Brand Messaging & Tone of Voice

Laura English

Laura English

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defining tone of voice blog

You know when you really, really like a business but you can’t totally explain why you like it?  Your friends and family will have these brands too. Maybe your Dad always bought fish and chips from that one place. Or maybe your friend’s obsessed with Adidas and refuses to consider a pair of Nike runners. The reason usually comes down to the brand and its personality… In other words, the brand’s message and its tone of voice

What is a brand message?

Your brand message is the spirit or ethos of your brand in words. It’s how you communicate who your brand is, why it’s good, and why your target audience should like it, to your target audience.

Your brand message encompasses a bunch of different elements. It starts off with those floaty things you hear about like your brand vision, mission, and values. To a lot of business owners, these sound kind of pointless, but they’re not totally. They seriously define how a brand conducts its business as well as how you communicate with your customers.

So, a clothing brand’s mission won’t be to ensure people are dressed. It might be to empower women to feel good about themselves… That alone would inform how they communicate with and about women. It would inform their word selections, how they discuss size, and perhaps what they name their products as well.

Another element of your brand message is your point of difference and the value you offer. Again, this informs the message you’re wanting to send to your target audience. Defining your point of difference and what the value of your product or service is will make it clear, and therefore easy to insert into your message 

The last two elements of your brand message are your tone of voice — which we’re getting to — and your slogan or tagline. Your slogan or your tagline kind of is your brand message, bundled up nicely with a bow on top. There’s way more to it but this is how you can communicate in just a few words. If you’re wanting to inspire, your tagline should be inspirational, if you’re looking to be funny — you guessed it, it should be funny.

What is tone of voice?

So, your brand message is kind of the what of what you’re saying. The tone of voice? It’s how you say it. Are you cool, casual, and conversational? Or are you professional, intelligent, and dead serious? Maybe you’re youthful, fun, enthusiastic….

Whatever it is, that should be communicated through your tone of voice.

Tone of voice is all about the words you choose, not what they’re saying — like we said that’s up to your brand message. So, the Sonder tone of voice is youthful, casual, conversational, and kind of like the cool guy of marketing. To be dead honest, the guiding light while we were defining our tone of voice was that we didn’t want to sound like wankers. And, we all know what we’re referencing here…

We wanted to distance ourselves from the marketing agency cliche of talking about growth and conversions and return on investment. Or streamline or saying things like, “DOUBLE YOUR LEADS IN THREE EASY STEPS.” We wanted to create a brand and a tone of voice that makes us seem like what we are: an agency that’s easy to deal with and who knows what they’re doing without having to prove it through obnoxiously-crafted sentences. We do this by avoiding big words or words that make you sound too smart or too fancy. We use a lot of running-on sentences, long, wordy sentences that sound like we’re rambling. Have you noticed?

We use conversational words like:

  • Like 
  • So
  • But
  • You know

So, tone of voice is about working out which words and which sentence structures best suit you and work to mimic your brand’s personality. If your brand spoke, what would they sound like? That’s tone of voice in a nutshell. 

Examples of brand messaging and tone of voice

The Plant People

The Plant People’s mission statement says this: 

“Our purpose is simple:

to make you ecstatically happy via indoor plants.”

TPP echoes their mission statement through every page of their website and that basically is their brand message. To take their love and knowledge of plants and package it into content and material that both sells their products and inspires a little bit of happiness. 

Their tone of voice supports this. It’s super conversational, knowledgeable, and funny. The voice has an authority to it that shows they know what they’re talking about, but they’re not judging you for not. And, they’re trying to encourage happiness, through humour.

plant people tone of voice

The product descriptions are written from the perspective of the plant which adds another cute touch. 

plant people product descriptions

Cards Against Humanity

“A party game for horrible people”, Cards Against Humanity kind of takes on the persona of your typical 21st century “bad person”.  Their tone of voice basically just sounds like they don’t give a shit, but in a funny way. 

They’re half mean to their audience and pick words and sentence structures that are a mix between cool guy and snarky jerk. 

cards against humanity tone of voice

cards against humanity tone of voice

How to define your tone of voice

If you want your target audience to feel like they know you and even maybe resonate with you a little, you’ve got to define your tone of voice. There are a few things you’ll need to look at to define it. 

Your target audience

Who is your audience? Answer these questions about them:

  • What’s their age group?
  • What do they like to see in a brand?
  • Where do they hang out? (physically and virtually)

From these questions, what sort of personality do you think your target audience would want to see in you? If you’re targeting an older demographic, a super chill tone of voice probably isn’t for you. But if you’re going for a younger audience, maybe!

If you want to delve a little deeper into target audiences, head here to define your audience’s personas

What’s your personality?

If your brand was a human, what do you think they’d be like? Chatty or formal? Warm or detached? Laid back or excited AF?

Your tone of voice needs to capture and project your brand’s personality. So you’ll need to think about who your brand is. Brainstorm some words that describe your brand, here are a bunch of words to get you started:

  • Funny 
  • Smart 
  • Professional
  • Nerdy 
  • Chill
  • Determined
  • Friendly 
  • Adorable
  • Serious

How do you want to make people feel?

How do you want your target audience to feel when they’re reading your marketing materials? Should they feel comforted and supported to take the next step? Should they feel motivated and encouraged? 

So, what’s your tone of voice?

You’ve taken all the steps to define your tone of voice, you just need to put some parameters around it. So, what are your words that you MUST NEVER use? What are the words you will use? Will you use long, wordy headlines or short and snappy headlines? What’s your writing style and how should your copy come across?

How to define your brand message

So, you know your brand message is pretty important to make a connection with your audience, and to get your brand stuck in heads. But how do you define it? How do you work out what the heck your message is? 

Like we said earlier, your brand message is this big culmination of all the different elements of your brand. So to define your brand message, you’ll need to define a few things:

  • Your values
  • Your mission statement
  • Your vision statement
  • Your difference and value 
  • Your tagline or slogan
  • Your tone of voice

Values

Ask yourself these questions: 

  • What does your business stand for? 
  • What problem does your product or service solve? 
  • Why did you start your business?
  • What are your customers values?

From there, brainstorm what your values might be. 

Mission & Vision Statement

This one’s pretty simple, what’s your mission and what’s your vision? 

Your vision is where you want your business to go. Do you want it to be a household name? Or do you want to always keep it small so you can continue to cater to your customers personally? 

Whatever it is, that’s your vision. So what’s your mission? To get to your vision. Your mission statement is how you’ll achieve your vision. 

Your Difference & Value

What’s your point of difference? If you looked at all of your competitors what is the one thing that would make people choose you over them? Is it your personalised service? Your next-level booking system? Have you strayed from your industry’s traditional process to improve your customer experience?

Taglines

Your tagline needs to fit in with your branding or marketing materials, but it needs to stand on its own too. It should be under five words and it should be catchy, interesting, or memorable in some kind of way. 

Brainstorm the benefit/s you want to allude to in your tagline and brainstorm words that suit your brand. Compile all of the words you like and the benefits you’re trying to communicate and kind of mix and match all of your ideas. 

From here, brainstorm a bunch of different tagline ideas and send them to colleagues, friends, family and ask what they like. Which is the best? What do they like about it? More importantly, which best suits your brand?

Your brand message

Now you have all your supporting statements, build that brand message! It should resonate with your target audience, explain what your company is trying to do, and encapsulate all the elements above. It needs to be consistent with your brand and fit in. 

Just FYI, we do offer tone of voice and brand messaging services 😇 — feel free to hit Tom up to work out what we can do for your business. 

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