When it comes to building a brand, we’re often told that defining a tone of voice is just as important as establishing a visual identity. But what exactly is a tone of voice? And since when could companies speak? Last time I checked, they don’t even have mouths!
Jokes aside, the reason for this is simple. When it comes to business and marketing lingo, a tone of voice refers to all of its written copy; from its website content, social media posts, EDMs and packaging. It’s less about what you’re talking about, and more how you’re saying it. Not just the language you use, but the order, pacing and rhythm of your words.
Why is developing a tone of voice so important?
Now we know what tone of voice is, the next thing that’s paramount to understand is why creating one is so essential for your company.
It makes your brand unique.
Establishing a tone of voice that is unique to your company is vital. This is what makes your brand stand out from your competitors and what gives it a personality – one that your audience can relate and engage with. If you simply try to imitate the tone of voice of another brand, your company won’t have an identity of its own. Know your brand and find your own voice.
It creates consistency.
From your website’s ‘About Us’ to your company’s Instagram captions, the language used must be consistent and easy for your audience to identify with. You want your customers to be able to recognise your tone of voice wherever they’re reading it; whether it’s in a tweet or on the back of a box containing your product. It’s all about building a relationship between your customers and your company.
It reveals the faces behind the brand.
Your company’s tone of voice is an expression of who the people are behind the brand. Beyond the products or services you’re selling, people want to know there is actual living, breathing human beings behind the branding. A tone of voice personifies your brand’s values and personality, further helping your customers trust and engage with your product or service.
How to develop a tone of voice
So now you know why you need to establish a tone of voice for your brand, the next task (and definitely the most challenging), is figuring out how to develop your own.
Know your target audience.
Before you can even start thinking about developing your tone of voice, it’s imperative that you figure out who exactly who you will be talking to. Both the demographic of your audience and the type of product you are selling will greatly impact the language you use.
For instance, if you’re selling high-end products to older professionals with high disposable incomes, you’ll probably want to use a more luxurious tone of voice. Whereas if you’re planning to tap into Gen Y, you’ll want to be up to speed with your cyber jargon. ‘Legs for Days’ mean anything to you?
Fashion brand Missguided is a great example of a company that knows its tone of voice and uses it consistently across all of its channels.
Know your brand.
It might sound obvious, but it’s amazing how many business owners struggle with developing a tone of voice simply because they don’t even know what makes their own brand unique. Every company has its own story to tell. Ask yourself: what is your brand’s story? What sets it apart rom the rest? Why would your customers want your product and how will it improve their lives?
You need to establish how it is you want your audience to feel when it reads all of your communications. Are you planning to take a direct approach, or perhaps you want to go in for a softer and subtler sell? Maybe it’s not about selling at all (at least at first), but building a relationship with your customers. In which case, you might want to take a peer-to-peer approach to speaking to your audience. Perhaps the same way you speak to your friends on WhatsApp.
You need to get into the psyche of your customers and speak to them as if you’re speaking directly to an individual. It needs to be personal, as developing a tone of voice is all about making your brand more like a human and less like a robot. Nobody wants to buy from a robot. Well, maybe some people do. I think robots are pretty cool.
Hire a copywriter.
Once you’ve figured out who you want your brand to be and the people you want to speak to, I’d definitely recommend hiring a copywriter to help you finalise the development of your tone of voice. This might just be for a short period of time, perhaps to help you create a style guide or to write all the copy across your website. Or it might be on a more long-term basis, to help you write regular EDMs, social media messages and blog content.
Either way, hiring a copywriter at some stage during the development of your brand’s tone of voice will take you from fumbling your way through the dark, to finding your way into a fully-lit room filled with beautiful engaging words that lead to an increase in followers and sales.
Using tone of voice to influence
This brings us on to ultimately what makes establishing a unique and consistent tone of voice for your brand so powerful. It might not happen over night, but using language that your audience will identify and engage with over time will eventually lead to results. Meaning you’ll be able to use your company’s tone of voice to persuade and influence your audience to buy your products or services.
Simply chucking a line of dresses online with the call-to-action ‘Shop Now’ might not necessarily lead to seeing an overnight spike in sales (not that call-to-actions should be underestimated, but more about that at a later date). Yes, a product or service has to be good quality in itself to be worth selling. But even if it is, there’s a heap of other companies out there trying to sell equally as high-quality goods.
What will the difference be about what you’re offering? The answer lies in the way you’re delivering your message.
It’s time to find your own voice. The next step will be how to make the world hear it…