Strengthen your brand with a unique tone of voice

Tone of voice, or tonality, is the common thread of how your brand should be communicated and reflects your corporate identity. In other words, tone of voice plays an important role in how your brand is perceived. But how is tone of voice designed in practice and what is important to consider when applying it to your communications? We give you all the information you need - to dare to "speak your brand"! 

The impact of tone on your brand

It is the tone of voice, combined with the graphic profile, that gives your brand its personality. Together they represent your values, create an identity, and evoke an emotion in the recipients. Tone permeates all forms of communication, whether it's text on your website, social media posts or newsletters. Tone is not about what you communicate, but how you communicate it.  

Studies focusing on consumer behavior have shown that 40% of consumers want content that stands out, 33% appreciate brands that are unique and 32% prefer compelling storytelling. In all these strategies, your tone of voice plays an important role. The goal in designing brand tone of voice is to be as clear, unique, and personal as possible. A consistent tone of voice builds trust, creates recognition, and contributes to a strong brand over time. 

Designing tone of voice 

Whether you are a start-up or an established company, you first need to work strategically on the design of your tone of voice. It's not about what feels cool, trendy, or current right now - it's about basing your tone of voice on your brand's purpose, values, and history. This is a long-term effort as the goal is to keep your brand relevant and current for your target audience. You can achieve this by being transparent, genuine, and consistent in your communications, which your tone of voice will help you to be if you set clear guidelines from the start. Of course, you should also keep your target audience in mind when setting your company's tone; who are you talking to and how do you communicate with them so that they like you? Yes, there's a lot to think about here, but we'll give you 5 tips to make the process easier: 

  1. Take inspiration from your business strategy 
  2. Adapt your tone to your target audience 
  3. Identify how your brand is perceived today 
  4. Put it all together in one document 
  5. Put the guide into practice 

Start from scratch 

Depending on where you are in your branding process, you should review your business strategy and objectives, as it is from the foundation of your business that your tone of voice can take shape. Review your brand values, purpose, vision, and long-term goals to get a clear picture of what your brand stands for and how you want to be perceived. If your company defines itself as innovative, it will sound different than if you want to define yourself as traditional. Make sure you include words that show the future, new ideas and creative solutions. Show that you are at the forefront and don't be afraid to highlight your strengths.

You should also reflect on whether you want to be formal or use spoken language in your tone. Is it okay to use slang and abbreviations? How you choose to express yourself reinforces your identity. The easiest way to do this is to write down all the words you can think of and create lists, feel free to look for synonyms and twist and turn the terms until you find the right tone for you. Once you have a clear picture of what you stand for and how you want to be perceived, you are well on your way. 

Communicate with your target audience 

Think about who it is you will be communicating with. The easiest way to do this is to define your primary and secondary audiences and develop clear personas. This will give you a clearer picture of who will engage with your content. Personas help you visualize your audience as an actual person. You can identify your typical customers by asking yourself the following questions: who are they? Where do they live? What do they do for a living? What are their interests? What inspires them? What are their needs and challenges? What are their motivations?

Get all the answers down on paper and from the information you can create categories of "people" that you should target your communications to. If, for example, the ages or needs differ in the responses, you can shape the more personas accordingly. Two to three is a good start, if there are too many it can be a challenge to create consistency and focus on your communications. Clearly defined personas help the team to have a common understanding of who the recipient is, which is a prerequisite for consistent communication over time. 

Identify how your brand is perceived 

Take the time to review your existing content. Whether you have a long history of communication or are just starting to produce content, analyze how your brand is perceived today and identify any phrasing that doesn't match the designed tone of voice. You can also enlist the help of outside parties, to gain new perspectives. Review your website, social media, newsletter, blog, and other channels through which you communicate regularly and that play an important role in your brand.

Are you getting similar perceptions of your brand, across all platforms? If not, what should you change? Review your chosen words and concepts and rephrase the sentences that stand out and don't resonate with your tone. When you're consistent in your value words and chosen concepts, you can easily get the tone you want in your wording, no matter what you want to communicate or where.  

You are the guide 

Now that you have the basics in place, it's a good idea to get everything down in writing in a guide. The purpose of a tone guide is to set the stage for a common mindset and set of guidelines for brand communication, by having a document available to anyone who needs it in the organization. The following information should be included: 

  • Your value words. What do they mean for your brand? 
  • Examples of wording, based on the value words. 
  • A list of concepts and words that should appear in your texts. 
  • Guidelines on what you should and should not communicate - but most importantly how.  

Guide in practice 

Add the guide as a natural part of the production process by, for example, always having the document close at hand when proofreading your marketing materials or agreeing the messages with the guide before publishing your content. The guide becomes your right hand for brand building and helps you in the right direction when designing your communications. It is also relevant when launching marketing strategies and an effective introduction for new employees in the company, as it provides a clear picture of the brand and its guidelines.

The guide is relevant to anyone working in any form of content production, customer service and sales, as the tone should be consistent whether in writing or speaking. Share the document with the team through Google Drive, for example, so that everyone has access to it when the need arises. We recommend updating the document as you go, so it's always relevant to your brand's development. Feel free to make the guide a standing item at your management team meetings to ensure the document is current and used appropriately by the team.   

Aim to be as consistent and personal in your tone as possible, to reinforce your brand, create recognition and transparency. A clear tone of voice gives recipients a clearer picture of your brand and increases the chances of building a relationship with them. In other words, you have everything to gain by differentiating your brand from the competition with a strong, unique, and consistent voice.

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