Give your brand identity through your tone of voice

The story of your brand may well be ground-breaking: but if you tell your story in a way that puts everyone to sleep, you're not going to leave a lasting impression. That is why your brand must have an attractive and appropriate tone of voice. Because a brand is much more than a logo. It's your personality. In this blog post you will discover why a clear tone of voice is so important and how to define this for your brand.

outside with a laptop

Tone of voice is more than a stylistic element

The tone of voice of a brand can be compared to the impact that the voice has on how you perceive someone's personality. It is not only what you say, but also how you say it and, on some level, what you radiate while you’re saying it. Tone of voice goes beyond a purely stylistic element – it's the core of the identity of your brand. After all, as a person you also have a 'fixed' personality, but the way you communicate depends on the situation and the person you are speaking to.

Tone of voice

Clear differences in the tone of voice of Microsoft vs. that of Dropbox.

By determining a tone of voice for your brand, you create a foothold that allows you to speak from the same personality throughout all your communication (online and offline, from large pieces of text to micro copy). And that has more impact than you think.

By being consistent, you give people a clear picture of your brand and this means that they can build trust and connections with you faster. After all, as a brand you want to build a relationship with (potential) customers. On a website or app, you create that relationship by engaging in dialogue with the user – through words that you use. How those words sound and the emotions they evoke is essential.

Talk the talk, walk the walk

Compare the copy on your website, app, social media ... with the ideal representative of your brand. To appear convincing, they must not only say the right things: they must also make sure that those words sound sincere. If there is a difference between the verbal (your explicit message) and the non-verbal (the feeling you radiate), people become suspicious and are less likely to believe you.

An example:

Suppose your company focuses on innovation. This, both in terms of products and working methods, and the way you deal with customers. Your approach is hands-on, you think in an agile way, you are always one step ahead of the competition. And then you write sentences like "Please enter your email address so we can send you our monthly newsletter." Something isn’t right there. You can say that you are innovative, but the words that you use say otherwise. And that's a problem.

Define your target audience and the relationship you want to build with them

The most important element in tone of voice is that your personality matches your message. But there is also a third aspect that you should not lose sight of: your target group. Some important questions to ask yourself are:

  • Which people do you want to reach? Think of age, gender, education level, where do they live

  • What are the needs and problems of your target group? After all, your service or product should make their lives easier (eg. "I have dry skin").

  • What are their dreams and aspirations? What do they want to achieve by buying your product? (e.g. "I want healthy skin")

  • Also check why your target audience might not use your services or product, what their doubts (may) be (eg. "Are the ingredients in this cream really nourishing or do they dry out my skin even more?").

  • Once you have answered these questions, you can address your target audience in a more personal way, using content that really meets their needs, and you can also write effective calls-to-action more easily.

Finally, define the type of relationship you want to build. Do you want to be friends and therefore operate on the same level, are you the mentor and are they the student, are you the seller and are they the buyer ... Make sure that you do not adopt a belligerent tone of voice. That’s the fast way to start confirm shaming, a dark pattern where you try to convince users to take an action by playing on their guilt.

Your users are the best copywriters

Before I shoot myself in the foot: don't take this too literally. What I mean, is that the best way to appeal to your target audience is to speak like them. Analyse the words they use and how they write when they talk about your brand or a connected issue. You can do this by, for example, looking at emails and chat messages you receive, reviews, and how you are talked about in online communities, and so on.

Do I always have to sound the same?

Being consistent in your tone of voice certainly doesn't mean that your copy should always sound the same. As I said earlier, you can compare the tone of voice of a brand with someone's personality. In principle, your voice always remains unchanged, while you adjust the tone to the situation or specific target group. This means that you know when you can make jokes, or when it's better to keep the tone serious or formal. A tone spectrum that illustrates two extremes that you can pin the corresponding moments (touchpoints) on to can help with this:

Does your brand deserve the stage?

Has your brand a lot to offer and is it time the world notices it? At iO, we’re here to supply you with research, brand strategies, experience building and relationship engagement. Our experts will shine a light on your brand and yours truly.

Woman drawing sketch
Tone of voice spectrum

The above tone spectrum suggests, among other things, that when someone subscribes to the newsletter, they are welcomed with a light-hearted and informal email. On the other hand, if a user has skipped an essential step when installing an app, they get a notification about it that is written in a more serious tone. Naturally the extremes of your tone spectrum and (the placement of) your touchpoints differ per brand.

Better late than never

The faster you determine and apply a consistent tone of voice, the better. Your texts are more consistent, and everything forms an elegant, unified whole, not like a cut and paste job that has been puzzled together afterwards. On the other hand, you can also say better late than never when it comes to determining your brand tone of voice. Don’t despair, it’s never a lost cause, if you haven’t determined your brand tone of voice you can always start now.

Nicki Sanne
About the author
Nicki Sannen
Senior Copywriter - iO

Growing up with a love for languages, Nicki is right at home in the exciting field of copywriting. As a writer herself, as well as head of a team of copywriters and content marketeers - offering inspiration and guidance on the daily. Never at a loss for words, always on the winning team.

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