26 October 2021
A Lesson on Tone of Voice
Welcome to class, everyone!
Today’s lesson is on something each and every one of us has. It’s something that influences our choices and preferences, even if we don’t know it. It’s hard to describe and easy to get wrong. We’re talking about tone of voice.
What is Tone of Voice
Excuse the cliché, but tone of voice is defined by Merriam Webster as “the way a person is speaking to someone”. It’s the character of our communication.
Tone of voice isn’t about what you say, it’s how you say it.
For brands, tone of voice is a critical aspect of their personality because it forms a major part of how the audience perceives their message.
Check out our blog on content guidelines to see how tone of voice is put into practice.
How Does It Help My Brand?
Great question, class.
Let’s look at these 5 key ways your tone of voice helps your brand.
- Stop the scroll. Break through the noise. Stand out in a crowd. However you want to phrase it, a unique tone of voice grabs the attention of your audience and gives you a better chance of connecting than your competitor.
- Humanise your brand. Buyers are looking for emotional truth. They want to be talked to by humans, not faceless entities or robots. It helps people see your brand as authentic, honest and relatable.
- Build integrity. Think about it, how does a confident person speak? With hand gestures, sureness, eye contact and direction. This is what tone of voice gives. It emulates authority, so people think “huh, they really know what they’re talking about”.
- Consistency. We talk about this a lot but consistency is crucial to a successful brand. You should look and sound the same everywhere your brand appears. By focusing on your tone of voice and setting out rules, you can ensure this cohesiveness.
- It sets you apart. A lot of brands still grapple with this and haven’t nailed their tone of voice. It’s present in literally all communications, but some brands just don’t see the need to focus on it. That’s why when a brand has put effort into their tone of voice, they truly shine.
Defining Tone of Voice
Now to the tricky part.
How do you describe tone of voice? Or decide on what your brand’s will be?
Tone of voice can be difficult to talk about, especially for people who aren’t wordsmiths. That’s why when you onboard with us, we run a tone of voice exercise to uncover how you want to sound.
Most of the time, you do have an idea of your tone of voice, even if you don’t know how to write it (that’s where our brilliant copywriters come in). This exercise helps us gauge the vibe of your brand so we can write copy that sings.
These are the four dimensions of tone of voice, and every brand sits somewhere on each line. The brand examples used at either end are there to help you understand what that tone of voice sounds like. Let’s look at some examples.
This is a headline for a blog post from Who Gives A Crap. Funny, right? Puns, poo jokes, it’s all there. Versus a headline from an article for The Age. It’s more serious. And of course it is, the news is serious! Your tone of voice should match up with your offering.
Now take a look at Go-To Skincare and Aesop. See how Go-To is speaking like a friend, even uncomfortable with being self-aggrandising! Now that’s casual. Aesop on the other hand takes themselves seriously, their language is more measured and considered with an extensive vocabulary, evoking a more formal and premium voice.
Next we have cheeky Frank Body with flirty product copy, referring to customers as “babes” and creating a sense of familiarity and fun. This is very different from Uber who puts boundaries in place to establish trust and respect, which is what you want from a rideshare service.
Finally we have the emotive content from Nike. They’re famous for their inspiring, motivating copy that pulls on heart strings and is written with active verbs and big statements. Commonwealth Bank on the other hand is totally candid. Unemotional and businesslike, giving it to you straight to emphasise how professional they are.
Can you see the stark difference between the tone of voice these brands have gone for? Make no mistake, this is purposeful and calculated to line up with their brand offering and connect with their intended audience.
It’s important to note that tone of voice isn’t just about a one-off example. It infiltrates all communications from ads to emails, blog posts to product names.