5 Tips for Picking a Brand Tone of Voice—With Examples
Does your business need a tone tune-up? Whether you’re a new startup that’s ready to take an industry by storm or you’re rebranding an established business, it’s important to define your brand’s tone of voice.
Your tone of voice affects all of your marketing efforts, from your website to your social posts to your YouTube scripts. The right tone of voice helps you engage potential customers and make your business stand out in even the most crowded market.
It’s hard to change your brand’s personality on a dime, though, so choosing a brand voice isn’t something to take lightly. In this guide, we’ll explain why tone of voice is so powerful, share some helpful brand voice examples, and offer five helpful tips for maintaining your brand voice and tone.
What Is Tone of Voice and Why Does It Matter?
Tone of voice isn’t just about what you say but how you say it. It’s a unique blend of word choice, sentence structure, and even vocal tones (for audio and video content) that conveys your brand’s personality.
You might not realize it, but every business has a distinct personality. The right tone of voice is more than a communication tool: It embodies your company’s mission and core values.
As a business owner, it’s important to stay in control of your brand personality and voice to reap the benefits of solid branding, including:
- Emotional connection: People resonate with personalities, not faceless businesses. Having a clear tone of voice helps people connect to your brand on a more personal level.
- Consistency: As long as you follow your branding guidelines to a tee, you’ll give your audience a consistent tone that provides a unified brand experience. Over time, that helps you build trust that leads to positive audience interactions.
- Competitive advantage: Believe it or not, the right tone of voice can help you stand out in a competitive market. If your competitors use a stuffy, formal tone, you could differentiate yourself with a more relaxed vibe.
Brand Voice Examples
Looking for tone of voice examples? Here are just a few well-known brand voice examples from some of the world’s favorite brands:
- Apple: Apple doesn’t need a lot of bells and whistles. It lets its innovative products and sleek designs do most of the talking. It sticks with a simple yet confident tone of voice that demonstrates authority.
- Nike: Is anything more iconic than “Just Do It?” This brand’s voice is all about courage, strength, and inspiration.
- Coca-Cola: Coke has a warm, fuzzy tone of voice that’s lighthearted and friendly.
- Harley-Davidson: Harley-Davidson, on the other hand, caters to tough bikers, so it’s no surprise that their brand voice is strong and aggressive.
- Mailchimp: Email marketing software company Mailchimp has a friendly but down-to-earth tone that makes it feel like you’re chatting with your work bestie.
- Old Spice: Old Spice’s unique personality nearly broke the internet when they released “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” in 2010. Its tone of voice is quirky, playful, and unexpected.
- Dove: Dove’s brand voice is sincere and empowering. It backs up this approach with its “Real Beauty” campaign designed to help people recognize their inherent natural beauty.
- Skittles: If you’ve ever seen a Skittles commercial, it might feel like you’ve fallen into an alternate reality. Their tone of voice is quirky and out there, but it’s designed to get people talking—and it works.
- Starbucks: Like Apple, Starbucks sticks with a simpler brand voice. They describe themselves as “functional and expressive,” and we’d say that hits the nail on the head.
5 Tips for Creating (and Maintaining) Your Brand Voice
Ready to give your brand a voice? Follow these expert tips to create and consistently follow your brand’s tone of voice.
1. Identify Your Target Audience
First of all, what demographic are you targeting? Your buyer persona will have a certain reaction to different tones of voice, so it’s best to identify them and understand their preferences.
For example, a Baby Boomer C-suite executive might not get Gen Z slang or TikTok references. You need to understand what this audience prefers and adjust how you speak to appeal to their expectations.
2. See What’s Already Out There
Do you want to mimic competitors in the space or do you want to set yourself apart with a different tone of voice? For example, most banks use a more formal, authoritative tone of voice, but new banks often use a laid-back tone to differentiate themselves from their established competitors.
See what your competitors are doing. This will give you some helpful context for shaping a unique tone of voice that’s unlike anything in your industry.
3. Choose Your Brand Personality Traits
It’s showtime! Decide what type of brand personality you want to have. Are you more of a Skittles brand that uses slang and wild ideas to get people talking? Or are you more of an Apple brand—understated, authoritative, and powerful?
Maybe you want a more formal tone that positions you as an expert. This is more common in fields like health care and finance, where trust is paramount.
Or maybe you want a more humorous tone of voice. Jokes can be risky from a branding perspective, but as long as you do them carefully, you just might build a diehard following. Just look at the brutally funny Tweets from Wendy’s to see a humorous content strategy at work.
There’s no wrong answer here. As long as you consider your target audience, market, and products, the decision is up to you. The key is to make a choice and stick to it.
4. Make a Style Guide
This is where the rubber meets the road. After deciding on your brand’s tone of voice, you need to codify it in a style guide. This is a template shared with the entire marketing team that describes, in detail, how your brand communicates with the world.
This includes guidelines on written communication like your website copy call to action (CTA), word choice (including words to not use), and grammar. Your style guide should also include guidelines for non-verbal communication, like your logo, color palette, and imagery.
It’s also a good idea to specify how you speak on different communication channels. After all, you might not communicate the same way on TikTok as you do on LinkedIn.
It’s hard to describe something as nebulous as your brand’s personality, so we recommend adding lots of examples and do’s and don’ts. For example, you might say “Our brand is fun and casual, but never gossipy or unkind.”
5. Create Quality Content That Matches Your Tone of Voice
Style guide in hand, it’s time to create content that matches your brand personality. That might be blog copy, website content, social media posts, videos, infographics, or podcasts.
Everything your team creates should filter through the style guide. We recommend using a quality control workflow where an editor reviews all content to ensure it follows your tone of voice guidelines. After all, you don’t want someone to share a super casual social post if your brand is normally pretty buttoned-up!
The problem is, it takes a lot of resources to create long-form content that’s both SEO-friendly and tailored to your brand guidelines. When you need digital marketing results, outsource content creation to Growth Machine.
Our SEO experts and writers scale up your content production for results—while you focus on serving your clients. We’re experts at navigating style guides and producing copy that sounds like your team wrote it. See how we took a brand-new website from zero to 150,000 monthly visitors in just eight months.
Create Consistent Messaging for Your Small Business
A thought-out, unique brand voice helps your business stand out for all the right reasons. Before you start churning out any marketing materials, set aside some time to strategize the best brand voice for your target audience, market, and product—it could make a big difference.
But finding your own brand voice is just the beginning. Now you need to share that strong brand voice with the world. Content marketing puts you in front of more people, but it isn’t easy to do on your own.
Let Growth Machine handle the brand messaging while you focus on your clients. Contact us to chat about your brand strategy.
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