The importance of tone of voice

By Wolfenden
2nd February 2023
By Sonya Karimkhanzand


To create meaningful connections, your brand needs to make its voice heard.

Whilst you may not immediately think it, one of the most important ingredients in your content strategy is to develop and establish a tone of voice. It’s crucial for a brand to know who they are, what they stand for and how to communicate with their audience.

Creating content is not just about what you say, but how you say it. Whether you’re writing an onsite blog, an email for marketing purposes or a social media post, a consistent tone of voice should always be at the forefront of all forms of communication.

With an established voice, your brand’s target audience can get to know and understand you, enabling the brand to be an easily recognised and authoritative source in your area of expertise.

So, without further ado, let’s explore everything there is to know about tone of voice and how you can nail it.

Tone of voice: The basics

When writing content, a tone of voice defines how a brand communicates with their audience as well as influencing how their message is perceived. It reflects your personality, goals, values, areas of expertise and helps you to connect with your audience.

If you want to cut through the digital noise and leaving a lasting impression on potential customers, your tone of voice should be unique and recognisable, but it should also be appropriate for the audience too. Tone of voice is an essential part of content marketing, and it helps make a business memorable, particularly with how ubiquitous social media can be nowadays.

Tone of voice: The different types

A tone of voice can be anything from colloquial and humorous to formal and serious – it all depends on how you want to be perceived and the type of audience you have.

Humorous and friendly

Leading telecommunications application – Skype – are a great example when it comes to establishing a tone of voice founded on humour. If you look at Skype’s brand guidelines, it explains the following:

“Humour is an important part of the Skype voice.”

A “gentle wit” helps the brand present its products and services to its customers in a friendly and approachable way. And all you need to do is look at their target audience to find out why humour is such an integral part of their tone of voice.

It’s appropriate for an app like Skype which many people use to stay in touch with family and friends.

Wolfenden’s top 3 tips for mastering this tone of voice include:

  • Using contractions like we’re, you’ll and haven’t instead of we are, you will and have not
  • Simplifying complicated words
  • Finding the right balance for adding in witticisms and puns

There are lots of brands that use a motivating tone of voice in their content, but one that particularly sticks out is Urban Outfitters – it’s free-spirited, honest, direct, cheeky, and youthful. These qualities fit their customer base, who are young and energetic.

Wolfenden’s top 3 tips to master this tone of voice include:

  • Using positive verbs
  • Making suggestions
  • Reassuring the reader

Multinational professional services group EY is the perfect example for the type of business that should adopt a professional tone of voice.

Typically, when writing content that resonates with management, decision-makers, or executives, this is the type of tone that will cut through the digital noise.

Writing about the affairs that concern such a business can be challenging, even with a well-informed audience. There are lots of abbreviations and terminology for readers to decipher before they’re able to get to the heart of the message.

However, EY scoots past those obstacles with a tone of voice that’s professional but aspirational too.

The example below from an article they wrote named ‘How consumer-facing companies can speed up, as economies slow down’ nails the professional tone:

“Companies can also explore opportunities to expand footprints in high growth markets and can consider reshaping the core business through M&A…”

Wolfenden’s top 3 tips to master this tone of voice include:

  • Being concise and to the point
  • Using accurate, relevant statistics and information to back up points
  • Avoid hedging or moderating; be confident and assertive

Other than the ones discussed, here are some examples of other tones of voice you can consider when brainstorming for your own:

  • Formal
  • Informative
  • Conversational
  • Emotional
  • Edgy

Tone of voice: Why invest time in developing one

Taking the time to establish a tone of voice will give you the opportunity to stand out in a crowded marketplace. It creates an identity and allows you to set apart your product or service from competitors.

As well as this, it also helps to develop a sense of trust between brand and customer – one of the most important aspects of not only content marketing but marketing in general.

When people feel like they know what to expect from a company, they’ll be more inclined to come back again and again. It’s a win-win situation for all!

Here are a couple of reasons why you should be investing more time in developing a recognisable tone of voice:

Builds brand-customer relationship

It comes as no surprise that people don’t like the nature of being sold to.

When they see a company, of course they know why they’re there, and naturally this makes them suspicious of a sales pitch. So, it’s important how you go about it, and your tone of voice plays a huge role in how you cut through the digital noise and connect with an audience.

You need to build a strong relationship with your target audience if you want to get through to them.

Customer Thermometer reported that 65% of customers feel emotionally connected to brands that make them feel as though they care about them. Capturing this in your tone of voice can prompt them to interact with you more, giving you the opportunity to offer a solution to their needs.

Makes you human

There’s no doubt that people like to connect with other people they relate to, and that’s why they look for brands that have a recognisable personality.

If your tone doesn’t marry up with the image you are trying to create and doesn’t resonate with your customer base, consumers will see straight through it. Showing off a personality reminds your audience that humans are behind the business.

Creates a level of trust between brand and customer

Have you ever heard the saying, “trust is earned” – well it’s not given, and it also can’t be bought, so building trust between brand and customer is vital.

In fact, a report by Edelman which surveyed 14,000 respondents, found that 88% of people said it was important to purchase from brands that they trust. Having a consistent tone of voice established, will not only speed up the process at which you produce effective, on-brand copy, but the substance of your brand identity will become richer in the eyes of your audience.

This leads you to be able to meticulously and purposefully control the effect of every piece of content you put out there.

Helps you stand out in a crowded marketplace

If you have a distinctive tone of voice, you’ll have a better chance of remaining competitive and standing out.

The Sprout Social Index revealed that memorable content, a unique personality, and compelling storytelling are elements that consumers look for in a brand, for you to be able to stand out from other brands. If tone of voice wasn’t considered, all companies would feel like they were run by the same people, with little to set them apart from one another.

Tone of voice: How to begin sounding the part

1. Get to know your audience

According to a report by IBM and Econsultancy, four in five customers do not feel understood as an individual by brands.

So, just like in real life, you should adapt your communication style to who you’re speaking to. For example, if you are a children’s retailer whose main clients are parents, you’ll want to adopt a more friendly and positive communication style.

On the other hand, if you’re communicating with corporate professionals, you may want to be more formal and professional in your messaging.

One way you can do this is by creating audience personas

You can use characteristics like age, interests, education, and job title, to help you identify the tone of voice you should be using.

For example, if you’re looking to target corporate professionals in the law industry, researching what their interests are could help you to find topics for blogs. As well as this, competitor research could help you to identify a tone of voice that you can emulate.

Another useful way to determine your tone of voice is to look at how your audience interacts with each other. Examine how they communicate with each other, what they like and dislike in discussion threads, what the general tone of discussions are, and the type of language people use.

This will help you to create content that resonates and engages them the most. Mirroring your audience’s language will make your content more relatable and bring your brand closer to them.

2. Create a brand personality

Creating a unique personality for your brand will make you more likable and approachable, but it requires you to think about the following questions:

  • What sets apart your brand?
  • What does your brand stand for?
  • What sort of culture do you want to promote?
  • Who is your target audience?

The answers to the questions above will help you decide on what unique qualities you want to portray through communications and messaging. Collectively, your findings will get you closer to your customer.

3. Make a do’s and don’ts list

One of the most important elements when it comes to finalising your tone of voice starts by figuring out what you don’t want the brand voice to be. Take a travel company whose target audience are students for example, they may not want their tone of voice to come across as the following:

  • Pretentious
  • Serious
  • Grandiose
  • Unfriendly

Once you’ve looked at these traits, you can start forming what your tone of voice should come across like.

If your “don’t list” looks like the one above, the tone of voice could follow the guide below:

  • Down-to-earth
  • Authentic
  • Funny and casual
  • Humble

Behind every brand is a story worth writing.

If you can determine what makes you stand out as a company, you can capitalise on this in many ways that benefit both yourself and your customer base.

A business can use their tone of voice to tell their target audience who they are and the personality that makes them unique. So, it’s essential to make sure you’re always being clear, consistent and authentic when communicating your messaging.

Remember, it can take time for tone of voice to impact your brand engagement, so just because you haven’t seen results immediately, doesn’t mean you’ve failed. After all, all good things come to those who wait!

And if you need some help figuring out your tone of voice and brand personality, make sure to reach out and we can get the process started for you.

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