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In business, you need to be pitch perfect. And that means communicating in a way that helps your audience immediately understand your value.

Because it’s not just about what you say, it’s also about how you say it. If you get the balance wrong, people won’t buy from you at all. But if you get it right, they’ll keep buying from you.

Here, our friends over at content agency Making You Content walk you through this crucial element of your brand identity…

What is a tone of voice?

You should already have your key messages written down. But how you shout about them is a different matter altogether. And that’s the job of your tone of voice.

For example, say your unique selling point is that you’re affordable. You don’t want to come across ‘cheap’. Instead, you need to use language that suggests good value for money without shoddy craftsmanship or cutting corners.

If you want to see a brand that pulls this balance off well, look no further than IKEA. Despite offering some of the most affordable furniture available, they remain market leaders. How? By being simplistic.

The language in their stores and on their website isn’t overcomplicated – it simply reflects the message that they offer customers a chance to create cosy homes without breaking the bank. A line from their site reads “we have worked to create a better everyday life for the many people”, which captures it perfectly.

Why does it matter?

Your tone of voice is your identity. As part of your wider marketing, it’s how you engage with your specific audience. And the word ‘specific’ here is crucial – every audience segment responds to different tones of voice in different ways.

Look at Monzo. Countless brands have tried to challenge brick-and-mortar banks, but it wasn’t until Monzo that digital businesses really broke through. Again, they chose simplistic language to complement their easy-to-use app. It made sense; their argument is that traditional banks are inflexible, and their message is that there must be an easier way.

Now imagine if they’d used a more formal tone of voice – one that was more akin to the financial institutions they hope to replace. It just wouldn’t resonate with an audience looking for an alternative place to put their money.

What is a good tone of voice?

A good tone of voice is a use of language that both meets an audience’s expectations of you and is consistent.

For the former, let’s use Oatly as an example. They want to be a challenger brand and act as if their product is an obvious substitute for milk, the traditional market leader. They do this by quite literally describing themselves as opinionated. Take their ‘About Us’ section: “If you haven’t noticed yet, we are a company that has some pretty strong opinions”. This is less to sell themselves, but more to get other self-identifying ‘opinionated’ people to buy their products.

Here, the language is almost qualifying the reader. By being brazen, bold and, to an extent, self-righteous, Oatly is attracting an audience they know will buy from them.

As for being consistent, this is down to you. Across all your channels, you need to be using the exact same language and phrasing. If you suddenly turn formal when previously you’ve been chatty, consumers will think you’re amateurish at best and dishonest at worst.

To check if your voice is consistent, analyse the language you use and see if there are any channels or campaigns where your phrasing changes.

How do you know what your tone of voice is?

If you’ve not decided on a tone of voice yet, or are unsure what yours is, you need to revisit your values. Being ‘affordable’, ‘transparent’ or ‘dependable’ should then govern the words you use.

Let’s say the industry problem you’re solving is that recruitment is too impersonal right now. Businesses are finding it difficult to hire staff who are a quality fit. Your entire tone of voice should reinforce why you’re capable of solving that problem. You should be warm, reassuring, and straightforward.

And don’t just do this on your site copy either. Remember, this kind of language should be consistent throughout social media, email campaigns and internal comms.

We always recommend drawing up some tone of voice guidelines so it’s clear what you mean by certain guiding principles like ‘warm’ or ‘reassuring’. That way, you avoid any misunderstanding among those that produce content for your brand – whether they’re in-house or an agency.

Where to get started

Just like Create8, we love nothing more than bringing brands like yours to life. That’s why we often partner on projects, combining design and content to ensure every asset we deliver hits all the right notes with your audience.

We can create or crystallise your tone of voice as part of a comprehensive brand workshop, before rolling this out across your site, social channels and other brand touchpoints. To learn more, chat to a member of our team.

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