It’s 2022. What you say, and how you say it, has never mattered more. Words have the power to rally people behind a cause — or get you cancelled in the click of a finger.
For brands, tone of voice is a vehicle to cut through the noise, and connect with the right people at the right time. It enhances the personality your strategy and visual identity have begun to carve out.
So how can you create one that’s guaranteed to hit the right note?
Bring it out of hiding
The truth is, the best tones of voice are discovered, not created. They’ll be somewhere hidden in your brand story or your brand DNA – and if you watch very closely, they’ll start to show themselves earlier in the brand development process than you think.
When we meet with founders and heads of brand for the first time, we note down turns of phrase and terminology they use to describe their business. It not only informs our strategy, but the beginnings of a brand personality too – the essence of the business lies in its people and the reason it exists. Your tone of voice has to make sense with the rest of who you are.
Get to know it
Most of the time, brands are really great at describing ‘what’ they do (even if they haven’t communicated it with the rest of the world yet). And with the right agency on board, they’ll get a strategically-sound articulation of their ‘why’, too. But when it comes to identifying ‘who’ you are as a brand, some founders are lost for words.
For a brand to have any personality at all, it needs to come across human. So think of your brand as a person.
Within our strategy process, we pull out four or five key ‘character traits’ to form the foundation of a verbal personality. For example, your brand may have some inherent playfulness about it – but would you outwardly describe it as ‘funny’? Is it Adele funny, or Amelia Dimoldenberg funny?
If you can, get into the nuances of language with your target audience in mind — and make sure the traits sit right alongside each other.
Take it to a party
Imagine your brand walking into a party where nobody knows it. What impression would it make? Would it be a wallflower, or the life and soul? Most importantly, how would it leave people feeling?
Once you’ve got a solid idea of how your brand talks, moves and behaves, your tone of voice should write itself. Build out your traits into more prescriptive personality pointers, and write one or two examples for each. For instance, if one of your traits is ‘personable’, how does that translate into written language? If your brand is personable, it’s probably also open, friendly, relatable. It’ll address its customers in a familiar way, use conversational phrasing, contractions and accessible terminology.
Stay true to it
When it comes to tone of voice, consistency is key. And the key to consistency, is tone of voice guidelines. You want to make sure that across all your touchpoints, the same principles are being applied, so customers feel immersed in your brand world at every stage of the user experience. For an overly-detailed example of tone of voice guidelines, check out Monzo’s, and see where you align and where you differ.
Without over-complicating a chatbot script, for example, think of it as an opportunity to create a meaningful connection. A chance to build a relationship. To connect the dots between your personality traits. Put your call to action next to your landing page strapline, and see if they strike the same tone. Bear in mind that one trait might be more dialled up in one place than another, and don’t try to be everything at once.