Let’s start with the meaning - what is a brand’s tone of voice? Quite simply, it’s not what you’re saying, it’s how you say it. It’s the style in which a brand communicates to its audience, whether that’s communicating to the masses in larger campaigns or more personal communications in a more intimate setting.
Now, you may be thinking - does anyone really care how a brand communicates? As long as they say the right things and the product is good then I’m happy - and that’s fair enough, I’m not here to call you a liar - but bear with me here, I’ll provide an example for ease:
Brand 1 - ‘Hi customer, thanks for your purchase, would you kindly fill out this survey to review your experience to help us improve?'
Brand 2 - ‘Cheers, *name*! We really appreciate you taking the plunge with us. If you’ve got 5 mins spare, we would love to hear your feedback on your experience so we can get even better at what we do. Fancy it?'
Which one do you find more engaging? I’m hoping it’s brand 2 (puppy eyes). This is because the style is more thought-out, personal and human - the latter being the most crucial one of them all. We’re all fed up with wooden-looking marketing messages that bore us to death, so why not spruce things up a bit? Speak like a human, show you careand have some fun (where you can).
Let’s take a step back - where does this mystical tone of voice apply? Well, everywhere - your website, your packaging, tv adverts and especially your social channels, after all, what makes a tone of voice really impactful is its consistency. If you adopt a style and stick to it, your audience begins to recognise it more regularly and, crucially, associate it with your brand and what you stand for (More on how to approach this in our latest whitepaper here.)
This is most important on social media (I promise I’m not biased), as these are the only marketing channels you have at your disposal where you can strike up conversations with your audience and engage with them on a one-to-one basis. This is why having a consistent style (across channels) is a must for achieving that unique brand image and recognition from your audience. One of the things that keeps me up at night is the thought of a brand launching a punchy and fun TV advert, then when you speak to them on Twitter, they come across about as fun as a self-checkout voice recording at Tesco.
Let’s take a look at some examples - below are several brands that I think have really nailed their TOV on social:
As a Football magazine, Mundial have a wealth of stories to tell with each issue, however, on social they use striking visuals combined with detailed storytelling to really paint a picture of the subject at hand - we've also seen this ‘long-form tactic’ work well for Museums and brands with a rich history such as Jack Daniels.
Yorkshire Tea (Twitter)
You may think it’s hard to inject personality into a brand that sells teabags, but Yorkshire Tea do a brilliant job on social (and elsewhere) on crafting a super personable and humour-led approach that suits them to down to the ground and enables customers to foster a real affinity towards the brand.
We have the delight of working with Nando's on transforming their spicy tone of voice (sorry) into something that’s social-first and engages with an audience that are deeply into their ‘meme culture’.
Rolex use their captions across social to paint vivid pictures about their watches and emphasise their luxury and prestige - you could argue this is overly descriptive, but it’s exactly what you would expect from a brand like Rolex, which already demonstrates their brand perception aligning well with their tone of voice.
Now, of course, there are tons more examples of how a brand can choose to communicate - you could even get sassy, like Wendy’s (their approach isn’t for the fainthearted) or downright bizarre like Virgin Trains used to be. Basically, what I’m saying is that there are a number of approaches to a brand’s tone of voice, but finding your own unique one and sticking to it can help build your brand in the long-term and further cement that familiarity within the subconscious of your audience.
While this tone of voice needs to be consistent, it can’t necessarily look the same across each social channel, that’s where you’ll need to get creative. For example, you have a brand and want to tell long-form stories to your audience, great. You can conjure up longer captions on Facebook and Instagram but a tweet is limited to 280 characters, so what are you gonna do? Well, you can use the ‘threads’ feature to extend your caption and break it into chunks or utilise an image or video alongside your caption that still embodies your unique tone of voice but also furthers the narrative. This is why making use of each platform’s unique features and capabilities is also super important to consider.
The same applies to platforms such as Pinterest and YouTube - it’s all fine and dandy carving out your tone of voice, but the real magic happens when you can combine this style with a creative approach and have the two complement each other. I think this video from Burger King talking about their funky rebrand does the job nicely.
So, now we’ve looked at what TOV means, the styles and some examples, I think now’s a good time to round-up the key takeaways I hope to bestow upon you:
What can you offer your audience?
Whether this is humour, leveraging a partnership that enables you to speak to a new audience, exclusive deals or simply just information (like this), using this as a starting point will help you curate your style, determine your approach to your comms with your audience and how that translates when it comes to your creative.
Synergy across channels
An effective TOV only works when it’s consistent and fluid across all the different channels that your brand uses to communicate - from billboards to tweets and beyond - just be sure that style of yours is also tailored to its surroundings. No billboards as Instagram posts, please.
Creative brings TOV to life
The best way to get your new TOV out there is to ensure your creative, whether it’s a simple image or brand video, embodies this new style and is treated as an extension of how the audience perceives what they’re reading elsewhere from your brand e.g - if you want to make people laugh, make sure you can do that in your video too.
For more in-depth thinking around the wider impact of TOV, you can read the thinking behind Channel Clusters from slide 27 of our wonderful whitepaper & the importance of building these channels alongside your community from slide 35 - enjoy!
Got more questions on the topic or just fancy a marketing chat? Drop me a message!