For a while now, it’s felt like the marketing question on everyone’s lips has been “What do you stand for?” – the big questions of brand purpose, mission and values were bang on trend.
While we would argue that these are essential elements for a contemporary brand, particularly those in competitive retail sectors, we’d make a case for adding another key aspect of your brand to the agenda. Your tone of voice. Many promising and compelling brand purposes and claims have been lost or diluted on their way to their target audience due to problems with the tone of voice. Even brands with the best intentions can find their message faltering if it’s delivered inconsistently, inappropriately or even just lacking sparkle.
Worried your tone of voice might be letting your brand down? Take a look at these key signs your brand language could do with sharpening up…
You get shown or pitched inconsistent or unsuitable ideas
For every new product or objective, there are countless ways you could communicate it and diverse ideas should always be welcomed. Having said that, if you find yourself being surprised in a bad way by the work you’re being shown, it may be a sign that people aren’t able to filter their work effectively before it gets to you.
Why it matters:
Constantly feeling like the mark is being missed takes its toll on teams and partners. And it wastes valuable time. When you have a hero campaign to create and have factored time in to get it right, a few misfires might not be the end of the world, but in always-on communication or when you’re trying to be agile, inefficiency at any stage of the process leads to frustration. Your team and your partners are going to be much nearer the mark, if you make sure there are clear tone of voice principles in place. This is not just about which words to choose either, it can start as high-level as “Are we a ‘funny’ brand or are we just ‘enthusiastic’?”, “Do we want to be ‘provocative’ or just ‘bold’?”
Only one or two people really get the tone of voice:
This is a common challenge that businesses can find as they try to grow or take on new challenges. Your tone of voice should be established so that multiple content creators and brand communicators are able to deliver it through their work. If everything has to be run through one person to get it “on brand”, either your tone of voice is not fit for purpose or has not been captured in guidelines that your team can use.
Why it matters:
Getting the zhush up from that one brand guardian every time might mean every piece of content is perfect right now, but ultimately this is an unscalable model. Taking the time to distil the brand voice into a clear set of rules that any quality content creator can pick up and use opens up opportunities to explore new channels and formats, as the business evolves.
The work all feels a bit ‘blah’
It’s not a very technical term that, is it? But you might know the feeling. Sometimes even a piece of communication that is on-brand, on-trend and well-produced just doesn’t feel very ‘you’. Often injecting a bit of tone into the mix can take comms from a 6 to a 10. It can be the key to more distinctive language, a better image choice, or a new graphic approach.
Why it matters:
Even great ideas can end up feeling generic, if in the execution, the team aren’t able to add the brand’s voice to the mix. This is particularly true of brands that have a busy news or trend cycle to follow. If you’re audience are searching for key terms, looks or ideas, chances are you aren’t the only brand who knows that, so rather than being just another in a sea “Festival looks” or “Party hair ideas”, why not use your tone of voice to set yourself apart from the crowd?