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Everything brand tone of voice is (and isn’t)

By Frances Martin-Isaacs | Creative director

Relevance

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The Drum Network article

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November 24, 2022 | 7 min read

A term that is often floated around the marketing industry, tone of voice is a subtle yet powerful tool for conveying brand values. Frances Martin-Isaacs of Relevance elaborates.

Black Audio-Technica microphone on pink background

Your tone of voice should amplify your brand’s identity / Padraig Treanor via Unsplash

When considering a brand, for many people the mind jumps immediately to the topic of brand visual identity and a logo.

The reality is that all visual branding represents and begins with a company’s values and unique selling propositions (USPs) – those USPs and differentiators that position a company within the market and to its audience. The only way to describe a USP is with words, so this is where brand tone of voice (and arguably all branding) begins.

Brand tone of voice is not optional; it is a fundamental part of defining a company’s essence and will become the foundation of any communications and behaviors of a company and its employees. Words must be well-chosen and considered.

Here are the most important considerations and recommendations when it comes to creating a tone of voice that’s right for your company.

1. Brand tone of voice is mandatory

Consider your tone of voice an essential part of your company. It is not a ‘nice-to-have’ element – it is fundamental to your brand, behaviors and marketing.

2. It’s your personality

Your tone of voice speaks to your target audience; it is the personality of your company and often the emotional driver for a customer to be loyal to your brand. When defining your tone of voice brand guidelines, it may be useful to consider your company as a person by creating a company’s persona (or pick a well-known figure if it’s too challenging to ask business leaders to create a persona).

Ask yourself: if my company were a person, who would they be? How would they speak? How would they think? How would they make the people around them feel?

How you make customers feel is the essence of a brand’s connection with an audience. Developing your brand tone of voice can also help establish your brand archetype. Don’t forget brands can be aligned to more than one archetype, providing multiple opportunities for targeted marketing campaigns.

3. It must be authentic

Brand tone of voice must be based on reality. Not who you think you are, not just what you believe, not who you would like to be. To be authentic, a company’s tone of voice must come from the heart of the company.

Defining a company’s tone of voice brand guidelines is not just a creative production exercise; it involves understanding the people at the core of a business, the USPs of the business, the product or service and the audience.

This requires collaborative work with business leaders and creatives. Relevance typically holds workshops to brainstorm and work through the business tone of voice with company founders, leaders and decision-makers.

4. It must be used consistently

For a tone of voice to underpin a company’s communications and culture, it must be consistently applied in all scenarios by the whole team – your tone of voice should become your company’s mantra. All employees should know and understand how you speak and behave, internally and to the world.

5. To be, and not to be

While you describe your brand’s personality and tone, it is also useful to describe what it is not to avoid descriptions being too broad. For example, ‘confident – but never arrogant,’ ‘playful – but never childish.’

6. It’s all about you

This really is worth spending a moment on. While we expend so much of a company’s energy in looking after customers, brand tone of voice really is a time to think about yourselves and get a clear understanding of how you operate and why.

7. It’s instructive

Where tone leads, the rest of the company will follow. A well-defined company tone of voice will help guide employees, marketers, designers and creatives, and sculpt any brief or actions related to the brand.

Our creative department are experts in brand tone of voice. Get in touch.

Modern Marketing Content Marketing Brand Strategy

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Relevance

Relevance is a strategic and creative digital agency specialised in profiling and targeting Ultra-High-Net-Worth Individuals for the world's most exclusive brands and companies.

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