There are brands that we just connect to, effortlessly. And others that don’t really seem to cut through the noise of their competition. Why? Well, many reasons. One of which we’re going to address in this article… Tone of voice (TOV); the way in which a brand communicates through all verbal and written messaging. A strategic brand will spend a LOT of time on this. They know that a brand’s equity is worth only as much as the size of their audience, customer base, number of consumers and loyal followers. So they invest time and money into developing a TOV that will resonate with people. That will give them a likeable, no—LOVEABLE and memorable personality that people actually want to invite into their lives.
Your TOV shows that you know and understand your audience. You’re here to help them. You’re a friend. They can trust you. Sounds simple, but there’s a reason whole agencies specialise in helping to craft it. Because, just like in real life conversation—there are very intricate nuances that are the difference between; friendly and creepy, funny and offensive, helpful and demeaning and, well you get the idea. Not only that, but your TOV can’t just be a blanket tone that ticks these boxes. It needs to be unique to your brand. To your offerings and services and needs to connect with YOUR specific audience. It won’t and should not connect with absolutely everyone. It should be the perfect personality to be best friends with your perfect customer. Great, now that we’ve walked you through the importance of a brand TOV, we’ve got some of our favourite examples to share with you. Brands whose success are built on their tone of voice.
If you’ve been to an ‘at home’ group dinner function over the past few years, then you will have heard of Cards Against Humanity (CAH). It’s the snarky and funny card game that’s become one of our most popular forms of entertainment for games nights, family dinners, holidays and the like. The success of the brand obviously lies (for the most part) in the accessibility of the game. It’s fun, funny and creative. But so too is their TOV. Throughout all communication touch-points, CAH maintains this personality. The fun, funny, slightly rude and inappropriate party guest. And it’s a huge part of why people know, love and trust that brand.
The CAH brand plays with their TOV through all marketing opportunities. They don’t cram humour into every sentence, just like in a game—it’s used sparingly and only when it’ll have an impact. They’re not trying too hard. So, when they’re promoting a new product, their audience is listening, because they know that by reading that newsletter from CAH, they’re going to get a bit of a laugh. And, CAH knows that while they’re laughing, they’re more likely to keep reading and then maybe be persuaded to buy that gift pack for their dad’s birthday
One of our favourite examples of this has to be this direct email, promoting the Cards Against Humanity Dad Pack.
Their sense of humour is a bit obscure, it’s a bit off beat; but it’s consistent. They use it across all touch-points. Their website is filled with this specific tonal humour, like this very witty but simple explanation of what the game is and how to play it.
We resonate with this humour, we’re right into the slight darkness of it. So it works for us. But the main point here is: consistency. They’re consistent across all messaging. They’re always a little dark, a little inappropriate and that’s how they reach their chosen audience, because after a few wines at a dinner party, we are too. And that’s ultimately when people reach for a game to play, so that’s the audience they’re trying to connect with. Because of this consistent humour—no matter how dark and off-beat—we’re likely to buy new products, expansion packs and invest our time into reading the emails they send.
For Slack, clarity is the name of their game. They know their audience, they know that they’re busy folks and their brand is all about making life easier for those people. This understanding of their audience shows through every piece of communication — from the user tours, to the content on their website, every piece of the journey is accompanied by a signature ‘customer first’ language.
Even the account profile page is filled with personality that just continues to prove that they KNOW you. They GET you.
Slack is an amazing example of a brand that could be a little more conservative with their tone but instead, they’ve got a really distinct voice. After-all, they’re a tool used by most workplaces to streamline communication—so they of all people can be brief and concise. And they are, but they do it with flare. They achieve this (similarly to Cards Against Humanity) with consistency. They find every opportunity to speak with their TOV, and every moment you spend as a user on their platform, or a potential customer on their website, you’re welcomed by that familiar voice that truly understands you.
This one has a slightly different approach to the other examples we’ve mentioned. Rather than having a strategic TOV that is used across all of their output, they work to curate both a ‘professional’ and a ‘social’ language. Their website and App user language is practical, helpful and straight-forward, while their social channels express a more casual tone, to connect with their audience. They’re sort of like the person who’s really professional in the office, but totally relaxed on a night out. We respect what they’re doing and we trust them but we also know that they can relate to us.
The clever use of TOV here with Netflix is that they’re humorous and just slightly controversial. So their social posts are topical and engage a lot of interaction with fans. They also often use their own shows as a basis for jokes. So while their followers are seemingly just joining a conversation, they’re also being reminded of popular content the streaming platform has on offer—without FEELING like they’re being sold to. Clever. Here are a couple of our favourite Netflix Twitter posts…
— Netflix (@netflix) May 30, 2016
They’re using their socially casual TOV to engage with followers while also referencing their own content. Brilliant. Netflix, we take our hat off to you.
Hopefully we have inspired you to really think about your TOV. To look at using it in different ways, across different platforms and to understand how powerful it can be in finding, connecting with and acquiring customers. If this article has piqued your TOV interest but hasn’t quelled your thirst for knowledge, then take a look at our previous piece: Why your brand needs a tone of voice.