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  • Writer's pictureDan White

The importance of tone of voice

We realised we got ahead of ourselves. While you may be chomping at the bit to understand Headspace’s tone of voice, or writing emotionally to get results we missed a fundamental question -

Just why the fuck is tone of voice actually important?


(If you need a primer about swearing in copy, you can find that here).


Why nailing your tone of voice is so damn important


We get asked this a lot. And because we wanted to give you a proper answer rather than muttering something about ‘brand equity’ we sat down, argued it out and came up with some convincing enough reasons that would mean you’d want to work with us.


So, here’s some key arguments we’re about to assault your eyeballs with so that by the end of this post your brands tone of voice will have a new-found place in your heart.


NAILING YOUR TONE OF VOICE MEANS $$$

A good tone of voice makes you money. At least, that’s what we’d tell your boss. However, it goes deeper than that.


Nailing your tone of voice means your copy and comms resonate more closely with your intended audience. If you can get people to like you, or in marketing speak, to reach, engage and convert, then they’re more likely to hand over their money in exchange for goods or services.


Let’s put this into practice. How do the right words equal a positive ROI? Ahrefs - a SSAS tool is a cracking example. The recent redesign of their home page cost them $33,115 and the vlog explaining their process is a fascinating watch.

The Ahrefs homepage - their caption reads "With Ahrefs, you don’t have to be an SEO pro to rank higher and get more traffic."

The team will know the performance of the website before the new home page. And they will sure as hell know the figures after it went live. If the new design and new copy can contribute even to a tiny increase in conversions then the revenue generated will far exceed the $$$ spent.

All of this stems from, you guessed it, having a defined a tone of voice which seamlessly taps into the inner workings of their customers.

NAILING YOUR TONE OF VOICE GIVES CONSISTENCY TO YOUR COMMS

Next up is the operational benefit - having a defined tone of voice saves you serious time. Need to accurately brief a copywriter? Tone of voice guidelines. Have a new employee who will be writing Ads? Tone of voice guidelines. Have customer service reps responding to DM’s? You get the picture.

Tone of voice guidelines are vital because they give your organisation a unified voice. Sure, it’ll be adapted based on channel and audience, but the overarching essence of what makes you, well, you will always be there. Instead of siloed communications and inconsistent voices shouting into the void you literally have everyone singing from the same hymn sheet. This why is big brands like Innocent, Oatly and Bulb do so well.

NAILING YOUR TONE REVEALS HIDDEN DEPTHS TO YOUR BUSINESS

The path we tred in developing tone of voice guidelines is one which brands themselves rarely walk. Understanding in detail how it is you should communicate only comes from a forensic study of customers old and new. Yet so many brands fail to do this.

The interviews, the conversations, the research. All of it builds up a far richer picture than simply having ‘Sales Manager Susan’ plastered over a flimsy audience persona. Here’s a random example that we had nothing to do with…

TOMS shoes. Back in the early days, founder Blake Mycoskie was undertaking initial market research to understand why women would make a purchase.

So he invites a bunch of women around to show them the product. They’re interested but nothing more. Then he explained the one for one story. This is where for every pair of TOM’s bought, another pair is donated to a child in a developing country. Here’s Blake’s response on the Tim Ferriss show when he told them about one for one…

“[It was a] feeding frenzy. It was because of the story. It was because of the idea of one-for-one. It was because up until that point, they had never been offered an opportunity to buy something for themselves that they usually feel guilty about. Because women buying shoes doesn’t always end in happiness. A lot of it’s guilt because they have too many already. This time, they had no guilt. It was like the guilt-free shopping of the century. They were buying multiple pairs. They were telling me other girlfriends of theirs they would get to buy them.”

It’s that. Time and again the process that you undertake to establish your tone of voice reveals hidden depths; tapping into customer insights you’ve probably never uncovered. And the end result? Not just your tone of voice but your overall marketing is richer, more nuanced and ultimately more effective. So to sum up - the journey is as important as the destination.

GIVING YOUR WORDS THE ATTENTION THEY DESERVE

If those first 3 reasons didn’t do the trick then let’s add this in as a finisher.

How much did you spend on your brand guidelines?

Don’t get us wrong. We’re a big fan of brand guidelines. Defined hex colour codes, font choices and image styles are all crucial. Yet, when it comes to the copy we’re tired of seeing a single page among hundreds simply declaring that brands should be ‘friendly,’ or ‘fun.’

Your copy deserves better - especially when it comes to marketing -

Your emails, your captions, your website, your blog, your CTA’s and Ad creative. All of it rests on good copy and good copy rests on nailing your tone of voice. So, where brand guidelines fall short our working with us on your brand voice will take you that step further.


If you have a hankering for getting your tone of voice nailed down into a working document then it would be remiss of us not to point you in the direction of some big brand tone of voice examples which show the end product.

How to go about building something similar though? That’s where we come in.

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