Mind your tone
In the 90s pop songstress Robyn S belted out that actions speak louder than words, and often they do. We all understand that as a business your customer service needs to be on point; however how you say what you’re saying also plays a big part in creating a relationship and brand loyalty with customers.
Tone of voice is not just what you are saying but how you are saying it. There are some brands that seem absolutely smashing it when it comes to tone of voice. Here we examine what they are doing and why it’s working well for them.
It always comes back to these guys when you talk about tone of voice and powerful brand impact. We talk how well Innocent execute their social media, and an important part of that is down to their tone of voice, which is consistent in everything they do: social media, website, packaging and advertising. There is a lighthearted tone to their communications, finding funny ways to present messages — their website navigation includes the header ‘us’ instead of the usual team title or meet the team, ‘things we make’ instead of products and even a ‘compliment generator’, which may seem a little odd or seemingly intangible. However the compliment generator works, Innocent smoothies and drinks are meant to make you feel good, so the compliment generator runs alongside the mantra of making their customers feel good.
Hendrick's Gin has created a true brand persona; if he were a person he’d be wearing a top hat, barnacle, a fantastic moustache and a decadent suit. Their tagline is 'Cultivate the Unusual' and throughout the language is littered with similar stylistic words such as, oddities and peculiar. The language is often straight out of the 1920s ‘divine oddities and tales await you in our unusual times’. Again they use their website navigation bar to establish their tone of voice with the following headings – treasury of tipples, society of the unusual and our peculiar past. The only let down is when you go through to the contact page and instead of continuing the wonderful style they have built up, it turns to a very formal and normal language, which breaks the persona and therefore the effect.
If your office doesn’t use Slack, then you are missing out — and I am not being paid to say that, it is just a super app and the tone of voice underpins the whole brand experience. The tone for Slack was set early on, originally based on the voice of Stewart Butterfield (and other founders). They throw in phrases like “All’s good under the hood, boss!”. The language is funny, light-hearted, it's very human and conversational, almost encouraging it’s users to communicate in the same way. And recently we’ve seen many other web-based software programmes that seem to have been inspired by the Slack speak.
The new kid on the block, who has seemingly taken their brand voice lessons from Innocent but added a slight darker humour to what they do. Oatly's more tongue in cheek approach makes for wickedly fun messaging — under their product title it states ‘more than you would ever want to know about our products’. Yet they are balancing the wickedness by throwing out warm and fuzzy feelings referring to their products as the 'Oatly family', plus they seem fiercely proud of their Swedish roots with their ‘The Oatly Way’ tab leading you to a loud and proud declaration of ‘It’s Swedish’.
They even have Oatly apparel (no really!), which continues the same tone of voice with slogans like ‘wow no cow’, ‘oat me’ and ‘post milk generation’ — all adorning t-shirts! If you find yourself aimlessly wondering the supermarket aisles go and find an Oatly cartoon to see how tone of voice can be well executed, it is funny, and a little bit tongue in cheek.
Houndworthy is a company that sells dog apparel, but for people who’s dog is more than just a pet. They understand that dog mad owners talk to their dogs and so why as a company shouldn’t they. Houndworthy refer to their website fans as ‘houndfans’ and on social media they tag posts with #houndfans. Interestingly, they also label the email sign-up form with ‘get updates on stuff we think you’ll actually care about’, confident that they know what their customers are interested in. Houndworthy is not too conversational, but friendly and relevant. There is a low key quirk about their tone of voice, it's gentle like that stroll you'll take with your dog!
North Face are playing the ’know your audience’ game with panache. North Face recognises that people using their products want simple, well built items that don’t compromise on classic, minimalist style.
Their language is simple and to the point, full of references to nature and the outdoors and plays with the kind of language that motivates you think about activity.
Many of the slogans across the website are a short and to the point at five words or less — ‘Ready for the Wild’, ‘Pack smart. Move easily.’ The use of statements also sounds confident, confident in their approach and reflecting their customers as confident shoppers who know what they want.
Jack Daniels has managed to blend their heritage with a more contemporary feel. There’s also a cinematic quality to the language they use, the brand refers to their products as ‘The main characters’. This use of storytelling in its language reflects the idea of sitting and enjoying a whiskey whilst sharing stories. They position the brand with confidence: ‘Become a friend of Jack. Join our mailing list’. There is a really nice persona here, helped by the name being that of a real person and they have worked well to build on that. Jack Daniels has found a way of conjuring up a style which is laid back, authoritative and as a welcoming and warm Southern friend — think Ron Swanson on a good day.
So what can we take from all of these brand examples? Well, not every brand voice needs to be the same. Yes, Innocent was a pioneer of the chatty and informal tone, but just because it works for them does not mean it will necessarily work for your brand. Take note of how Oatly have taken a similar style and built on that to make it more edgy, more contemporary and most importantly, to make it their own. Hendrick's Gin and Jack Daniels have both developed a tone of voice that takes on a persona you can almost visulise as you read the text.
The key aspect of creating a persona is making sure that it sounds genuine and runs through all of your channels and throughout your entire website. Whenever you work on tone of voice your personalities should shine through, it needs to feel authentic and remain consistent. The main thing to remember is that customer engagement means understanding your customers and being a friend to them, this should always come through in your tone of voice. You can be friendly without being informal, you can be wicked but keep a friendly tone, bring your audience in on the joke. To sum it all up, here are the key points to take away.
Top 5 tips:
- Know your audience — don't make any assumptions, get to know your target customer and understand what makes them tick.
- Tell stories — the tone of voice and the language you use should always support your brand story.
- Be warm — a warm and friendly approach will help you engage with your audience and make an emotional connection.
- Be consistent — consistency across all touch points is the key to being authentic.
- Authenticity — if your customers believe what you say, then you have their attention (and that's where the opportunity lies).
Successful brands connect with their customers online, they engage in conversations that create fans and advocates. Call Beyond on +44 (0)20 7036 0603 or contact us to find out more about how you can enhance your brand strategy.