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Consider Your Voice and Tone Thoughtfully

Updated: May 20, 2019

The idea of a brand having a "voice and tone" is finally getting the recognition it deserves, but increasingly, more and more companies are short-listing these important strategies to the doomed "bucket of buzzwords." They seem easy enough to define, but the application, on the other hand, may seem daunting to some of the most experienced marketing teams out there. For it is within these words that come the hardest values to uphold: trust, consistency, reliability.


April Jo Murphy, a Ph.D from the University of North Texas and non-fiction editor of the American Literary Review, believes that the source of all conflict comes down to one thing: miscommunication. Miscommunication can take form in a myriad of ways as it embodies all types of language – visual, written, physical, and of course, verbal. Break those down even further and you are faced with millions of opportunities to positively (or negatively) communicate your intentions to your intended audience. No matter what the communication platform, voice and tone are largely responsible for the success – or lack of success – of the message you seek to convey.


Aren’t voice and tone the same thing?


If there is anything to take away from this resource, it is the understanding that voice and tone are different, yet equally important to the product you are asking an audience to adopt or share.


Think about brand voice as something you can step in and out of as needed. It encompasses all communication you have with all people inside and outside of your company (email, memo, blog, tweet, logo - it’s visual and textual). Most importantly, voice is consistent. It signals to your audience that one thing relates to another, and furthermore, traces back to one singular brand. As large companies often do, brand voice can be captured in guidelines that can be shared across departments and outside agencies to ensure that all parties are producing reliably consistent deliverables.


While voice is defined and consistent, tone is malleable. It is meant to modulate based on situations and circumstances that humans experience. Tonal messages are crafted with emotional intelligence to reach a customer where they are, both contextually appropriate and with consideration of the overarching brand voice. Simply put, tone is how the reader imagines you to be like as if you were speaking to them on a personal level. Tone is human.

In this context, tone encompasses not only the words you choose, but their order, rhythm and pace.

By utilizing voice and tone tactics in a consistent and dependable way, brands are creating a trusting relationship between themselves, their offering and the end-user. By living up to a consumer’s expectations, a company is visually, verbally and tactically fulfilling their promise to be a certain way as outlined from the first interaction. Consumers now have grown to actually expect that you are (for example) friendly, approachable, sensible; or perhaps, pragmatic and concise, but gentle. No matter the voice, recurring consumers recur because they know what to expect – in other words, they trust the brand will deliver on their promises.


According to a generation research study performed by Disney|ABC Television, Omnicom Media Group and Insight Strategy Group, human-centric values are increasingly becoming more aligned with how consumers are choosing brands.2 “In a data-centric world, where marketers are heavily focused on understanding audiences based on what they do and how they engage with brands across platforms, we must not forget that those audiences are made of people. Therefore, understanding what they think and feel, and how they engage with each other across generations, is equally important to connecting with those audiences.” said Jonathan Steuer, chief research officer at Omnicom Media Group.


The research highlights that now, more than ever, people are choosing brands in a similar fashion to how they choose friends. “This is the year that brands who succeed will need to act like humans,” said Mark Taylor, Global Head of Customer Engagement at Capgemini Invent. A WiredInsider article summarizes the research, continuing that, “to be effective, brands must navigate the uncharted area between marketing and friendship. Messaging is a new arena for making such connections. It’s not just another advertising channel, but a means of forging deeper connections with consumers.”


It all goes back to one thing: trust.

Your product is chosen repeatedly by consumers based on the trust, consistency and standards they come to expect by engaging your brand. At Matchstick Marketing, I work with brands like yours tirelessly to identify, develop and nourish a voice and tone that is all your own, so that your team members, consumers and partners will develop the trust required to make your company truly successful. Friendly, expert, parental, summery, scholarly, elementary? Let's find out. Head to my contact page and get in touch!



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