Tone of voice is absolutely essential to every business in helping it to develop an emotional connection with customers. Some of the most successful brands are so because they have a distinctive, consistent, effective tone of voice that makes them instantly recognisable and constantly links you back to their specific product/service; their unique tone of voice is so successfully intertwined with their brand, that they become indistinguishable.
The key point to be made, is that it is not what you say, but how you say it. This is important in every piece of content that a company produces; be it blog posts, site content, ads or emails, there should always be a consistent style of writing that can clearly be recognised as mirroring the brand’s values.
Let’s look at some current brands and their unique tone of voice:
Tone of voice: Witty, Humourous, Outrageous, Embodies Pub Chat.
If Paddy Power were a person: Al Murray the pub landlord.
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Is it effective?
Paddy Power have pretty much captured their target audience with their faultless tone of voice. Gav Thompson, Paddy Power CMO, describes their approach. as “Something that our punters would say down the pub to make their friends laugh”. The sport betting customer is generally a bit laddish, enjoys banter, loves sport and probably likes to head down the pub for a beer or two, so the tone of voice is pretty much spot on. Paddy Power doesn’t care if people get offended, as those who take offense probably won’t be the sort to bet with them anyway. Therefore, they try to be as loud, brash and attention grabbing as possible.
Tone of voice: Happy, Conversational, Playful, Naive.
If innocent were a person: Miranda Hart.
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Is it effective?
innocent always tries to keep their language conversational in order to appeal to the everyday consumer. They don’t talk down to the consumer by using complicated words, but instead try to talk as we would talk to one another. For example, their ‘products’ tab on their website is labelled “things we make” and their ‘about us’ page is simply called “us”. This is all in an attempt to make their brand more approachable and easy to engage with daily. The target consumer is clearly a healthy eating, positive personality, and innocent try to relate to that by keeping their tone positive and uplifting.
Tone of voice: Professional, Warm, Responsible, Thoughtful.
If British Airways was a person: Stephen Fry.
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Is it effective?
British Airways is a high quality brand that oozes professionalism and class. They try to be professional, but avoid formality by being warm and honest. Here is an example:
“Please have your boarding cards and passports ready for inspection when you approach the gate.”
“Please have your boarding cards and passports ready.”
The first is very formal and sounds like an order, the second is subtler. Whilst they wish to stay conversational, they wouldn’t go to the same lengths as Innocent. The language used is elegant and important; for instance, “To glide, to Stride” sounds like BA are trying to communicate purpose. This may be because their target audience is a little older than innocent, and their customers are choosing BA for their quality.
As demonstrated, the tone of voice a brand uses to talk to a customer is hugely important. It is essential to set clear attributes for a writer to follow, that clearly echo the brand values. It is also helpful to sometimes assign a character to these values and endeavour to emulate these attributes. Try writing a sentence in the voice of Al Murray and then try the same sentence as Stephen Fry – you will find the outcomes very different.
Can you think of any other brands that have a very distinctive tone of voice?