ThinkOTB Agency

3 ways you can develop your brand’s tone of voice

March 21, 2018

You may think that your brand tone of voice is something you only need to consider when first starting out. Like a logo or a brand colour, tone can then be ticked off the list and shelved indefinitely. Yet, your brand voice is an essential component of your daily strategy. This is ever more important given the continued dominance of content across both digital and traditional channels. Something as seemingly simple as a direct mail campaign or a tweet needs to be in-line with your brand’s tone of voice. This tone needs to develop as your strategy progresses and matures.

Do you utilise your brand’s tone to its full potential as a core component of your marketing strategy? Here are three ways you can ensure that your tone of voice doesn’t get left behind:

1. Use a sliding scale to develop specifics

According to an extensive whitepaper crafted by content optimisation software company Acrolinx (and distributed by Marketing Week) ‘when you read a company’s content, you understand it on two levels. The facts tell the analytical side of your brain what the company does. The tone tells the creative side what they’d be like to deal with.’

Of course, tone of voice is intricately linked to your brand values. Conveying these values in the tone of your content is extremely important. Yet Acrolinx argues that even though most brands have highly specific values mapped out, they often fall into the trap of defining their tone of voice in generic terms like ‘human, warm, friendly, and approachable.’

To avoid such generalisations, the whitepaper suggests that using a sliding scale built around the different aspects of tone. This allows you to better craft a specific set of criteria against which your content can be measured. For example, your scales could include low or high reading level, formal or informal, verbose or concise, or inspirational or practical copy should be. Using opposite ends of the spectrum helps you decide where to place your brand. Each of these scales gives your tone of voice a specific character. It enables you to move away from broad and unhelpful criteria which can leave your content confused.

2. Create a chart that guides your writers

Much of a brand’s content is outsourced to writers who do not interact daily with your brand’s values. So, you must ensure to articulate your tone of voice in practical how-to guides. This will help ensure consistency across all content. It can also apply to your in-house teams. They are responsible for everything from social media to answering client queries so you need consistency. Your how to guides create uniformity across all your customer touchpoints.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, illustrating how your brand tone of voice should appear with a brand voice chart is a helpful method to use. It suggests creating a row for each of the primary characteristics and providing a brief description of each one. Then you should add a ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ column for each. You can also provide concrete steps for how this characteristic should be achieved.

For example, if you have identified that your tone of voice should be passionate, a ‘do’ would be to use strong verbs throughout the text. These words champion your brand’s role in the wider industry. A ‘don’t’ would be use weak, indecisive language or rely on the passive voice. If you have decided to position your brand as quirky, a helpful ‘do’ would be to seek out unconventional examples in order to surprise and gain the attention of the customer. A ‘don’t’ would be rely on buzzwords and often-quoted examples to emphasise your point.

3. Learn from examples that work

Your brand doesn’t operate in a vacuum, and so drawing inspiration from your competitors or brands in a different industry can be a helpful way to see which tone of voice has previously worked and which has proven weaker.

According to an article by B2B Marketing, a good example of this is MailChimp. Even though MailChimp is itself a platform that facilitates other organisations’ content, it has cleverly developed its own tone of voice as a brand to ensure it is a leader in its industry. B2B Marketing contributor Michael King argues that MailChimp has ‘[struck] the perfect balance between chatty and professional,’ using specific cultural references like a Sherlock Holmes-inspired “missing page” graphic to ‘remind customers that it’s culture savvy and has a good sense of humour.’

King also emphasises that one of the keys to MailChimp’s success is that its tone of voice is used across all its channels and touchpoints. It remains consistent on more than on the website. He explains that MailChimp’s quirky one-liners ‘aren’t just reserved for the website: they’re also part and parcel of the brand’s social presence.’ MailChimp isn’t afraid to show some creative flair. Doing so paints it as more human than some of its competitors.

We recommend you put concrete steps in place to build and continually develop your tone of voice. This way, you can ensure that your branding remains consistent across your content output and multiple channels. Doing so allows you to utilise it to its full potential as a core component of your marketing strategy.

If you’d like help with your business branding, get in touch. Our experienced marketers can help you define your brand tone of voice, enhance your advertising, and ultimately, grow your business.


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