From billboards and videos to banner ads and email, every time you talk to your customers is an opportunity to further your brand. Even the error messages on your website can be crafted to fit your style.
But to do it right, the first step is to establish your brand’s tone of voice. This is something your agency can help with. When we create tone-of-voice guidelines for a brand, we start with research and follow up with brand strategy. None of it is just a hunch. Here are some questions to consider:
What is your business?
The brand voice of a hospital system should be very different from that of a sporting goods chain. Are you B2B, B2C, or both? Take a look at how others in your industry are speaking to their customers. What works? What doesn’t?
Who is your audience?
Is it teens and young adults? Men over 30? Businesses looking for a partner? Consumers looking for the latest and greatest? Are you speaking to a narrow segment or a wide array of people? Knowing who you’re talking to may just be the most important factor in determining your tone of voice.
What does your audience need?
For example, as a general rule of thumb, financial institutions need to have a trustworthy brand voice. Many banks also choose to be friendly in their writing tone, but not overly familiar, as many people find personal finances overwhelming, and having a friendly partner can make a big difference in your confidence. However, for institutions/investment companies that deal with very large amounts of money, their clientele is typically looking for someone more buttoned-up and serious about properly managing their wealth.
How do you position your brand in the marketplace?
Do you want to be seen as fun and zany? Stable and secure? Are you more like Spirit or United Airlines? Old Navy or Banana Republic? Your positioning is key when determining your tone of voice.
Take a look at these two examples of brand voice that are essentially saying the same thing, just in different ways:
Fun/outgoing: Hey! Sorry to hear something didn’t go the way you expected. We want to make it right. Help us help you have a much better day by filling out the form. We’ll be in touch right away!
Stable/secure: We apologize for the inconvenience. Please give us the opportunity to fix the situation by filling out the following form. A customer service representative will follow up with you shortly.
Do you see how both writing styles accomplish the exact same task (acknowledging there’s a problem, asking the customer to fill out a form, and establishing an expectation for follow-up), but say it very differently? Neither is right or wrong. Both effectively communicated the message while maintaining the voice of their brand.
Once you’ve answered these key questions, you can begin the process of creating your brand’s tone-of-voice guidelines, which I’ll address in my next post. Call it “where the rubber meets the road” (I know, every good writer should avoid clichés, but sometimes it’s just the best way to describe something, and rules were made to be broken).