The Importance of Tone Of Voice

How is it possible that we think of two brands that sell the same exact things as being completely different? What makes Starbucks different from Peet’s Coffee? Nike from Adidas? Target — and — dare we say — Walmart? Even designer brands like Pucci and Ferragamo, for example, are very similar at face value; both are Italian luxury brands named after their respective founders. And yet, despite the similarities of the two prestige fashion houses, these brands appeal to distinct audiences and speak to disparate aspirational lifestyles. What these differences primarily come down to is brand personality, or, in other words, tone.

A brand’s tone of voice is the utmost embodiment of its character. More than frivolous decoration or “good copywriting,” tone is one of the most important aspects of communicating with your customer. After all, 38% of communication is driven by tone. Ultimately, how you communicate is just as important as what you are communicate.

As a result, we recommend that every brand develop Tone of Voice — or Verbal Identity — Guidelines that help to codify how you communicate across touchpoints.

What Tone of Voice Guidelines Can Do for You:

1. Showcase Brand Personality

Is your brand reassuring and trustworthy or edgy and urban? Do you communicate colloquially or with the lofty words of an age-old institution? Are you reserved and polite or relatable and funny? How do you come off to your customers? How do you want them to feel about you? Tone is one of your first opportunities to bring your brand positioning to life, ultimately showing who you are and what you care about through the way you communicate.

2. Make a Great First Impression

Research shows that first impressions are hard to change, rendering it all the more important to make a good one. Thinking about the tone in which you are communicating maximizes your opportunity to control the impression you make. Whether you’re looking to be buttoned up and trustworthy or laid-back and relaxed, your brand’s tone should be dialed in from a customer’s very first interaction.

3. Differentiate from Your Competition

No matter your product or service, how you communicate presents an opportunity to stand out from the competitive landscape. Brand personality can be used as a means to better resonate with a particular target demographic or be more memorable in the minds of all consumers. Just as Versace and Ferragamo have carved out their own distinctive spaces through brand character, so can you.

4. Streamline Internal Development

As a brand grows, more hands tend to touch creative deliverables. Having codified internal guidelines mean that multiple people can develop various components of your brand and they’ll still feel as if they come from the same place. Whether you have an internal team, work with freelance copywriters, or are an international organization with offices spanning the globe, guidelines ensure that your brand will always sound like your brand.

What’s Next?

If you’re looking to establish your brand’s Tone of Voice or character, here are some additional questions you might want to take into consideration:

  • What are the various touch-points your brand communicates at?
  • How do you want your consumers to feel after they’ve interacted with your brand?
  • What are your brand values that can help guide your tone?
  • What words does your brand use? What words or phrases does your brand never use?
  • What sort of copy samples can you provide to help bring your guidelines to life?

Interested in building tone of voice guidelines? Want to talk brand strategy? Drop us a line!