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May, 2015

BREAKING BRANDS: Tone of voice

How often do you hear the line “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it”? This can be with reference to the cause of a domestic spat, a misunderstanding between friends or for the savvy marketers amongst us; it’s often spoken of with reference to a brand’s tone of voice.

So what is tone of voice?

Put simply, it’s the personality of your brand or company as expressed through the written word, in any setting, and across all mediums. And it’s not just the words you choose, but also their order, rhythm and pace. Whether by accident or design, your brand or company already has one – a way of ‘speaking’ that is you. Is this clear and consistent? Or muddled and incoherent?

Why should you care about tone of voice?

A distinctive and recognisable tone of voice sets you apart. Carefully chosen words can influence and persuade – it can win you new clients and raise your brand profile. A consistent tone of voice breeds familiarity and trust; it improves the customer’s brand experience and boosts revenue.

Wielded correctly, the right tone of voice is a powerful weapon for building brand success. Keep in mind that the aim is not for your audience to remark on your fantastic writing skills, but to associate it with your great business.

Successful tone of voice in action…

Fiat 500

Fun, youthful, funky, quirky, desirable, cool, different

  • Form and function meet. And begin a torrid affair.
  • Bigger isn’t better. It’s just harder to park.
  • Life’s too short to wear a boring car.


Global, progressive, serious, informed, knowledgeable, business-minded, reliable, trustworthy

  • 80% of life on earth is in the ocean. We help you see the world’s opportunities.
  • In the future, salt water will quench our thirst. There’s a new world emerging.
  • Five times more people are learning English in China, than there are people in England. The world belongs to those who see its potential.

Tiffany & Co

Classic, elegant, stylish, romantic, luxurious, considered, special, aspirational

  • An elegant affair. From the gown to the table settings, an evening where no exquisite detail is overlooked.
  • Light the candles. Use the good china. And crystal. When you are together, put style in your life. This is part of living well, together. This is romance.
  • Surprises are essential. An unscheduled night of dancing. Suddenly, tickets to Paris. A hidden gift. Surprises lift romance to stratospheric heights.

How do you go about establishing the right tone of voice?

This can be a complicated, extensive process that involves research, brand reviews, content and audience audits. The reality is that not all of us will have the budget, time and resources to commit to this undertaking.

A good starting point is to pin down your company’s values and way of thinking. You can do this by posing a few simple questions to yourself:

  • If our company were a person, what would we be like?
  • What is it we want to tell the world?
  • How do we sound to others? How do we want to sound?
  • Who are we engaging with? Who do we want to engage with?
  • How informal can we be?
  • Is there a place for humour?
  • What do our competitors sound like?

It’s important to understand that tone of voice is an expression of a company’s values and way of thinking. It can’t be plucked from thin air or created willy nilly. It must grow out of who you already are as a company and evolve accordingly.

The key is to be authentic, and hence, credible. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to try to sound like someone or something you’re not. It won’t resonate with the discerning consumer/client who will not be hoodwinked.

Part of the big picture

Tone of voice doesn’t work in isolation. It’s one part of the big picture that consists of your logo, typeface, colour palette and imagery, amongst others. A formal, corporate looking brand identity paired with an ingratiatingly chatty voice would jar, just as a serious, highbrow statement sitting against a hue of pretty pastels would discombobulate.

Interested in how we can help your business? If you have a project you would like to discuss with us, we would love to hear from you. Give us a call on 0117 966 9189 or drop us a line at hello@workbrands.co.uk.