October 2023

What Is Brand’s Tone of Voice (and how to derive it)

Sarah L. / Branding

Every brand wants to come out as human to target its customers. Conveying emotions and invoking some, the brands of today want their customers to relate to them more and more. To do this, they don’t shy away from displaying the characteristics that make them human. They understand the importance of having a brand identity,owning a distinct personality, purpose, and value, to connect better and deeper with their customers.

One such maneuver they apply to effectively express themselves is by donning a unique voice. And where there’s a voice, there’s always a tone. But that tone is context-subjected. For instance, you won’t expect a doctor to be bubbling with enthusiasm when giving good news or pining in melancholy when breaking bad news. Similarly, when you voice out your message across various platforms and for multiple contexts, you need to adopt an authentic, approachable, attractive tone that suits the time and place right for better reception. And that, my friend, is a brand’s tone of voice.

Your brand’s tone of voice is an indispensable weapon in your impressions artillery whenever you communicate with your customers. Yet many brands take on a wrong tone when they voice out their brand message. Often, either the context isn’t right, the platform, or the timing. And that can strain their relationship with their customers. They make this grave mistake because they fail to differentiate between their voice and tone; often mistaking the one for the other. It thus becomes imperative to demarcate boundaries between your voice and tone.

Brand Voice Vs. Tone of Voice

To help you understand better, let’s take a real-world example. Imagine yourself as a professional salesman who is giving a presentation to potential clients, but once the meeting ends you invite your buddies from town for a night out. In both situations, your voice remains the same, but your tone fluctuates from poised and professional when conversing with your clients to relaxed and easygoing when talking to your friends. While your voice is substance-oriented, your tone is context-subjected. While your voice is consistent and uniquely your own, your tone is malleable and changes with the situation.

Your brand voice remains the same every time you talk to your customers, distinguishing itself as a distinct personality they can easily pick out. But to drill in your message during different instances and diverse interactions, your voice adopts various tones to suit the situation. While your voice shapes what you say, your tone dictates how you say it.

Why is it essential to have a tone of voice?

Besides fumbling with their tone and voice, many brands are also uninformed about the importance of a tone of voice. To avoid several faux pas in the future, let’s understand what wonders your tone of voice wields.

It makes you look unique

Your brand uses both textual and visual communication to share your message with the masses. From your brand name to your brand’s tagline and social media campaigns, the written word is a major means of communication. But with a surplus of written words floating about in the internet world, it can be hard to come out as unique. And what about the brands that we look up to, like Coca Cola and Apple? Are they immune to the competition? Certainly not, but just like them, you can set your brand apart by embracing a tone that is distinct and true to your brand.

It instills trust in your customers

It takes time and a whole lot of effort to transform your casual customer to a brand loyalist. One factor that can be a major contributor to it is a consistent tone of voice that no matter where they are, they instantly get a feeling of home with your brand. As your tone gets assimilated into your written words, your customers often associate it with your brand, which in turn aids brand recall. For instance, Slack with it’s helpful, crystal-clear, and human tone has made business communication more accessible. Its tone relays an easy camaraderie between the users and the brand, who get flooded with thank-you notes everyday for having made work communications more lively. This easy-going vibe is Slack’s way of instilling trust in customers to make them feel welcomed and at ease.

It influences your customers

There’s no mistaking the intent behind the tone of voice. It’s not a decision you make on a whim or get up one day to decide that your tone of voice will be so and so. Instead, it’s a researched, well-thought, strategic decision to influence your customers’ choice in your favor. That’s why, when it comes to the tone of voice, your words mimic your personality and materialize emotions that you wish to invoke in your customers. It allows you to articulate your message in a coherent and captivating manner while persuading them to take a chance on you.

How to derive a great tone of voice?

A tone of voice is like a script for your brand to play its assigned role across different scenes and stages. It is what captivates the audience and keeps them hooked. Expressing your vision and values with your voice is not enough. That’s why you need to watch your tone to really drill in your message. Pick your words wisely and maintain a word map to locate nouns and adjectives that resonate with your brand personality. But while opening a thesaurus helps, don’t use big and boisterous words that read more high-minded than genuine.

To ensure that your tone of voice successfully attracts and influences your customers, you need a guideline that lays down rules for deriving a clear and effective tone of voice. Here are some quick points to make a good one:

Be thorough with your research

If you don’t have a destination to reach, then you are just going in circles. Having a tone of voice amounts to nothing if it doesn’t address your customers. Studying your customers and their needs provide you with ideas to cater to them intimately. Start by discovering their likes, dislikes, needs, and wants through careful examination of their demographic information. This will give you a fair idea about what’s on their mind. Based on this intel, you can create personas and gain an insight into how your brand can address their concerns, and solve them like no one else does.

Identify your core values

You can only give what you have. To build a strong personality, it is imperative to first identify your core values. Once you identify your core values, it will help you spell your message clearly to your customers and connect with them. If one of the core values of your brand is authenticity and transparency, your words should be molded in ways that convey the same without explicitly having to state it.

Implement your tone of voice

Once you decide what to say and to whom to say it to, you can choose the tone that defines your brand much more comfortably. The next step is to boil down your values into a few carefully chosen words that fit together naturally. Implementing them into your copy, you can develop your brand’s vocabulary and also have a coherent, consistent, and compelling tone. You can look at Taco Bell’s tone of voice for inspiration, which gives away the impression of a young, playful, and humorous brand, especially in their social media copy.

Deriving your tone of voice is a meticulous effort, but it bears long-lasting fruits for your brand. So watch your tone when communicating with your customers, because if you are tone-deaf, you might have to face the music soon.