Businesses are much more than just a roomful of desks, an overworked kettle, loads of spreadsheets and the obligatory dying plant in the corner. Businesses are made up of people, and people, love them or loathe them, have personalities.
It’s not what a company does, but who it is that makes a brand. A business is shaped by the people who work behind the scenes. It’s about their loves and hates, their sense of humour (or lack thereof), and the things they want to share with the world. It is the uniqueness of people that turns a business into a brand. A company communicates this brand to its customers by the way it behaves. But more importantly, it is how the company communicates, particularly in written form, which tells customers “this is us, plain and simple.”
Finding your voice
Every business has an identity, but it is the ability to communicate this identity that turns a business into a brand. A surfing brand could have the world’s coolest CEO and a super-hip workforce, but if the company’s written communication is flat, formal and stuffy, that’s not the impression its customers will get.
Finding the right tone is essential to successfully expressing a business’s identity. But this tone will only work if it’s the right fit for your brand. You cannot pretend. Pretending to be something you’re not doesn’t work for people, and it doesn’t work for businesses. The correct tone can help to differentiate a company from its competitors and build a brand that customers trust and understand.
Developing brand tone
A brand’s tone is not just the type of language you use, but the length of your sentences, the way the language flows, the humour, and even the rhythm and pace. Consistency is the key to developing a believable brand.
Everything should be written in the same unique and recognisable way, from tweets and Facebook posts to website content and even product packaging. You’ve heard the saying, ‘it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it’, right? Well in this case, it’s never been so true. Developing and maintaining a consistent tone is particularly important for international businesses with teams around the world. The only way a multinational can deliver a cohesive message is by maintaining the same tone across all its content.
Brand tone in action
Whopping companies like Microsoft, Google, LinkedIn and Cisco have all started paying more attention to their brand tone. They understand that giving clear directions about how to write is essential to conveying who they are and what they stand for. Creating content and communicating with customers is not just the job of the marketing department.
Brand tone must be rolled out across the whole company so that blogs and articles, customer emails, social media messages and in some cases even internal resources are written in the same way. This all helps to reinforce the message. Take a look at these examples…
Image Source: Innocent Drinks
Innocent’s informal and friendly tone is all part of the customer experience: ‘This recipe is a bit special. We've squeezed three of the world's finest superfruits into it, a combination of pomegranate, blueberry and acai. Tastes great and much better than getting busy with a funnel and a piece of hosepipe.’ This approach is actually pretty simple.
Just talk to your customers like you would your friends (but without the expletives). It is Innocent’s consistency in maintaining this tone across all its customer communications that makes it so recognisable.
Image Source: DandD
Jaguar is another company that’s spent a lot of time crafting its tone. Recently it has adopted a new ‘villainous’ voice which has been rolled out across all its marketing campaigns.
It has taken this tone one step further by hiring super-suave British actors like Ben Kingsley and Mark Strong to play James Bond-type villains. As a brand, suggesting you are the bad guys takes guts, but doing it in such style is what Jaguar is all about. The culmination of this new tone was a Super Bowl ad that was watched by millions.
High growth startups
Image Source: Dollar Shave Club
High-growth startups, particularly in the technology industry, set out to create a new market or kick ass in an old one. The people working behind the scenes are typically confident and extremely driven, and this can translate into a brand tone that’s brash and in your face. With a young target market, this tone can work well.
Proudly proclaiming “we are the best” is another brave move, but if you have the products to back this up, there’s no reason why this approach won’t work. Branding is all about telling a story, and if your story is “by the way, we’re the best” then tell it.
How can finding the right brand tone boost your content marketing?
In all its wisdom, Google has decided that content is king. If you want to feature in the search engine results for competitive keywords, you need a website that is full of relevant, engaging and quality content.
By producing this kind of content, you’re improving the user’s experience, which is exactly what Google wants to see. Some companies create content for content’s sake. However, taking the time to create and maintain a voice that your customers can understand will benefit your business in the following ways:
It sets you apart
Your brand tone should be recognisable, distinct and unique to separate your business from the competition in the eyes of the customer. Think of your company as a person.
If every time you met a person their personality, manner and way of communicating changed, you wouldn’t have a clue what to make of them. By maintaining a consistent voice and tone, you give your business a personality - something the customer can use to tell you apart from the rest.
It builds trust
We all like familiarity. Why do we always go to the same supermarket when there are plenty of others just as close?
It’s because the familiar is easier for us to process mentally (and we know where the wine is!). We trust the things we know and automatically feel more at ease. The consistent use of language works in the same way.
The business starts to feel familiar to the customer, and this, in turn, builds trust.
It can influence and persuade
Once you have gained the trust of your customers, you can then use this trust to influence and inform their decisions. By staying true to yourself and maintaining your tone throughout your communications, you’re well on the way to clinching that sale.
Here comes the (even more) interesting bit…
You might love your pink and lime green logo, but what does that colour combination say about your business? And what about that horrible art deco font you insist on using? We're still building this tool, but you can get notified the second it's live by registering below (:
Our tool will give you a completely objective view of your branding, along with some top tips, insightful data and actionable pointers to fine tune the way you’re coming across. All we ask in return is your email address - which we happen to think is a pretty good deal! There’ll be no spamming, no selling, and no pictures of any of our team in compromising positions. Just top branding and web design insights from Big Lemon Creative here in sunny South Wales. Nice one.