As an ever-evolving field of study and work, Marketing & Advertising has come a long way since its humble beginnings. Once considered to be a simple word-of-mouth recommendation, it has been transformed today into a fully-fledged business and art to master, with every little aspect dissected and analysed to create a successful formula that delivers the needed results every single time.
One of the most important factors – if not the most important – that lead to successful marketing and branding campaigns relies on the development of a suitable tone of voice to match the project. When crafted right, it can prove a winning ticket and successfully launch any brand into the right market.
So how exactly does the tone of voice come into play?
The tone of voice: a brief overview
Let’s start from the top. If you’ve received an English-speaking education in any part of the world, then chances are you’ve already heard and used the words “Tone of Voice” before. Maybe in the context of public speaking or project presentations, or maybe when studying intonation and body language. Regardless of the reason, you’re familiar with the term.
But on the off chance that you haven’t, allow me to sum it up for you. On an oral and speech level, the tone of voice is exactly what you would imagine it to be: the intonation and way certain words are spoken in order to fully express a range of emotions and ideas. This means, for example, giving your tone a sing-song edge to express happiness, or using a gravely and low tone to evoke secrecy. The possibilities stretch as far as your imagination goes.
In a marketing sense, the intention is similar. The tone of voice is written, yes, but it still has to evoke something in the reader, maybe a certain emotion, and ideally drive them to show a reaction. Whether the tone is friendly or formal or modern or educational, it has to leave a mark one way or another in order to help you deliver your message and establish your identity.
Your tone of voice represents you. Learn, understand and memorize that because it will help you develop content with complete transparency and honesty.
The tone of voice: a step-by-step guide
As with most marketing elements and tools, the tone of voice has to be very deliberate in order to deliver the wanted results. It is a culmination of research, teamwork, effort and knowledge, and should be handled with care and detail at all times.
Figure out your target audience
One of the first things to do on any new project is determining what the target demographic is.
Who are your first readers and listeners? What age group do they belong to? Where do they live? What are their interests? Their aspirations? Their hobbies? Beliefs? Professions?
The possibilities are endless. Languages, lingo and SEO differ from one audience to the other, so the more criteria you use to narrow it down, the more accurate your aim will be.
If you’re just starting out and believe that you can’t yet pinpoint those details because you don’t actually know your audience yet, think again. Check out who similar brands are interacting with and get inspired. Avoid replication and plagiarism because it will hurt you more than anything, but a little research will go a long way.
Highlight your company values and mission
While they might seem irrelevant to the tone of voice at first glance, the mission and values of a brand will translate into its style and tone, so it is absolutely mandatory to figure them out very early on in the process.
What does your company/brand represent? What message are your trying to deliver to your followers?
Once you figure out your values and aim, you’ll find yourself one step closer to finding your true voice.
One of the most common mistakes in terms of tone of voice and written content is the overuse of proper vocabulary and formal language. This pattern is a direct result of overthinking content and staying away from a brand’s true identity.
Think about it this way: if you use a friendly, conversational tone of voice when doing oral brand presentations and briefs, why should the written form of your content be any different?
Formality is useful in some industries, yes, but it is not the rule. And either way, it is not the only form of clean and consistent content. Do not try to box your content under one superlative, because you can have it all – clean and friendly or formal or educational and fun.
The important thing to remember is to stay true to your intention and never try to be something that you and your brand are not. If you’ve got a certain vision, stick to it. Professional guidance and consultancy are necessary, of course, because sometimes ideas don’t translate well into brand image, but remember that your vision matters, so adapt a healthy mix of the two.
And always, always, always remember to write about your brand the same way you talk about your brand.
Every little detail matters
Consider your tone of voice as an onion for a moment. Not the stinky aspect of an onion, but rather the layered aspect of it. An onion is made of layers upon layers that shape its end result. And just like the onion, your tone of voice is made of layers upon layers of information that give it its ultimate shape.
Vegetable analogies aside, this means that the elements and details that go into perfecting the tone of voice are many.
The size of your company will dictate your language, its location will determine your culture, the nature of your work will influence your professional aim, the atmosphere of your offices will affect your style – Every single brand characteristic of yours, tangible or otherwise, will serve as a building block and come into play eventually, so make sure to ask yourself the right questions.
Break the rules – or at least shake them a little
Forget everything you’ve just read in this post. Actually, better yet, understand it so you can disregard it when you don’t think you need it.
At the end of the day, rules are made to be broken, and ours are no exception. None of this is set in stone, so do not be afraid to think outside the box and skip steps when necessary.
The tone of voice: a further analysis
Now that you know exactly what the tone of voice is and how to perfect it, you’re probably wondering why exactly it would be relevant to you.
The answer to that question has already been alluded to several times, but here it is again: your tone of voice is what best represents you and your business. It is the driving force behind your brand, what connects – or disconnects – you to your audience, and most importantly, it’s what they will remember of you.
Think Apple. Despite the overflow of informational at our constant disposal, content written by Apple still stands out and can be pinpointed in a crowd of information. Wherever you see that sleek, straightforward tone of voice, your mind automatically relates it to the computer giant.
So why not have your own brand’s tone of voice hold this kind of significance?
Ultimately, what you should take from this is that putting thought and care into your content will take you a long way, and will very likely give you the positive results you’re looking for.
Focus on your audience, your values and mission, your character and integrity, and channel it all into finding your voice. You will not come to regret it.