Posted by Samuel Birnie
14 March, 2017

Clients often ask us what brand tone of voice actually is. Really, it’s exactly what you’d think – it’s the way you speak to your customers.

Just as our personalities come through in the things we say, the language we use and the way we phrase our ideas, your brand’s personality should come across through your written communications.

Strike the right tone

Tone of voice is the copywriting side of branding. Just as you create a consistent visual brand identity through logo, colour and typography, so you should create a consistent written identity through brand tone of voice, one that reflects your offering and appeals to your audience.

The first thing to note about tone of voice is that it has to be authentic, for both you and your audience. Your brand voice should resonate with your readers while giving them a sense of who you are, what you do, how you do it and why. Think about your key qualities and try to imagine who your brand would be if it were a person – what quirks and characteristics would they have?

Once you have an idea of what your brand personality might be you can begin to think about how this translates into a unique tone of voice. Language, grammar, phrasing, pacing and other writing techniques all play a part. Say you’re a holiday cottage company specialising in tranquil retreats. You’ll woo your reader with comforting language. Slow sentences with few verbs will create a sense of relaxation. Read your sentences aloud to check the rhythm; aim for a gentle lilt with plenty of soft sounds – Ls, Fs and Ss.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re a theme park aimed at adrenaline junkies with the personality trait ‘daredevil’, you’re going to have an entirely different tone of voice. Your copy should crackle with actions and sensations. Use the present tense to create immediacy. Write long, breathless sentences bursting with verbs, and punctuate them with staccato statements like ‘Come on’ or ‘We dare you’. Use edgier language. Challenge your reader with direct calls to action. Surprise them. Take risks.

Ultimately, you want the experience of reading to reflect the experience you offer. This can be as simple as communicating your dependable professionalism (‘We are dedicated to getting the best deal for you’) or your friendly, informal approach (‘Just give us a call – we’re happy to chat’).

Unique and unified

Whatever your personality, having a distinctive tone of voice will help you speak clearly to your audience. A strong voice imbued with a unique personality will cut through the marketing din. It offers the reader a humanness that they can recognise, relate to and engage with, as long as it stays consistent.

With a set style in place, including rules and suggestions on which words to use and which ones to avoid, minimum and maximum sentence length, use of verbs and adjectives and the kind of tone to strike – whether it be formal or friendly, serious or silly – anyone who writes for your brand will write with the same voice. This is important. Small inconsistencies can make a brand feel tatty – with each little error or errancy you lose a grain of your reader’s trust. Large conflicts and clashes of style and tone confuse and jar your audiences, even if only on a subconscious level: something won’t feel quite right.

That said, you should always consider the context in which your audience is reading your copy. Your brand voice is bound to vary depending on the platform you use and the content you’re writing. As a general rule, social media posts are more informal. If your brand personality is fun, friendly and upbeat, you’ll want to tone this down when dealing with a complaint to avoid appearing flippant.

Just like your visual brand identity, your tone of voice needs to be consistent, authentic and well thought out. By communicating your offering through the way you write, your words work twice as hard, giving your audience a sense of what you have to offer and setting you apart with an individual identity.

So now you know our secrets. Still, if you find the world of words a bit daunting, or you don’t know your double entendres from your dangling participles, we can give you a hand. Email us at hello@nixondesign.com or call 01736 758600.

For a breakdown of some great examples and why they work, take a look at Five companies that really rock their tone of voice.

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