How to Define Your Brand’s Tone of Voice

When you think about your circle of friends and acquaintances in school, different voices come to mind. There are the preppy, upbeat people. There are much more serious and no-nonsense approaches. There are the class clowns that make everyone laugh and the highly intelligent honors students who always have some valuable fact to offer. There are streetwise voices that hold a certain swag and knowledge of how things work. There are also highly charismatic voices that are optimistic and full of hope.

Personalities shine through different types of tone of voice. We learn to make assumptions based on the tone of voice used (both written and verbal).

If someone jokes a lot, we probably will assume they are happy. If someone offers helpful advice and guidance, we often believe they have it all together.

Brands can hone their content tone to help their audience understand what they offer as a company. Keep reading to learn more about how to create the right brand voice for your business.

What is a Tone of Voice in Branding?

brand voice

Just like a person, a brand will have a tone of voice that defines its character. Brands that are wordy and even-toned will come across as boring and possibly out-of-touch with their audience. Brands that embrace a smart kind of humor are going to attract audiences who appreciate entertainment. These are just a couple of tone of voice examples, but there are many different approaches.

Think about your favorite brands.

What they say and how they say things will give them a certain kind of personality in your eyes.

You might like brands that are rugged and adventurous or cool and suave. There are brands that are strictly business and those that are seemingly carefree. Some seem very responsible or compassionate.

This tone makes an impression on you.

Why is it Important to Define Your Brand’s Tone of Voice?

This tone—paired with their imagery and customer service—creates the brand. Without a consistent approach to tone and aesthetic, you wouldn’t have clear brand characteristics.

The wrong tone is going to drive away segments of the market you are trying to target.

The right voice is going to attract segments of the market you are trying to target.

When brands really tap into a consistent voice, you start to feel as if you really know them. You feel like they are authentically talking to a close friend and not just trying to sell a product or service.

The right tone can make a brand feel more trustworthy, creating a multi-layered personality that people naturally understand.

Brand Voice Affects Our Perception of Value

When the product or service seems similar, the branding makes it something different. You could buy a shirt from Nike or Ralph Lauren. While they both serve the same purpose (comfortably covering your torso with fabric), the brand voice makes you see those two garments in a very different light. Throw in a Hanes shirt too, and now you have three distinctive items that all serve the same purpose.

Brand voice helps you determine which is cost-effective and less fussy. It tells you which one is better for certain social circles and made with high-quality material. It would help you determine performance level and swag factor.

Without any brand voice, you would see three shirts in front of you and spend more time feeling the fabric, considering the cost and checking the fit. Branding helps you make a faster purchase decision. If you know you love a certain brand, you are going to default to their product as a brand fan. The brand voice is a major part of what helps you notice one brand over another.

How to Create Your Brand’s Voice

create tone of voice

Your messaging and website tone should convey important things about your brand to your audience. You can use this guide to create a new brand or adjust an existing brand tone to better match your values and audience. There is no wrong time to create better branding consistency for your company.

Brand voice is important for businesses of every size.

Research Your Audience

First, define who you are targeting. This step will go hand-in-hand with the next step; you may even float back and forth as you do initial research because you should be targeting any gaps in the market.

As you start to understand who you are targeting, it will be easier to understand what kind of brand would attract them and motivate a sale.

In order to understand your audience, it’s important to know their pain points, likes and dislikes. You need to create buyer personas that outline characteristics of real people in your audience.

As you conduct this research, you may be able to glean information about your audience through their social channels, interactions with your brand or by reaching out to ask them.

Research the Market

What are your competitors doing? You don’t want to be confused with other brands in your arena. It doesn’t do you any good to fight for the same space as another established brand in your industry.

Use your brand voice to help clarify what sets you apart from the pack.

Consider Your Goals

As a company, define what you want to accomplish and what you naturally bring to the table. Your brand voice can help you look a certain way, but it will quickly be shown as inauthentic if your brand’s actions don’t match the voice.

For example, if you use a brand voice that is serious and no-nonsense, it would be a disconnect to operate in a disorganized and fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants manner. If your marketing tone is full of humor but your company reps are rushed and no-nonsense, then there will be a big disconnect in your brand tone.

The tone you choose has to carry throughout every part of the company—specifically including your sales, delivery and customer service experiences.

Define Your Voice

Now that you have a better idea of what your audience wants, what your competitors already offer and where you are going as a brand, you can start to define your messaging tone goals.

Write down characteristics your company embodies. Write down what you want your audience to think when they first come into contact with your brand at any touchpoint. Also, note how this voice differentiates you from the competition.

You will use these notes to create your brand voice guide.

Create a Guide

content tone - guide

To keep everyone on the same page, you need a brand guide. You might already have one in place for your logo and brand aesthetic. You also need one in place for your brand voice. Your employees, writers, influencers, content creators, marketers and advertisers can use this guide to create a cohesive voice for your messaging and advertising tone.

  • Characteristics: Choose key terms that characterize your brand (like trustworthy, down-to-earth, funny, high-quality, luxury, etc.). Don’t choose all the “good” characteristics—only choose the ones that best define your brand. Be as specific as possible, avoiding general terms that tend to be overused.
  • Personality: Boil down your top characteristics into a personality. Choose three attributes that best describe who your brand is an entity. Create a single sentence that sums up your brand voice (“Our brand is funny, irreverent and transparent, appealing to a young audience who appreciates candid language.”).
  • Word Lists: Provide terms and words your brand uses over ones you don’t. For example, if you are an academic company, you may approve a list of bigger words and technical terms while avoiding slang.
  • Examples: Provide examples of the kind of content you want to achieve. Ideally, you will have several different examples of blogs, web copy, advertisements and emails for your brand that you have approved as in-line with your voice. It’s better to have your own examples than to point to another brand.

Audit Existing Content

Once you have a clear understanding of your brand, it’s time to see how your old content matches up. Adjust old articles, web copy and messaging that isn’t in sync with your defined voice. While you will use your brand voice guide for all content going forward, you don’t want to have a disconnect with existing content on your site.

Assess Your Success

Don’t just assume your voice is hitting the mark—get audience feedback! Send out a survey to see how your audience would describe your brand. Do some social listening to find out what people are saying when they mention your brand in the “wild” (social media).

If you are struggling to nail down your tone, you may find people don’t give a clear picture of who your brand is or what you offer.

Partner with Matching Voices

Use influencers that align with your brand voice to solidify your position in the industry. Influencers build their audiences by setting themselves apart with certain appealing characteristics. The right influencers can support your brand voice and expose your company to a larger audience.

If you are looking for influencers to embody your brand voice and want a partner to run your campaigns, we can help! Request your quote now.