The importance of branding in the competitive world of business cannot be understated. It is what distinguishes a company from the rest. Branding covers a multitude of disciplines and purposes. Branding needs to be a true representation of a business, communicating how it wants to be perceived and why prospective clients should choose them over all the others in a saturated market.
The role of branding for startups takes on even greater significance because trying to establish a new business in a market that is dominated by established brands is extremely difficult. That is why it is imperative you get your branding right from day one.
Logo design, colour palette and positioning are just some of the critical components of branding but one element that is often overlooked by small businesses, or at best not given enough attention, is tone of voice.
What is tone of voice?
Most people when asked about tone of voice think about spoken conversation. Does someone sound friendly? Angry? Polite? Rude? But tone of voice in branding refers to the way in which a company communicates with its audience. The words and phrases you use and how you structure your sentences represent your tone of voice. This needs to be communicated across all of your website content, on emails, in social media posts, live chat and all other touchpoints. Your tone of voice should represent your brand’s values and personality. It is more about how you say something as opposed to what you are saying. Tone of voice applies to all marketing activities and should be applied when creating any piece of content and communication with your audience online.
Why is tone of voice important?
How you establish your tone of voice from the beginning will have an impact on the growth of your business and its development for many years to come. The tone of voice will make an impression on everyone who comes into contact with your brand. From potential investors to current and prospective customers. The type of impression you want to make on these people or the feeling you want them to associate with your brand will begin to be defined by your tone of voice.
Words are powerful but how you use them is even more so. Communication is key in all aspects of business and according to UCLA professor Albert Mehrabian, there are three elements that play a role in successful communication. The actual words used make up 7% of the importance of the message but tone of voice represents a significant 38%. Body language is the final component but doesn’t come into play in the world of online business.
Tone of voice is important throughout your organisation, across all channels and touchpoints. Being able to talk to customers using the correct tone of voice while giving them the information they are looking for forms the basis of excellent customer service.
A successful tone of voice enables you to build trust with clients and make a connection, which develops loyalty and can be lucrative for your business. Long term relationships with high-value customers is what all businesses strive for.
How do you decide on which tone of voice to use?
The language you use needs to be clear, concise and jargon free. If the way your business communicates with its audience is confusing, frustrating or intimidating then prospects won’t bother purchasing anything and your existing customers will lose trust and shop elsewhere.
Your tone of voice needs to reflect the values of your business. Does your business play a key role in the local community? Is sustainability important to you? What is important to your business? Whatever your values are, they need to filter through to your tone of voice and your communication with your audience.
Be careful not to include too many personal values because this may alienate certain sectors of your market. Your tone of voice needs to develop a personality that reflects your business and the big brands have this down to an art.
You probably won’t be surprised to know that Nike’s tone of voice is inspiring, competitive and confident. The legendary motorcycle brand, Harley-Davidson is strong, confident and aggressive. And the world’s most popular soft drink, Coca-Cola is positive, friendly and down to earth.
These successful brands can be identified by their tone of voice alone, without the need to see a logo – this really is the ultimate achievement for any brand.
You need to identify your customer base because they will dictate to a certain extent how you develop your tone of voice. You need to make sure your tone of voice is distinctive and memorable and that the language you use resonates with your audience.
Many businesses are proud to take a stand against a cause they feel strongly about. This is something that most businesses steered clear of in the past but these days it is definitely something you should consider when developing your tone of voice.
Using the right language for specific scenarios
Remember to spend time working on your crisis communications. When customers reach out to you when they are dissatisfied make sure you are apologetic, humble or sympathetic if you need to be.
Consistency is key when it comes to tone of voice but it can vary slightly depending on the audience you are communicating with, the media you are using and the objective of the message. Although slight tweaks may be needed to adapt to situational changes, you should remain as consistent as possible with your communication.
Finally, you should review your tone of voice strategy and update it as your brand evolves. The sector you operate in may change in the future and so will customers’ expectations. So you will need to adjust your positioning accordingly to stay ahead of the competition.
To find out more about tone of voice, please click here to speak with one of our Branding Experts.