There are many different types of tone of voice and for most of the websites you visit you probably won’t even have noticed that they are using one.
A company that chooses the right tone of voice immediately falls into synch with their customers and this means that the tone of voice doesn’t stand out.
The only times you do notice a tone of voice is when it clearly isn’t right for the brand or when you are specifically looking at how language is being used – like in this article!
TL:DR Tone of voice
What is tone of voice?
The tone of voice is the language, grammar and even the types of slang and Three Letter Acronyms (TLAs) you use.
In short, it’s what you say and how you say it.
Vocabulary.com define it as the ‘quality of a person’s voice’ and this I reckon that this is a pretty accurate description.
Because quality is an incredibly important part of deciding on how you want to sound to your customers.
A smart brand will have a tone of voice that they use across all of their media, whether it be spoken tone of voice in videos and podcasts or written tone of voice in their blog posts, white papers, and even their advertising materials.
The key is to make sure that you are using the same tone of voice across all of your output, otherwise things start to jar and your brand can even start to look unauthentic.
Why tone of voice matters
So why on earth should you care about tone of voice?
Well the first reason is that your tone of voice can be used as a form of filter.
You are looking to attract customers who will buy into your company and what you are offering right?
So for example, if you have a funky cosmetics brand like Lush then you’ll want to make people feel like they are part of the gang, that they belong and that life is fun.
The tone of voice that Lush use across all of their stuff means that users instantly connect with the brand but if you’re not into that then you’ll be turned off and will probably move away.
This is fine because you’re not in the target market and probably wouldn’t buy anyway.
So developing an effective tone of voice strengthens the bond with your target market and to an extent makes it clear to your non-targets that this isn’t the place for them.
Types of tone of voice
So here’s the fun stuff – looking at different types of tone of voice.
For my tone of voice I am looking to provide a friendly and informative post. My website is generally written in the first person (“I” rather than “we”) and I will use slang and the occasional bit of humour to break up what can after all be some fairly detailed and technical subjects.
I’m also using my tone of voice as a filter.
I love working with people, small businesses, entrepenuers.
I hate working with corporates
So the moment you start reading my output you realise that I am not a big agency. You’re not paying fancy prices for things you don’t need.
That’s attractive to smaller companies but corporates get really nervous unless they are being charged ridiculous money so they go away.
So let’s look at some examples
I’ve already mentioned cosmetics firm Lush (secret: I used to work with them when they first developed their tone of voice) and they are an excellent example of a tone of voice.
Check out this product and the accompanying copy “Spritz yourself with a little bit of magic and wrap yourself in a cloak of candy floss and bubblegum”
It’s flowery, often funny and light, fitting in perfectly with their demographic.
Now check out retirement home builder McCarthy and Stone.
The tone of voice is completely different.
When people are thinking about buying a retirement property they want safety, security and sensible businesses. They aren’t wanting someone to spray them with fairy dust!
And so the TOV is completely different.
If you want to see the effect it can have then re-read the McCarthy and Stone website but switch it to the Lush use of language and see how that jars.
Another good example is Zero Motorcycles.
Their customers are clearly looking to the future and are already on board with the move to electric so the Zero copy capitalises on that with;
Zero are using a tone of voice that captures the move towards the future, identifying the transformational nature of the experience.
However try the Aston Martin website (particularly the brand stories section).
The language is totally different and they major on the heritage and quality of their design with phrases like;
How to choose your tone of voice
I wrote a longer article on the process of choosing your own tone of voice here but there are some simple steps you can take to make the process easier.
The first thing is to define your customer. You have decided on your target market right?
Then check out the places that they hang out. Look at message boards, Facebook groups, insta posts and learn the language that they use.
This will give you a better idea of the sort of language that is attractive to the people you want to talk to.
Then have a look around for websites you like and that fit in with this form of tone of voice.
See what they say, how they say it and what tricks they use to personalise their site.
Think about your values – are you a friendly company? Do you provide safety and security? Do you believe in being a trendsetter?
This last point is important because if you are a trendsetter in your industry then you don’t want to be using exactly the same tone of voice as all of your competitors for example.
Think also about the types of rhythm you like. Will you use rhymes, alliteration, lists.
What age are your target customers?
Do you need to include street-slang or are your people technicians who really like the odd TLA thrown in to show that you understand the subject matter?
Here’s a great tip for working out where you want to be.
Boil down your brand and mission into a few words (no more than six).
For example Aston Martin might be “quality, speed, technology, heritage”.
This will give you a steer as to the direction you need to be moving (pun intended).
Finally the best way to decide on your tone of voice is to try it on and see if it fits.
Get a copywriter to write product or service descriptions in several different types of TOV and just see what feels right.
So often our gut feeling turns out to be the right one.
Good luck with deciding on your tone of voice and if you need any copy or marketing help then you know where I am!