Brand Tone of Voice: a practical guide & Examples
Do you have a great product, but consumers need to believe in you or recognize it? This can be fixed: adjust the "voice" of the brand and select the desired tone of voice.
The tone of voice plays an important role in the marketing and PR of a company — it allows you to convey values, stand out from competitors and find contact with the audience, speaking the same language with it.
ToV helps businesses to solve the following tasks:
01 Make yourself known to consumers.
02 To be remembered.
03 Establish an emotional connection with them.
04 Increase trust and brand loyalty.
05 Scale sales.
However, brands often ignore the importance of developing individual tonality: they "sound" differently and move away from consumers. Thus, they deprive themselves of their loyalty and miss the opportunity to get a higher position in the market.
What is the tone of voice?
The tone of voice (ToV) is the tone that a brand adheres to when communicating with its consumer. These are the internal rules of the company's interaction with the audience, the same for all channels: the website, mailing list, social networks, and even phone calls. They are made up of requirements for the style of the language, the form, and the presentation of corporate information. Usually described in the Style Guide or brand book.
The tone of voice determines the company's relationship with a potential audience and whether the consumer wants to associate himself with the brand.
How to find the right tone of voice
Let's take a fictitious brand as an example and select the most appropriate tone of voice for it.
Company Z is a new American manufacturer of women's clothing. It specializes exclusively in strict and elegant suits for businesswomen with a high-income level. The peculiarity is that all products of the same size range are sewn in a single copy, finished by hand with the author's embroidery and brooches made of precious stones. Therefore, the suits of this brand are discreet and high-status, luxurious and refined — they are expensive, suitable not only for work in the office but also for attending social events. They will find a place in the wardrobe of every active, wealthy woman who wants to look luxurious everywhere. How to understand what tone of voice company Z needs to attract customers?
Define brand DNA
There are several ways. We suggest using the two simplest ones — they will help you better understand how to present yourself, how to conduct a dialogue with potential customers, what to talk about with them, etc.
1. Analyze USPs, Insights, and Brand Values
To do this, you need to interview yourself:
- Who do you work for?
- What do you do?
- Who are you?
- Why are you working?
- What are useful?
- How do you differ from competitors?
If you have been on the market for several years, but you understand that your tone of voice does not reflect the philosophy of the brand, answer these questions:
- What social ideas do you support?
- What makes you different from the rest?
- Why was the company created?
- What values would you like to share?
- What values are closest to your potential customers?
- What is your mission as a brand?
Once you have identified your values, think about how to communicate them to those who are just as important.
USP of the Z company is expensive limited-edition business clothes of various styles, emphasizing the dignity of the female figure, decorated with original works of arts and crafts and jewelry.
- A business suit can be boring.
- A business suit can look appropriate at any social event.
- A business suit can compete with an evening dress.
- American fashion is equal to the products of fashion houses in Europe.
- Every woman is unique and should wear a luxurious suit that no one else has.
- The same clothes can be appropriate everywhere: at work, in the theater, and at a private party on the anniversary of a glossy magazine.
- Wearing haute couture clothes created by American designers, needlewomen, and jewelers is status and prestigious.
All this data should form the basis of the brand's communication strategy.
2. Describe the brand as a real person
Describe the person:
- What habits does he have?
- What character traits does he have?
- How does she look?
- What are your hobbies?
- What is she interested in (what is she reading and watching)?
- Where does he spend his free time?
- What is her social circle?
- How does she talk to different people (what tone, how fast, what words does she use, etc.)?
Answer questions honestly. Write in detail and think about what is usual for such a person, who is interested and close to her, what is expected of her and ready to accept, how she differs from similar people (brand competitors), what interests her, and why people want to communicate with her (brand charisma).
Company Z is a confident woman aged 25–45 who has made her career and achieved a high-income level. Works in a large international company as a department head. Educated, well-groomed, stylish.
The female prototype of our brand is the one who is looked up to and considered different from others. Strong in spirit but feminine and sophisticated. She regularly attends social events but only sometimes has time to choose an outfit due to her workload. Likes attention in social networks. Values manual work. Realizes that it costs a lot of money.
She is sociable. He speaks competently and easily but loves grandiloquent turns. People are drawn to her. She is interested in business, culture, fashion, feminism, human rights, etc.
The general impression is that she is a smart, socially active woman, a careerist who attracts the eyes of others with her appearance and always wants to keep her mark in all areas of life.
Create a portrait of the target audience of the brand.
Your clients can be different people. However, if they prefer your brand, they have something in common.
Study potential customers — select 5–6 specific people and fill out a questionnaire for each, using their social media accounts, chats on open forums, and other channels. To clarify the data, you can use Google Analytics.
What to find out:
- Country and city of residence
- Job title
- Personal life
- Life style
- Consumer preferences
To complete your target audience profile and understand how to stand out, look at how brands from other industries communicate with your potential customers.
If you have the opportunity to communicate with real consumers, be sure to use it:
01 Ask them to describe your brand like a real person (the list of questions was given earlier).
02 Ask about the personal:
- What is the lifestyle (what do they do every day)?
- What inspires them?
- How and where do they spend their free time?
- What is the social circle?
- Where and how often do they interact with your brand?
- Why are you valued?
- What is the manner of communication (do they use slang, stationery, figurative turns, etc.)?
- Flexible storage size. It can be adjusted without changing the box solution.
Let's imagine a portrait of the target audience of company Z:
- A serious, socially active woman of 30 years old.
– Lives and works in New York or San Francisco.
- She graduated from a prestigious university and has an MBA degree.
- Manages the sales department in a large financial institution. Recycles frequently.
- Been married for several years.
- Financially independent.
- She likes only beautiful things and regularly buys them.
– She wants to be with her family more and devotes time to self-education.
- Once a month, attends social events related to professional activities.
- Does Self-care and trusts beauty salon specialists.
– Adheres to the view that she should be visually attractive, beautifully and elegantly dressed, and stand out from other women.
– Idols are successful Hollywood actresses who work hard and always look luxurious.
– Communicates simply, uses business vocabulary, but passionately adds ornate expressions to simple sentences (combines formal business speech with artistic expressions).
Conduct an audit of brand content and communications.
In the last two sections, you answered questions — the information received will help you at this stage. First, you have determined the approximate manner of communication of your brand personality, then — the characteristics of the speech of your customers. Finally, it's time to compare the tone and style of your current content with what you've got.
Suddenly, your tone of voice already wins over those important to you. Analyze all content addressed to the audience. Texts on the site, letters for email newsletters, posts and stories on social networks — everywhere, there should be one style and uniformity in presentation.
Cheat sheet 1
Types of tone of voice — what are they? Submission of information can be:
01 Emotional — neutral — "dry."
02 Open — neutral — no details.
03 Witty — neutral — caustic.
04 Terminological — neutral — simple.
05 Modest — neutral — boastful.
06 Modern — neutral — archaic.
Look at the list. First, in each chain, select a characteristic that matches the tone of your current content, and then check next to those adjectives that will reveal your brand persona, USP, insights, and values and create the right impression.
Please take a second look at all the data collected during our small study and compare the communication style with the audience in different interaction channels. If there are discrepancies, add comments to the work plan.
Try to write the text, observing the selected characteristics. Together they shape your tone of voice.
Remember: one brand — one person — one communication message.
The following manner of communication will characterize company Z:
- neutral — "dry."
- neutral — caustic.
– neutral — no details.
– Terminological — neutral
– Modest — neutral
– neutral — archaic.
A Z company social media post might look like this:
Before going out, every Lady Z fulfills three conditions:
1. Wears light makeup.
2. Checks if glossy business cards smell your favorite perfume.
3. Admire how emeralds on a plaid suit vest charge the mood.
And most importantly — she repeats to herself: I look great — I feel great — I'm always on top!
Cheat sheet 2
If you need help determining the tone based on the collected data immediately, use the tone of voice method developed by the American consulting company Nielsen Norman Group.
In 2016, foreign experts proposed to analyze the tone of brand communication according to the criteria-characteristics:
Criteria Characteristics funny/serious Cheerful, Conservative, Funny, Playful, Serious, Informative, Quirky, Witty, Funny Official/colloquial Trustworthy, Conversational, Casual, Formal, Professional, Candid, Sympathetic, Friendly, SmartRespectful / cheeky Authoritative, Caring, Irrespective, Provocative, Impatient, Polite, Intransigent, Sarcastic, Short-tempered, Rude Enthusiastic-emotional / ordinary Dry, Passionate, Optimistic, Pessimistic, Trendy, Nostalgic, Romantic, Promotional
Describe the tone of voice and write instructions for compliance.
Using cheat sheets, you have clarified the priority tone of communication. However, the definitions you choose may be perceived differently by your employees. Therefore, to avoid disagreements in the filing, it is necessary to think over and show with examples:
- Lexicon (terms, phrases, words for different occasions: when addressing an audience, when describing a product, to joke, show care, etc.).
- Message architecture (syntactic constructions, punctuation marks, etc.).
- Grammar rules.
In a brand's tone of voice guide, it is important to give clear examples for communication in different channels: on the website, on social networks, by mail, by phone, etc.
Look at how tone guidelines are designed in the Style Guide of large companies:
A unified set of tone of voice rules with examples will allow different people to maintain a single tone in communicating with the brand's audience.
HubSpot CEO — Brian Halligan
The tone of voice turns your business into a brand.
Don't underestimate the importance of tone of voice. A tone far removed from brand DNA and audience preferences prevents you from achieving your business goals. Conduct research, analyze data, describe techniques, show examples, and follow them from start to finish. Be consistent with your statements; everything you do will work for you.