What is a Brand’s Tone of Voice?

Our creative director Cat How takes you through the importance of finding your brand's tone of voice

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Posted by Cat How, August 1, 2018

It’s easy when creating a brand, to see it all as purely visual. A logo and its respective colour palette alongside assets, guidelines – even its website – all speak to the eye. But appearances are two-dimensional and not the whole story. The personality of your brand is determined and expressed, in large part, by the words you use to give it a voice and imbue it with character.

It is your brand’s tone-of-voice – the intentional, consistent expression of a brand through words – that transforms it from a flat visual into a three-dimensional personality that engages with, and motivates, your audience.

So in a basic sense it’s not what you say, but how you say it.

It’s always helpful to see your brand as a person – for more information on this, read our article about Brand Identity here. Brand identity is what gives your newly formed brand a human quality that can be understood, and is relatable and therefore more memorable, to other humans.

As with everyone we meet for the first time – we make judgements about their appearance, whether we realise we are doing this or not. Your brand identity is judged on this level – what it is wearing, for example, or whether it is smiling or serious. However, your brand’s tone-of-voice is what happens when your brand identity opens its mouth to metaphorically speak. In a written sense this can be expressed by it’s choice of words, sentence structure and length, and the use of grammatical devices (even down to the inclusion of emojis and if so, which ones these would be). People determine from these written cues whether your brand is funny, posh, friendly or clever. It’s a crucial dimension to a brand that is often overlooked.

In order to find these words, you need to know what your brand archetype or character is. For more information on this, read our article about Brand Archetypes here. Once you have established whether your brand is a Rebel, Ruler, Entertainer or Sage (to name a few) then you can use four key elements to help you find your true voice.

Let’s say that you work out that your brand is an ‘Entertainer’. Its core values are centred around enjoyment and connecting with others. First, look at Character or Persona. Is it friendly, playful, warm, inspiring, authoritative or professional? Most likely playful. Second, look at Tone. Is it personal, humble, clinical, honest, direct or scientific? Most likely personal. Third look at Language. Would it use language which is complex, savvy, serious, simplistic, jargon-filled, fun or whimsical? Most likely fun and perhaps even whimsical. Fourth, look at Purpose. Does it want to engage, educate, inform, enable, entertain, delight, sell or amplify? Most likely entertain. By narrowing down on these characteristics, a far richer and more complex personality starts to emerge for your brand which you can then start to weave into copy and tone of voice. If you want to entertain and not take yourself too seriously – perhaps think about using light-hearted slang, playful hashtags, ironic emojis or exclamation marks.

Finally, it is important to remember that your voice should be bold, considered and present – but that it should also have a message behind it too. This should be a call-to-action that pushes people to do something. This means your brand is not just broadcasting information (which can soon get boring and repetitive for your audience) but that it has an engaging voice that they understand and relate to, and has them coming back for more.