I recently took a series of online courses from MarketingProfsPRO called Marketing Writing Bootcamp. Don’t believe me? I’ve got a diploma to prove it. I had to take quizzes and everything. Why are you doubting me so much? Seems weird… Anyway, the class covered many topics, and in its wake left a bunch of knowledge in my brain, knowledge that I am going to bestow upon you.
One of my favorite courses was on tone of voice. You know how when you were a blossoming prepubescent teen and your mom would say; “Don’t take that tone with me,” then she’d send you to your room? Or how when you’re married and you’re a blossoming prepubescent man and your wife will say; “Don’t take that tone with me,” then send you to your room? That’s because it’s not just what you say; it’s how you say it that makes all the difference.
Brands can use tone of voice as a tool to more accurately communicate who they are. For example:
A company that makes things might say:
The diversity in our department enables us to be innovative and creative, resulting in revolutionary, ground breaking and immersive products for our customers.
Or they could say:
We build awesome products that our customers love.
The message is the same but they sound vastly different because of their language, personality, structure and tone. Neither is wrong, as long as they effectively communicate the brand’s personality, culture and values.
How do you start?
To determine the type of tone you should have, start from the beginning by defining your company’s values. Are they silly? Inspirational? Cool? Intellectual? Just don’t say “boring”. It’s easy to jump to that conclusion for some, but I guarantee you it’s not true. Your values will then define your brand, which defines your personality, which dictates the type of tone of voice you should have. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to talk. But before you open your mouth, make sure you’re ready to use it consistently.
Positioning your tone of voice in the consumer’s mind doesn’t happen overnight; it takes time. Think about it. When you know a person, you have certain expectations for how they talk, the types of jokes they make and the things they say. When they say something that aligns with your expectations of them, all is right with the universe.
Now if I suddenly decided that I wanted to talk like, oh I don’t know, Darth Vader, it would come across as strange, since it would go against the expectations people have of me.
Let’s say I told Mike, one of our art directors, to use a certain headline in an ad and he didn’t listen to me. I’d normally say, “Hey, what happened to that headline?” But if I wanted him to suddenly perceive me as Darth Vader, I’d say, “I find your lack of obedience disturbing. Your insolence betrays you. Now feel the wrath of the dark side,” then I’d pull out my pink lightsaber (I’ve always wanted a pink lighstaber). It’d be weird because I’ve never talked like that before; I haven’t established that I’m Darth Vader. That’s an extreme example, but I think you get what I mean. It takes time to establish your tone of voice, and that’s why you must do it consistently and accurately.
Tone of voice can really do wonders for your brand. It can help you stand out from the crowd, engage customers, share your personality, build trust, strengthen and reinforce your brand, and all of this can ultimately lead to generating more sales. And today, given the amount of voices (including the ones in my head) we hear every day, tone of voice is especially crucial to helping you stand out and be memorable.