The Ultimate Guide To Finding Your Brand's Tone of Voice

brand tone of voice
brand tone of voice

Defining and documenting your brand voice is an important—although sometimes difficult—step toward creating a strong brand. The idea is that without your brand’s name attached to it, your content across channels will still come across as yours to your audience.

In this blog, we’ll be looking at how to create a tone of voice that your brand can use across its communication channels, and the ways to ensure your brand tone of voice is flexible to fit global markers, without sacrificing your core brand identity and values.

Table of Contents

Tone of Voice Definition 

Your brand's tone of voice should reflect your brand's personality, and have a certain X factor that helps you stand out from other brands. When thinking about your tone of voice, imagine having an actual conversation. How do you sound? Angry, formal, funny, or happy? Is there a particular way that you speak?  

In essence, tone of voice describes how your brand speaks with its audience and this tone of voice communication style impacts how they will receive and perceive your message. Tone of voice is all about how you communicate as opposed to what you communicate. 

Why is Tone of Voice Important?

  • Enhances customer experience: drives culture, community and conversation.
  • Humanises your brand: shows off a personality that reminds your audience that humans are behind the company or social media account.
  • Encourages interaction: writing conversationally invites customers to get engage with your brand.
  • Creates a consistent brand image: uniformity across the way you communicate strengthens the core values you are trying to portray, making your brand image more consistent.  
screenshot of netflix tweet for brand tone of voice

Brand Tone of Voice Examples

There are different tones of voice that exist in branding, but a common thread between the various examples is the consistency that brand tone of voice has in delivering its messaging to its audience. You don't want to sound funny and humourous one day, and then angry the next. The way your brand sounds to audiences is as important as how your brand visually looks. So it's important that you have a definitive style of speaking. If you're stuck on where to begin discovering your own unique brand tone of voice, watch these tone of voice examples from some of the world's leading brands.

Tone of Voice of Famous Brands + How To Guide

Creating a Flexible Brand Tone of Voice

Even when confined to the United States, a company would be hard-pressed to use identical language across states (or within some states) and find success. Billboards in San Francisco are splattered with colloquial lingo that would make SoCal audiences turn up their noses. And those cities are only a few hundred miles apart.

Tone of voice communication can become complicated on a much grander scale for global brands for a multitude of reasons:

  • Cultural norms can vary greatly across the globe. Take, for example, Uber’s ‘Avions de Chasse’ (or ‘hot chick”) partnership in France, where riders could be driven by beautiful women within Lyon’s city limits. What somehow seemed like a good idea to the local team, became a crisis communications issue and was quickly axed by the U.S. marketing team.
  • Words can have significantly different meanings or connotations from one region to another. This is especially important to double check if your message is being translated word-for-word by a non-native speaker. These translation blunders may make for some comedic relief for general consumers, but they’re damaging from a corporate branding standpoint.
  • Symbols have different meanings across countries. When Pampers diapers were sold in Japan, the stork imagery and messaging did not resonate with Japanese parents because tales of a stork delivering babies isn’t part of Japanese culture.
  • Social media platforms have significantly different adoption around the world. Americans would think V Kontakte and QZone are gibberish, but they were the most popular social networks in Russia and China in January 2018. If brands only developed content with Facebook or Instagram in mind, they’d miss out on staying relevant in some international markets.

For these reasons, global brands need a flexible brand tone of voice framework that allows regional teams to craft messages for the right platforms for their audiences.

How to Create a Flexible Brand Voice

Companies of all sizes need to document their brand's tone of voice to ensure consistency in their communications. For global brands, there are a few additional steps, but it is worth the time investment.

These three steps are the base for building your brand's tone of voice:

Pick universal voice attributes

To do this, take a sample of your content—everything from videos to web pages, e-books to social media—and identify content that best embodies what you want your brand voice to be. Then, describe the tone of voice that those pieces convey in three words. Think broad on this: passionate, quirky, authentic, sophisticated, authoritative, savvy, etc. Finally, build these out in a grid with a description, dos and don’ts associated with each, and you have a general framework for your universal voice attributes.

Vet those attributes

And do so with local marketing team members on-the-ground in those areas. Check for any potential issues with your regions, and ensure you get a diversity of opinion from your regional experts. Don’t rely on just one team member to be the final approval for an entire country.

Provide brand-approved examples

You want to show these attributes in action from the perspective of each of your different regions. With buy-in from all your regions on your attributes, create a variety of examples across formats that illustrate how your brand voice can be applied globally.

Localise for a Winning Brand Voice

As you create content in your company’s primary language, you can choose what pieces you feel are appropriate to distribute across regions. Have a brand tone of voice document that is accessible for all content creators to easily localise your content. Depending on your internal resources, you may consider using global translation firms like WeLocalize or individual translators in your regions to give a local twist to your content.

Localisation is key to keeping the balance between local relevance and a standard voice, but you must anticipate an extended timeline (and additional budget) for any content launches that require regional translations.

Ensure ongoing alignment with your hub and any local teams through regular meetings to discuss upcoming content and campaign ideas, and over time your team will grow in confidence with how to use your voice.

While the process of building a strong global brand tone of voice is a significant initial time investment, the results are worth it. A unified global brand voice will give you greater brand recognition across all your audiences, cementing your position as a global leader.

5 Tips to Finding Your Tone of Voice

1. Get to know your audience

As communications professionals, it is important to understand your audience as it allows you to target your outreach appropriately. The same applies with tone of voice.

Just like in real life, you should adapt your communication style to who you are speaking to. For example, if you are a travel brand and your primary clients are gap year students, you'll want to be less formal and more laid back in your communication style. In contrast, if you are communicating with corporate professionals, you may want to be less casual in your messaging.

Whilst you probably have a good idea of who your target market is, there is no harm in digging deeper into their age, gender, interests and profession. This will help you to build a full profile of your potential customers.  You can then use this to build an appropriate tone of voice. How do you do this? Analyse customer data, create surveys and use media monitoring. You can use a media monitoring tool such as Meltwater Engage to track the demographics of each social platform.

screenshot of meltwater audience tool

2. Create a brand personality

Conveying a personality makes a brand more likeable and approachable requires you to consider the following questions:

  • What makes your brand unique?
  • What do you stand for?
  • What kind of culture do you promote within the brand?
  • Who is your audience?

Taking these answers on board, you can decide on what unique qualities you want to portray through your communications and messages. Based on these qualities, you can devise strategies around how to communicate them. 

Consider Innocent Drinks – their unique tone of voice is notorious in the marketing world. They use an informal, light-hearted tone to speak to their customers, and often post quirky puns and blog posts. One reason why Innocent’s tone of voice is so successful is because it is authentic. Being quirky and humorous is part of their company culture and how the company began, and in turn, has been positively received by its audience.

innocent drinks brand tone of voice

Dan Germain - Innocent’s Head of Creative - is an inspiration when it comes to branding and helping companies develop their own tone of voice.

All we’ve done since we launched in 1999 is tell our story our way. There was no strategy or theory behind it 14 years ago, we were just trying to make each other laugh and that’s how we try to keep it.

3. Keep your tone conversational

Whilst this goes against everything you were told at school, write as though you are directly speaking to your customer. Writing conversationally will boost engagement because it has personality, emotion, and human qualities behind it.

4. Adapt your tone of voice based on the reason why you’re communicating

It's important to moderate your brand’s tone of voice depending on the situation. You can still be authentic while adapting how much you push your brand’s personality. If you are handling complaints or important information, a more formal tone is necessary.  If you are sharing general conversation and links to content, you can speak more informally.

Finally, when pushing a competition, event or sharing good news, you can play with your language even more.  Showing off your brand’s personality can attract attention and yield greater buzz – a meme or emoji may be appropriate in this kind of situation.

5. Measure your success

So, now you have a tone of voice that is being implemented across all of your comms. Now it’s time to measure whether your customers are responding to it in the way that you had hoped. Social media monitoring can help you understand how the public has engaged with your brand over time. Try tracking six months of social engagements to get a good feel.

Next, analyse whether engagement has increased and also whether the engagement is positive or negative. You can benchmark your social media channels before and after implementing a new tone of voice. 

Things to Avoid in Your Tone of Voice

1. Try not to be too cheesy

A word of caution though, if you are appealing to a young or laid-back audience, trying to be ‘down with the kids’ may come across as cheesy or inauthentic. Whilst in certain situations there’s nothing wrong with the odd emoji or meme, sending a tweet full of emoticons and slang may stop you from being taken seriously. 

2. Don't forget that tone can be wrongly interpreted

It can happen to the best of us; you send an ironic or sarcastic text, and the receiver misinterprets it differently. It can be difficult to detect sarcasm in a tweet or Facebook post. This could leave you in a rather sticky situation, especially if the interpretation of the message causes offence or leads to incorrect information processing.

3. Avoid using jargon

Abbreviations and industry talk may come naturally to you, however, you should avoid using jargon in external comms. Not everyone will understand the terminology. As a rule of thumb, keep your language as simple and unambiguous as possible. 

Remember, it will take time for your tone of voice to impact your brand engagement, so just because you don’t see results initially, doesn’t mean you’ve failed!

Want to know more about how media monitoring can be used to improve your brand's tone of voice? Fill out the form below and we’ll be in touch with a personal consultation for your company!