I won’t deny this is an unashamedly fun and frivolous post, but it does have a serious point. The way your brand talks to audiences gives a distinct impression of who you are and what you stand for. Sometimes these communications are spot-on. If one of your core values is energy and you write in a clear, fast-paced way, you’ve nailed it. Although it might not be a conscious thing, you'll naturally remember and feel more positive about brands with a truly unique, consistent personality and tone of voice. Like people, every brand should look and sound different; not be a carbon copy of others.
We always say that the essence of your brand is what people say about you when you’ve left the room. In life, we can all try our best to make a good impression at a social event: we have a certain amount of control over how we appear. But when it comes to your brand, you’ll never meet most of your audiences face to face, and they may never know what you stand for. Instead, we all have a mental image of companies based entirely on how they ‘speak’ to us (through text, images, products and customer service.) In our heads, we build up a personality for them.
Which leads me to the fun point that demonstrates this perfectly. If brands were people, who would they be?
The Fairtrade Foundation: the ‘Angelina Jolie’
Fairtrade has a clear and well-developed brand identity. If it were a person, it’d be a committed, proactive type like Angelina. And no, she’s not just Lara Croft; she’s also a highly active political campaigner. Fairtrade keeps its language and message simple, without becoming too informal or humorous. It takes its mission seriously, and there’s no room for larking about. Through words such as ‘dignity’, ‘decisions’, ‘ethical’ and ‘difference’, it’s clear that this brand is all about people, and offering them freedom and choice.
Gu: the ‘Nigella Lawson’
Gu is so Nigella that it’s uncanny. Its words are rich, indulgent, beautifully polished, and strangely seductive. A perfect case in point being the taglines ‘Life is fleeting; clasp it hard’ and ‘Seek delight’. A sense of luxury and spoiling oneself must be a core value for the company, echoed in Nigella’s own ‘go on, you know you want to…’ language. I suggest they try to get her on board, stat. It’s a match made in heaven.
Tiffany & Co.: the ‘Grace Kelly’
I know, I know. Tiffany is supposed to go hand in hand with Audrey Hepburn. And it does. But in the jeweller’s current marketing, there’s definitely something echoing Grace Kelly’s Hollywood glamour and royal connections. Tiffany’s language is pristine, affluent and incredibly eloquent. The mental image is a beautiful, upright, well-spoken lady (not woman, but lady). There’s also a sense of heritage and authority that comes with statements such as ‘Only from the House of Tiffany.’ Like royals, they know their place among the upper echelons of society.
Kettle Chips: the ‘Jamie Oliver’
Plain talking, down to earth, and unfussy are all things we’d associate with both Jamie and Kettle Chips. There’s an expectation that what you see is what you get. While Kettle Chips’ website text is clear and easy to read, it still manages to communicate the brand’s passion for quality and good food; another thing ubiquitously Jamie. The pared-back language is perfect for showcasing the value of simplicity.
Skittles: the ‘Miranda Hart’
Like Miranda, the Skittles tone of voice is massively fun, and safely on the loveable side of irritating. Its quirkiness verges on weird, but the whole brand is built around a strong character that embraces such oddity. Much like Ms Hart, Skittles is full of jokes. The company writes in the first person to really highlight personality. To heighten this, it also uses speech to give the products a literal voice: ‘Skittles Wild Berry and Skittles Tropical were like, “We should hang out in the same bag.”’ It’s a work of genius.
So, back to my serious point: when it comes to your marketing, think carefully about what you’re saying, and how you’re saying it. If you wouldn’t want to hang out at a dinner party with your brand’s alter ego, perhaps it’s time to put it in a taxi home and go looking for a new one.
Enjoyed this? Check out Five companies that really rock their tone of voice.