out
You may have a tone of voice document but think that it’s outdated, or you may not have even thought you need one. Either way, I’ll take your ideas and scribbled notes and turn them into a tone of voice document that shows who you are, what you do, who you sell to and that also explains why you do what you do.
Get in touch to arrange a chat, or message me using this 👉 contact form.
About me: I’m Emma a copywriter and content manager based in Harrow, London. I have a passion for writing and for creating amazing content for brands that have a strong sustainable, social and ethical mindset.