Consistency is the key making a lasting impression with your customer. Think of your company logo, you wouldn’t want anybody messing with that – same colours, same typeface. It’s all set in stone. The same is true for your brand tone of voice, how your brand sounds.
Many companies skip over this though. It falls into the “too hard” bracket or they think, “My copywriter will sort out.” The truth is every person in your company speaks for your brand. The emails, the conversations, even an invoice. Putting a document in place that gives everyone guidance on how your brand should be heard is a huge help, otherwise people will make it up for themselves.
So, what is a brand tone of voice?
Think of the voice of your brand as its personality – its temperament, its charisma, the character that drives the brand’s behaviour. The tones of the voice are the shades of that personality when it communicates with your customer.
That might sound airy-fairy but it will all become clear, so read on.
Not got time to read? Well you can watch.
Getting to know your brand
Like people, every brand has a unique personality, a unique voice.
Do you already have that mapped out? Your brand voice evolves from your brand positioning. You may have already gone through that process, IF YES you can jump right ahead to the next section.
IF No… read on.
What you do and why you do it?
Very often it is the why you do something, not what you do, that drives customers to you. The customer makes a list and then chooses the brand that aligns with their values – so they have to know what your values are.
This is your purpose and your company’s mission.
Okay, so a big question, so let’s work up to that.
Where do you fit in your market?
Are you new? Are you local? Is it a new segment? How crowded is it? I have used a scatter graph to map markets to help focus where a brand is. The one below was for a craft beer. The market parameters for beer were: –
- Traditional vs Craft
- Mainstream vs Local
There has to be truth behind the position you take. This how you will convince your customer with what you say.
What are the functional benefits your brand provides – faster, stronger, cheaper, expert knowledge, innovative etc?
Then ask yourself what are the emotional benefits. How does it make your customer feel?
What values are dear to your brand? What is it that you are passionate about? This will start generating words that define your brand.
It also helps to show what makes you different and where you stand in the market.
Have you asked your customers what they think it is that makes you different? Short surveys can be really enlightening. It will help you to be on the same wavelength as your customer.
What words describe the character of your brand?
Pick three or four adjectives that you think describe your brand.
Proud, fun, patriotic, innovative, passionate, disciplined, creative, fastidious, approachable – if you have a good feel for what your brand stands for these words will come easily.
When we speak we are:-
We are genuine.
We are plain spoken.
We are neighbourly.
We are casual.
Try to give the words you give context, a short example of what you mean. What is fun for you might mean a completely different thing for me.
Fun – do you want to start cracking jokes or leave people with a smile?
Passionate – is that we always try harder or never give up?
So now your brand tone of voice is coming into shape, you are finding a voice with nuances.
What is tone of voice?
Personalities have subtleties that give them depth. Mailchimp has a comprehensive tone of voice guidelines. It goes into great depth on how their brand speaks.
Your voice changes depending on who you’re talking to, consumer vs trade for instance. If you are talking to your friends or your grandma, in the bank or the bar.
Our tone changes depending on the circumstances. We are still who we are but how we talk has a different slant. That is your tone of voice.
Highlight how your brand voice can change. For your own market you will know the situations and the circumstances
Is it advice, storytelling, instructions, marketing vs customer support – give examples.
In the example below, I produced a tone meter for a beer brand. The toned varied from “Beer fanatic” on the website to matey tone on the bottle and somewhere in-between on the packaging for keen customers who took an interest in the brand. Time, place and audience dictate your tone.
Examples help a lot. This is the show and tell part. This is our voice and this is what it looks like in print. It makes it very clear for anyone who wants to start writing in the brand voice, how to go about it, rather than leaving it open to interpretation.
So lots of examples that say, “Like this – not like this.”
Are there certain words that you want to be associated with? Let everyone know.
Words you like.
Words you don’t like.
Even the government has their brand guidelines.
I think there are certain copywriting principles that every piece of copy should follow. I have written an article about eight fundamental copywriting practices. For a tone of voice document there are several specific grammar and punctuation conventions you can specify to get better consistency.
Language and punctuation
How do you want your brand to be referred to? Can your brand name be displayed in different ways? Is it an acronym, a bunch of letters that only you understand? Make sure you outline how your brand name should be displayed.
Some people have a thing about capital letters. A Product Name can be written with caps or you can just have the first word capitalised – Product name. It is a style choice. Same thing for titles and product names.
Do you prefer bullet points or numbers? Little thing like that are nice to keep consistent throughout your communications.
How would you like to address your customer? It’s good manners to ask them but if you can’t decide on a form of address. Formal or informal?
Is it, Dear Mr. Girdlestone,
Should there be a comma or a full stop at the end?
Your choice on how to start and end your communications.
End with a helpful checklist to keep your writers on track, once they’ve put pen to paper.
- List the
- Three or Four
- Adjectives you picked
- Ask if the copy reflects them
- Does it sound
- Warm, Formal, Fun etc
- Is it too wordy
- Too technical
Does it sound like us?
A brand tone of voice document is very useful. Like your logo, every time someone comes into contact with your brand, the imprint should be the same.
Keep up the same tone and manner in your brand voice and over time you, will leave a lasting impression with your customers. Personalities stick out from the crowd, so it is well worth your effort to develop a personality for your brand.
In a crowded market place, you have to use every trick in the book you can.