Why Words Matter: The Importance of Brand Tone of Voice
04.02.22Reading Time 6 MINUTES
‘The Pen is Mightier than the Sword’ – Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1839)
Bit of an ominous start, isn’t it? But stick with us, and just think about it in terms of…words. How meta! It may seem like a big and broad ask from us, but you’ll come to find you’re quite the wordsmith when it comes down to it…
Think about how many interactions you have within the day, and how many you interpret – it’s all down to very particular and refined word choice. Language has the incredible power to make us feel different things. Your porridge packet might be a bit pushy and imperative in the morning to ensure you get the best quality product (‘pour the milk up to the line’), but your midday sweet snack might be a bit more cheeky (‘go on, you know you want to’). See what we mean?
Words really do matter, and they have a huge impact on our understanding as consumers – this is why a clear and consistent Brand Tone of Voice (TOV) is integral to a brand’s image and communication. It refines, elaborates, and re-asserts our opinions of a brand and their products, and ultimately influences how we use them.
What is Brand Tone of Voice?
A brand’s tone of voice is specially designed to showcase the brand’s goals, values and personality through a particular word choice. This is all done with the aim to connect with target audiences.
It’s integral that there’s consistency within the language used by the brand in any copy, marketing material, and throughout all forms of communication – this ensures that the brand creates a distinguishable and unique impression. It’s all about standing out from the crowd, being memorable, and popping into the minds of target audiences…when they least expect it, but more importantly, when they don’t even realise they need your services. Your tone of voice ensures you’re always one step ahead of the consumer – it plants the seed of curiosity.
I want a Brand Tone of Voice…how do I get one? (The Process)
Your tone of voice is ultimately what sets you apart from your competitors. It makes you stand out, flourish, and become memorable. Unfortunately, your tone of voice isn’t just something that magically appears when you need it. We wish! Like all good things, there’s a process behind developing an effective tone of voice that is able to communicate your brand’s values and missions accurately, whilst attracting audience appeal.
Step 1: Create Your Target Audience and Personas
When you think about your brand, who is the consumer behind it? Who are the people that drive your business? These are the first questions to consider when constructing your tone of voice. Once you have your target audience personas nailed down, you’ll be able to adapt your content to suit the needs of different audiences, based on their motivations and values.
It’s all well and good to think of the usual things – demographic and age, for example. But, what if we take that a step further? We’re gonna go in-depth, so buckle up and arm yourself with a pen and paper – here are just a few questions to ask yourself, and why they’re integral to the process.
- Who are they?
- What’s their job?
- What do they look like?
- What other brands do they associate with?
- What’s their lifestyle like?
- How have they found your business?
- Do you share any common values with this consumer?
- How does this person engage with your business?
If you answer all of these questions, you will have an extremely detailed idea of your target audience group. You don’t have to stop at one group; you can have as many as your business appeals to. If you are detailed and concise, your language will inevitably follow and engage your specific audience. Subtly fine-tuned to the values of the people who keep your business ticking over. Tidy!
Step 2: Consider Your Brand Mission, Purpose and Values
A big question to consider, but one that shouldn’t be daunting. Think of it as exciting. This is the chance for you to fall in love with your brand all over again, for you to pass on to consumers the buzz of excitement that made you start your business in the first place. They need to feel it, too. It’s so much more than a ‘why did you start your business?’ question.
This part is all about the feeling and intention behind what you do – and these values should be upheld each and every day. Think about what emotions you want to communicate to your target audience surrounding your brand, and think about what words you want to be associated with.
In day-to-day transactions, you will be communicating with your target audience, and each person has their own set of values, demands, and desires. There would be no point in trying to appease these consumers if you have no clue about your own brand values. Don’t run before you can walk! The process takes time, but it’s worth it.
For example, say you want your brand to be portrayed as trustworthy, human, and friendly. The last thing you want to do is overload on the imperative verbs and industry-specific jargon, right? Instead, your target audience would be expecting colloquialisms (‘tidy’ in our case!), informal grammar contractions (it’s), and lots of first person plural pronouns (we, us) within your marketing material and copy.
Why? Because your consumers want to feel included and wanted within your business. They need to trust you and feel accepted. Your language alone has the power to do that.
Step 3: Give Your Brand a Personality And Look Into Archetypes
Arche-WHO?! Don’t worry, this word is a lot scarier than it looks. We’ll do our best to not fall into a designdough philosophy lesson, but stick with us.
Archetypes, or Jungian Archetypes, were developed by psychoanalyst Carl Jung in the early 20th century. The archetypes map out universal personality traits that are inherent within everyone. Think about your favourite character in a book, film, a poem, even a song – they all have their own archetype.
Similarly, these archetypes bubble beneath the surface of what it means to be a brand – your brand. Brilliantly individual, excitingly unique, and relatable to your consumer’s needs. Archetypes in brands are defined through their desires, values, fears and motivations. But, as a valuable marketing tool, defining your archetype is essential when consolidating your brand’s tone of voice.
Which one are you? If you’re interested, we’re a mix of The Explorer, The Creator, with underpinning traits of The Lover (we’re a bit greedy so we have three – oops). Take a read of our blog on Brand Archetypes to find out what yours is.
Step 4: Think About What Your Brand Tone of Voice Isn’t
Mix it up, and pull an Uno reverse. You know what you don’t want to be perceived as, so it’s a brilliant place to start. Say you don’t want to come across as preachy or overbearing to your target audience – the last thing your brand needs is marketing copy that sounds egotistical or pretentious.
It’s as easy as flipping the word on its metaphorical head, if you will. Get your linguist hat on and research some antonyms.
Instead of preachy and overbearing, your brand’s tone of voice should be passionate, and insightful. Don’t overthink it.
TOV…In Action: Nationwide Voices Campaign (The Caregiver Archetype)
Right. It’s all well and good us going through how to construct your tone of voice, but what about a tone of voice in action? This is one of my favourites to discuss, so get ready for some nerdy content.
If you’re from the UK, you’ve probably heard the classic line – ‘Nationwide, by your side’. You wouldn’t usually expect a bank to have such a human and emotive tone of voice, but in April 2020, Nationwide launched a campaign to position themselves as the bank of the people, for the people. And I think it worked.
The ‘Nationwide: Voices by VCCP’ campaign succeeded in making everyday viewers feel moved (and a bit teary-eyed if I must admit) through the use of spoken word using real-life voices, from real-life people, with real-life struggles.
The campaign included people’s stories of life during lockdown, as well as sharing their thoughts on what life may be like for them post-pandemic.
All of this launched during the pandemic…in a time that was, well, a bit surreal to say the least. The campaign brought viewers back to reality, and people could connect with it. And with that, Nationwide stole the hearts of many. It’s a brilliant example of a powerful, yet human, tone of voice in action.
You’ve read a lot of these words by now. Maybe these words have given you a good idea of our own tone of voice (we hope!), or maybe these words have evoked an emotion, or instilled a sense of motivation within you to find your own tone of voice.
You already have the words – now it’s up to you what you do with them.