Brand Voice and Tone - What is it, and How to Create one for your Company or Brand?

"It is not what you say, It is how you say it!"

You have probably heard this phrase time and time again. You could say it is over-familiar or even call it a cliché. However, it is well-used for one very, very good reason – it is true. Both for humans and brands that evoke similar emotions in us when they communicate.

Brand Tone of Voice

For the record - The difference between Voice and Tone:


Before we go any further, we think it would be prudent to explain the difference between Brand 'Voice' and 'Tone'. Though both are used interchangeably, they are different.


Here is a quick explainer -


Your brand 'Voice' is your company or brand's personality. It always stays the same.


If your brand were a person, what would they be like? Your personality impacts the things you talk about, the words you use, and the way you interact with others. It is what makes you unique and recognizable and allows your audience to see you as relatable.


Your brand 'Tone' changes depending on the situation, subject matter, and who you are talking to. It is a reflection of your feelings or mood.


Your personality or 'voice' does not change. Your ‘tone’, on the other hand, can change because it’s what reflects the mood and feelings and helps you to connect with your audience.


Tone and Voice - Why are they so important?


The tone and voice of your brand are the two elements that help build the required image of your brand in the hearts and minds of your target audience. They help showcase your brand's personality to the world. In other words, they are the core elements of your brand identity and must be outlined right from the start.


It is very important for your voice to be consistent, honest, and recognizable. Your branding and marketing strategy should clearly outline what voice and tone your brand should have.


According to Sprout Social, 64 percent of consumers want brands to connect with them. Consistency in tone and voice can help brands achieve this. It helps build credibility, and connection with your audience, which ultimately gives them the confidence to buy from you.


Here is a 3-Step process to help you outline the Voice and Tone for your brand:


Step 1: Imagine Your Brand or Company as a Person


This can be a fun exercise to do, even with your team. Imagine your brand or company as a living breathing individual, now answer these questions:

  • Are they male or female?

  • Where are they from?

  • Are they funny? Do they have a dry sense of humor?

  • Where would you find them on a Saturday night?

  • What's their age?

  • How would you describe its personality to someone?

Well, you get gist. Keep going till you are able to create a realistic image of your brand or company as an individual.


Step 2: Establish a Tone of Voice


Now that you have a clear idea of your brand's personality, it is time to bring it to life by outlining the four dimensions of your brand's tone. Although Neilson Norman (NN Group) outlines the four dimensions of Tone of Voice for web content, we find it extremely useful when creating the tone of voice for a brand. The four dimensions are:

  • Funny vs. serious: Are you trying to be humorous? Or do you approach the subject approached in a serious way?

  • Formal vs. casual: Are you going to be formal? Informal? Casual?

  • Respectful vs. irreverent: Do you speak in a respectful way? Or do you take an irreverent approach?

  • Enthusiastic vs. matter-of-fact: Are you enthusiastic when you explain something? Or are you going to be writing in a dry and matter-of-fact manner?

Another way to approach this, is to think of what you are not. You can use the "We are this, but we are not that" question on all four dimensions, to get you there. Fill in the blanks:


"We’re _______ , but we’re not _______ ."


You can use the NN Group's 37 tone descriptors to help you. Here is what the above responses might look like.


“We’re authoritative, but not too serious.” “We’re funny, but not sarcastic.” “We’re friendly, but not sappy.”


Step 3: Consider Variations


If your brand or company is an individual, your tone of voice will vary depending on the situation and audience. Just like an individual might speak differently to their colleagues, than to their children, so also brands need to consider different scenarios where the above dimensions might vary.


But, remember while your 'Tone' may vary, your 'Voice' must always stay the same!


Some aspects to consider for variations:


Medium - The media that one communicates on requires different ways of speaking. For example, your social media may require, a slightly different tone from your other online channels or offline marketing.


Mood - Your tone reflects your mood, and just like the individual with feelings, the tone can change with the occasion. For example, your interactions with a customer through the buying process might change from a cheerful tone to a more serious, and matter-of-fact tone as you share your capabilities and benefits.


Audience - Just like an individual that speaks with multiple people over the course of the day, your brand might also need to talk to different people. For example, a toy brand might need to speak with kids and parents on the same website.


Create a Tone of Voice that is Real!


Believe it or not, your company or brand already has a voice and tone...Yours! The company or brand personality is a reflection of the people who are behind it, so, it is only natural that this gets reflected in the Voice and Tone. So, a little introspection on what makes you unique as an individual can also help outline the uniqueness of your brand.


Need help creating a tone of voice for your brand? Get in touch with us for a free 30 min consultation.


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