How Does Your Marketing Sound?

January 19th 2016       Sally Ormond       brand identity, brand voice, Marketing, tone of voice

tone of voice


You have a personality. You have a certain way with words. You have catchphrases you use a lot. If you wrote a friend a letter, they’d be able to tell it was from you, even if you didn’t sign it, because it would ‘sound’ like you.

The same goes for your business.

It too has a personality. Your branding tells your customers a lot about you. Your marketing materials convey your values and beliefs. That’s why it’s essential your writing takes on your personality and no one else’s.

A while ago a potential client approached me about some work. They came to me because they liked my blogging style; they found it engaging, at times amusing and above all informative.

“We want you to write like that for us,” was their next comment.

OK, yes I was flattered, but the problem was that their business (I think it was something in the insurance or legal world) and their people would never in a million years talk or write the way I do.

It would have been a complete disaster if I had taken the job because there would have been a complete disconnect between them and their marketing collateral.

The curse of meeting your favourite Hollywood star

Let’s look at this a different way.

You’re mad about the Mission Impossible films. Tom Cruise is your all-time hero. One day you’re lucky enough to meet him.

As you enter excitement overload, he appears in the room and you start to chat.

Your face drops.

He’s not Ethan Hunt. He’s not the character you adore from the big screen; he’s Tom Cruise, just a guy (OK, a rather rich one) that happens to act for a living.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a great guy, but your idol is the all action hero that dodges bullets for a living and hangs off the sides of planes.

There’s a disconnect between the screen hero and the real life person because they are not the same.

This is what happens when your content doesn’t adopt the right tone of voice for your business.

Nailing your style

You would think coming up with a brand voice would be easy, wouldn’t you?

The problem is we’re not talking about your voice (unless you happen to be a sole trader), but the voice that must be adopted by your company.

The best way to do this is to put a guide in place so everyone knows exactly how they should write. It should offer a set of rules for what can and can’t be said and the language that should be used. It will clearly define a:

  • Voice – described in adjectives (i.e. friendly, lively, professional, approachable etc.)
  • Tone – adaptations of the voice to suit different audiences and content type

Now the hard work begins.

Finding your voice needs input from your management team.

Ask them if your brand were a person, what kind of personality would it have?

That’s your starting point, and then you have to tighten it further. If their answer was “upbeat” find out exactly what that means – vibrant, modern, colloquial?

Also ask what it’s not – this is often easier to answer.

Lastly, think about your relationships with your customers, what would that be like – friend, guide, confidante?

That’s your voice taken care of, so what about the tone?

This can be adapted to suit different content types and audiences.

Your writing will naturally change when writing for different formats, be it articles, blogs, social media, website content, or white papers because they are addressing different audiences.

Think about:

  • The type of content you’re writing
  • Who will be reading it
  • How they are feeling/why they are reading it
  • The tone that should be used (i.e. professional, empathetic, friendly, authoritative etc.)

It’s also a good idea to then offer an example to show the tone and type of vocabulary that would be suitable in that situation.

Nailed it

Yes, it is a lot of work, but it will pay dividends in the end.

Once it’s in place, the consistency of your marketing approach will create a coherent and memorable brand.

Getting your style nailed is essential to make sure all your marketing collateral, whatever form it takes, leaves the same impression and is instantly recognisable.





Tags: brand identity, brand voice, Marketing, tone of voice
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