A tone of voice is the unique manner in which a company presents it brand as distinct from its competitors. It is not about what you say about the brand, but how you say it. It consists of the language used, the choice of words and the construction of the sentences. It comprises the way you present the words – their order, pace and the rhythm.
In the world of business and marketing the tone of voice mainly refers to a company’s written communication – rather than the spoken words – consisting of emails, social media messages, website and other means of presenting creative content.
In essence, the tone of voice is the brand voice of a company. According to Philip Kotler, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management, the tone of voice is the tone of the people behind the brand of a company. Thus, a tone of voice embodies and expresses the essential personality of a brand and its set of values. It encompasses the collective actions, including the loves and hates, of the people who make up the brand.
In order to ensure that a brand should stand apart from its competitors, its tone of voice should be unique, distinctive and recognizable. It is the same way that we use a language both for written and spoken communication. Mainly our culture and the dialect determine how we use words in communication. But, within these parameters every one of us has our own favorite expressions, idiosyncrasies, inflections etc. in our approach to the linguistic communication.
Consistency Creates Familiarity
By maintaining a specific tone of voice consistently the company establishes familiarity with the customers, and thereby earns their trust. The psychologists say that there is a strong link between familiarity and trust. Familiar matters require much less time and effort for mental processing.
Impact of How You Say It
People are very sensitive to language usage. They can be easily influenced or persuaded by carefully chosen words.
Zipcar, a company that provides car-sharing service, makes the visitors to its website to ponder by asking them to imagine a world having one million fewer cars on the streets. The company instantly drives home the very reason for its existence – eliminating the traffic congestions and promoting cleaner environment. The Zipcar’s call to people to join its club membership does not focus on the economy or convenience of car sharing, it rather emphasizes the impact it will have on the environment.
Different Tones of Voice:
Following are the different tones of voices suitable for different platforms and contexts:
A formal tone of voice in email and other communications conveys a sense of professionalism, and also of being respectful and authoritative. However, a formal tone appears stiff, not so friendly and lacks personality.
Technical terms are very specific in their meaning, which is the reason they are needed for precise communication of technical matters. But always remember to keep the language simple and natural. The use of obscure or unknown terms makes the text hard to read and tends to put off the customers. The use of simple language also inspires trust and intimacy with your customers. However, the technical terms which are essential for conveying the exact meaning may be left unchanged if they are understood by a majority of the readers.
Slangs and Colloquial Expressions
No doubt, the use of slangs and colloquial expressions infuse a certain kind of familiar personality into your language. They may work well if your target audience belongs to a particular age group, culture and geographical location. However, similar to pop cuture, they change frequently and have a limited period of validity. It is better to avoid them in static communications.
Corporate houses generally do not use swear words in their marketing communications, as the swear words tend to be offensive to most of the readers. However, the occasional use of mild swear words like ‘hell’ or ‘damn’ can have good impact giving the communications an honest and evocative feel. Ultimately, the suitability of swear words will depend on the context of the communication and the nature of the brand.
The Role of Humor in Company Websites
MailChimp is a highly popular marketing automation platform. It is characterized by witty cartoons and quiet, bubbling humor. It is a front runner platform for sending marketing emails.
The storytelling element is used when you present information about your company in a way that resonates your emotional level with your audience. If told well it will generate interest in your audience and will stay imprinted on their memory. A good story draws out basic human emotions and contains universal elements to which almost everyone can relate. However storytelling may not be appropriate when you need to get across a lot of information as quickly as possible.
The rules of English Grammar are often confusing and contentious. The essential requirement of a successful tone of voice is maintaining consistency in your communication, including conformity to the rules of grammar. However, give precedence to clarity, consistency and effectiveness over being a stickler to arcane points of grammar.
These days the corporate houses are placing great emphasis on content writing and, especially, the writing of creative content in order to market their products and to project their particular brands. Grammar, therefore, plays a paramount importance in content writing and presentation of creative content on the companies’ websites. Some of the rules of grammar may be out-of-date and may not be quite helpful to your style expression. Sometimes you may have to make exceptions to certain confusing rules of grammar for the sake of effectiveness and clarity of your communication.
To sum up the tone of voice constitutes the following:
- There is clear difference between the voice and tone of your company’s website. The voice remains the same throughout your company’s website and across the various personas used. However, the tone varies according to the context and the target audience.
- The voice of your website is the overall representation of your brand; whereas the tone is a subset of voice and varies according to the context.
- Used appropriately the tone of voice sets your business distinct from the competitors.
- The tone varies according to the context, the audience and the platform, while the voice remains the same.
- Your choice of the tone of voice for your website depends on your target audience and the type of interaction you intend to have with them.
An appropriate tone of voice plays an important role when you plan to create or recreate your website. Always make it distinct, consistent, clear and relevant to the target audience.