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Your brand tone of voice is as important as your logo, your font and colour scheme. However, it is often overlooked when it comes to building a brand.

“Don’t speak to me in that tone of voice.” Maybe you have heard someone say that to you at some point in your life? Perhaps a parent!

You may not have realised you were speaking in a certain way. Or that the other person would take offence.

Tone is as important as the words we use, both when speaking and when writing.

In my blog “How are you making a difference in the world?I looked at the first steps of brand building, vision, and values. Today I want to explain the role tone of voice plays in defining your brand.

Brand consistencyBrand is marketing jargon and you might not think it applies to you or your business but think of it this way. When you choose a can of Coca-Cola, you know exactly what you will get. Time after time. If someone says the word Rolex, you know exactly what you will get–every time. Similarly, if you think of Oprah Winfrey, you don’t just think of her for presenting a TV programme. We know her for her charity work, film roles, as a magazine proprietor, and television company producer, for her generosity, and as someone who has publicly struggled with her weight. She is a brand in her own right. Oprah is shorthand for female powerhouse.

A brand is more than the sum of its parts. It isn’t the logo, the colour scheme or the product itself, it is a promise of what you can expect. It is consistency. By opting for a certain brand you are taking away the guesswork. You don’t have to weigh up the pros and cons of your buying decision; you know and trust that brand to deliver exactly the result you want.

There are several components involved in creating that brand promise and having a reliable and trusted product or service is at the heart of it. If you don’t satisfy your customers’ problems, then no amount of branding will make a difference. If Coca-Cola didn’t satisfy people’s thirst, or taste nice, then the rest of the brand packaging would be irrelevant.

How do you define your company’s tone of voice?

When you set up your business, you chose a company name, probably had a logo designed for you, and developed a website. You decided how you wanted to portray yourself to your potential customers and the image you wanted to give of yourself and your products and services.

What adjectives helped you to form that image? How would your customers describe you?

Friendly                                                Innovative

Helpful                                                 Professional

Creative                                               Market leader

Alternative                                         Challenging

Inspirational                                       Traditional

There are lots of tools and techniques you can use to come up with your perfect adjective. If your business was a car, what kind would it be? What kind of animal? Which celebrity best represents your brand image and so on. Have some fun with it and see what you come up with.

Most businesses will say that they want to appear professional and friendly, so when it comes to helping you stand out from the competition, try to find a word or two that relates more closely to your personality.

Let’s say that you identify with the word ‘quirky.’ After all, you dress a little less conservatively than some colleagues and you like striking earrings.

When you are writing consider if the words you are using and the tone your words create could be called quirky. Does your website sound formal? Have you got a traditional layout or have you changed things up a bit and gone for a more playful design using more visual elements?

Have you labelled things differently? So instead of having a contact form, you might invite people to ‘don’t be shy, say hi.’

Instead of ‘download your free resource here’ you might say ‘life-affirming material available here.’

As well as vocabulary and structure, also think about verbs. Try and write in the active voice e.g. ‘we will make a decision’ rather than ‘a decision will be made.’ The latter is more formal and passive.

The importance of consistency

As we saw earlier, consistency is everything when it comes to building your brand and getting it known.

If you are aiming to be quirky on your website, you need to show up in the same way on social media, on your business card, and in the way you market and promote your business.

Being quirky doesn’t mean you can’t present serious information or stimulate controversial conversations, it just relies on you to choose words that are in keeping with your chosen tone of voice.

Think of the company Innocent. They are fun and quirky.  Rather than presenting a list like most other companies do, they even write their ingredients with humour.

Tone of voice example Innocent drinks list

They are passionate about what they stand for and present information in an engaging manner, which communicates clearly without patronising. And they carry this across everything they do.

Having identified your tone of voice, it is handy to create a short guide that employees can follow. That way you can show examples of how you want them to write company documents. Select a few words that you feel represent the image you want to portray and also highlight words that they should avoid using.

Your tone of voice is the written manifestation of your brand vision and values. It reflects your brand personality and hints at the very essence of what your company stands for.

Download this handy template to help you develop your brand’s tone of voice.

Please complete the contact form and get in touch if you would like help identifying your tone of voice, putting it into practice, or writing a guide for your business.

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