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Many of us can recognize an Old Spice commercial within a few seconds. The body care brand has established a distinctive voice and tone that applies to everything from its products and commercials to written content. You remember Terry Crews and his muscles and shirtless Isaiah Mustafa telling you to “look at your man, now back to me.” Brands can make content shine and can forge stronger connections with their target audience by finding a voice and tone in content that brings their brand to life.
Image via Flickr by HowardLake
If you’ve followed Wendy’s Twitter profile over the past few years, you’ve seen a fantastic example of voice in action. From the way the brand interacts with its followers to its promotional posts, Wendy’s maintains a consistently fun, informal voice. You can see it in the company’s Twitter bio: “We like our tweets the same way we like to make hamburgers: better than anyone expects from a fast-food joint.” How would this statement have read differently if Wendy’s had said “fast-food establishment” instead of “fast-food joint”? The entire bio would have changed. That’s voice.
Voice is an inherent and inseparable part of your brand. It influences how your audience perceives your brand and it can be the pull that draws more consumers in or the push that keeps them away. An upper-class millionaire who refuses to eat at anything other than a five-star restaurant won’t connect as easily to Wendy’s voice as a college student or a parent who forgot to buy dinner and needs to pick up something on the way home. Voice is less about what you say and more about how you say it. Voice encompasses word choice, rhythm, pace, length, and more.
While many use voice and tone as interchangeable terms, some subtle differences exist between the two. Tone influences how your audience feels after reading or seeing a piece of content, while voice is how individuals know that you produced that content. Voice is the consistent quality of your content that makes it recognizable. It remains relatively constant while tone can change slightly depending on the situation. Your voice embodies the core of your brand and becomes a vehicle that communicates tone.
Lacy Boggs at Business 2 Community makes an interesting argument: “The most important reason you need a strong brand voice is that (in nearly every case) people don’t follow you for your products! They’re following you for your brand voice …. If you want to buy something from a brand, you go buy it! You don’t follow them on a social channel.” While selling products and services is certainly an end goal of your content marketing strategy, content is about forming connections between brand and audience, and voice and tone come together to build that connection.
Your voice and tone connect with your audience by communicating your brand’s core values and expressing your personality. Your audience wants to feel understood and wants to support a brand whose values resonate with them. Your voice and tone can convince them that you’re like them, or at least that you understand their needs.
A distinctive tone and voice can also set you apart from your competition, which can convert more individuals in your target audience to your brand. Maybe you and a competitor offer similar products and services, but your voice can be what makes you more appealing than the other business.
Finally, voice and tone can help you establish credibility. For example, while informality may work well for Wendy’s voice, the same likely won’t fly with a university or with a medical insurance brand. By using voice to communicate that you understand what the audience expects in terms of formality and that you can correctly use jargon, you’ll build authority that makes your content more convincing.
Maybe you’re worried that your lack of followers on social media is a result of ineffective voice. Maybe you’re preparing for a rebrand and looking to start strong with a voice to which your audience can quickly identify and connect. Whatever your situation, it’s always worth analyzing the effectiveness of your content’s current voice. If you find you need room for improvement, below are a few ways to establish voice and tone in your content:
Your brand is unique. It has something to offer that no other business does. Capture that unique quality in your brand’s voice and tone, and you’ll connect with your audience in a way that only you can.