Apr 18, 2017

Is your brand tone of voice built on solid foundations?

Brand tone of voice is essential in Brand Communications.

How do you know though, if your brand tone of voice complements your brand?

When starting out a solid brand proposition is key. If you are already up and running, as the business grows the original brand tone needs to expand with it. With every new acquisition, department and strategic development your tone of voice needs to be re-assessed.

Netflix Bugler Smith Brand Tone

US company Netflix over the last 19 years have transformed from DVD rental service to online content streaming behemoth.

The importance of establishing your brand’s tone of voice

Often the after-thought or easily missed element of a brand project, it’s vital for any brand to have a recognisable and consistent tone of voice. One which sets you apart from the competition, yet helps you make those all important emotional connections with your target audience.

You’ve no doubt heard this before, but (just as a brand is more than its logo) how a brand sounds is equally as important as how it looks. That’s why establishing brand tone of voice should be a priority.

What’s a brand tone of voice?

It can be helpful to think of:

  • Tone – as a more variable quality that depends on the situation. For example, the use of humour and colloquialisms, using a tongue in cheek, irreverent tone and so forth.
  • Voice – the language (words) we choose to use. The voice is an unwavering expression of the brand’s values and personality and is therefore unique.
Old Spice Bugler Smith Brand Tone

Men’s perfume brand ‘Old Spice’ evaluated their brand tone to such a degree that they were able to save the brand from extinction by poking fun at themselves.

How to find a tone of voice

The first thing to say is that it doesn’t come from one person/personality within an organisation.

Don’t assume that just because you’re a senior leader, or it’s your brand, that you dictate the tone of voice. And that it will automatically resonate with your audiences. Rather, it should come from lots of internal and external consultation, to gain a broad range of views and perspectives on the brand. Once this is done, brand tone of voice becomes far stronger.

Think about how you’d like to come across.

If your brand were a person, how would you like to sound?  Some of the best brand’s tone of voices have plenty of character while retaining an air of professionalism via its content and terminology. For example, Not on the High Street  combines a passion for product and design with a thoughtful, friendly and charming tone of voice:

“We could give you a million reasons to shop with us (the ‘have to have this’ jewellery, the on-trend homeware, the original gifts…). But those are for you to discover…”

The value of values

As well as representing your brand’s personality, which can often be a subjective variable, a tone of voice should consistently reflect your brand values. So, if one of your brand values is ‘trustworthy’, then you need to bring that to life by ensuring that the language you use is free of jargon and clichés. The tone you set needs to be honest and dependable.

Don’t forget that your strap-line is an essential part of your brand’s tone of voice.

After all, it’s the perfect summary of your tone of voice as it says what you do, who you’re for and why you do it.

Consistency

Of course no piece on brand would be complete without mentioning consistency, a brand manager’s favourite word. Whether a website, email, brochure or in person, a steady application of the brand ensures that the messaging is consistent, clear and single-minded.

Lego Brand Tone Bugler Smith

10 Years ago Lego was on the brink of bankruptcy, through clever brand partnerships, alignments, associated marketing and on brand new ranges. Lego is now one of the world’s most popular toys.

Context is king

Depending on the message, occasion and audience, you can dial your brand’s tone of voice up and down.

Think about the level of formality and degree of appropriateness. For example, you wouldn’t use the same tone of voice during a Twitter conversation as you would for an annual report.

When it comes to setting the right tone, thought should also be given to the lifespan of any piece of communication. If you’re writing something that will still be read in six months or three years, think about how it might date and if the context could change over time.

How to implement a brand tone of voice

Hopefully you’ve already engaged with your internal audience as you’ve been developing your brand’s tone of voice… so the big reveal shouldn’t come as any surprise.

Guidelines help. The tone of voice needs to work in harmony with your brand’s visual identity. Which is why it is included in brand guidelines alongside the other brand elements. Creating a tone of voice guide allows multiple people to write for a brand over multiple channels with one voice. Make sure everyone knows where to find your guidelines.

Burberry Brand Tone Bugler Smith

10 Years ago Burberry’s iconic checked brand pattern was banned in pubs and associated with hooliganism. Through consistency, brand tone and alignment Burberry has returned to catwalk royalty.

Looking after a tone of voice

Encourage dialogue and feedback with colleagues and audiences.

Your brand tone of voice is not set in stone. Like anything brand-related it needs careful reviewing and adjusting. So you can keep making (and enjoying) those connections between brand and audience.

 

If you are looking to build or push your brand. Get in touch with Bugler Smith and speak to the team here.