You must have heard the adage- it’s not WHAT you say, but HOW you say it.

It is especially true in branding, where brands have to craft their communication in an appealing way – so that their message resonates with their audience. And this is where the brand’s tone of voice comes in.

Simply put- a brand’s tone of voice is the “how.”

Your brand’s tone of voice is the hallmark of its personality and a reflection of its values. It is important to define its tone clearly to ensure uniform messaging across all platforms.

Today, we will look at some tone-of-voice examples from the world’s leading brands and take inspiration from them to craft our own.

If the task seems too abstract or time-consuming for you, you can always trust Team BrandLoom to help you to craft your brand strategy.

The Tone of Voice Definition: What is a Brand Tone of Voice?

Every person has their personality and way of expressing themselves.

People who have an appealing way of communicating impress others easily and have others flock to them.

The same thing happens to brands too.

Think of your brand as a living being.

It will build a following and grow its influence if it comes across as interesting in how it talks to its target audiences.

A brand tone of voice is the way in which a brand communicates with its audiences. It is the distinct manifestation of its personality.

Think of it this way: what sets it apart if you take away the visual markers of your brand- logo, colors, symbols?

It is its way of communication.

If your tone of voice is so distinct that your audience can recognize it without even looking at your name or logo- you have crafted a truly unique identity for your brand.

A great example of that would be Nike. Nobody does motivation better. It projects an aura of power and purpose in a serious manner. Nike’s communication style is instantly recognizable.

Another one will be the ever-irreverent Wendy’s– which sets standards of snarkiness. The fast-food brand’s enduring appeal is greatly contributed by its disses and chuckle-worthy comebacks, which have earned it a cult following across the globe.

WENDYS COMEBACKS ON SOCIAL MEDIA
WENDYS COMEBACKS ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Importance of Tone of Voice in Brand Communication

Branding is marked by two things- distinction and consistency (differentiation and relevance).

You have to develop a unique brand that stands out from the crowd, and you have to make sure that its uniqueness is maintained EVERYWHERE.

Finding the right tone of voice for your brand helps you with both.

Importance of Tone of Voice Example in Brand Communication
Importance of Tone of Voice Example in Brand Communication

The tone of voice is extremely important for a Brand for the following reason

  • Sets you apart from others
  • A consistent tone of voice builds trust
  • Most overt manifestation of your brand’s personality
  • Helps you persuade your audience

Let us look at the reasons for developing a distinct brand tone of voice:

1. Sets you apart from others

If you cannot figure out how you should come across to your audiences, you cannot have a successful marketing strategy. A brand’s tone of voice is a mark of its uniqueness. It helps it distinguish itself in the market.

2. A consistent tone of voice builds trust

If you are inconsistent, your communication will be disjointed and chaotic. You will confuse and put off your audiences without a uniform style of speaking across all channels.

On the other hand, when your communication style is uniform, audiences are more likely to trust you.

3. Most overt manifestation of your brand’s personality

Your tone of voice gives your brand a character- without which it will come across as an empty shell. Your character is what will attract your target audience and turn them into followers.

4. Helps you persuade your audience

You can influence your audience’s decisions with a compelling tone of voice. Take the example of Old Spice. When Old Spice says, “You wouldn’t exist if your grandpa didn’t wear this, ” it makes you notice, crack a smile, get curious, and buy a bottle to see if it works for you.

Old Spice Ad
Old Spice Ad

Now that you know why you should have a distinct tone of voice for your brand- let us look at the two components of it: the difference between voice and tone.

Brand Tone of Voice: How Does Voice impact Tone?

Let us define brand voice and tone.

Voice: This is your brand’s personality. This is the consistent part of communication that remains the same across platforms in all situations.

Tone: This is the emotional inflection that colors your voice, depending on the situation.

Voice vs. Tone
Voice vs. Tone

Voice vs. Tone

Voice – Your personality, is constant throughout.
Tone- The emotional inflection, changes with the situation. Your tone will differ with each situation. A launch announcement will have an enthusiastic, optimistic tone, while the news of closing a shop will be grim.

However, your voice- your personality- will define your tone. How an empathetic brand will react will be very different from what a jester brand will do.

Here is an example of two brands with very distinct personalities- talking about Christmas. Look at the different tones of voice.

DIFFERENT  BRANDS, SAME OCCASION
DIFFERENT  BRANDS, SAME OCCASION

Good brand communication is all about fine-tuning your tone to communicate in an authentic way with changing situations. A brand that can manage to do it masterfully will trump the competition.

Now, let us look at HOW we can craft our tone of voice.

How to determine the Tone of Voice for your Brand?

How to determine the Tone of Voice for your Brand?
How to determine the Tone of Voice for your Brand?

1. Know your brand values & purpose

Your communication will reflect your brand’s values- always.

Similarly, your mission or purpose statement will tell you what the change your brand wants to make in the world is.

Looking at them, you can determine the type of relationships you will build with people.

Whole Foods says that one of its defining values is “We Care About Our Communities and the Environment.”

If you look at the company’s communication, they highlight the importance of local sourcing and have a strong, emphatic focus on sustainability. Likewise, their tone of voice is grounded and authentic.

Good Foods Values Communication
Good Foods Values Communication

2. Know your Brand Archetype

The Archetype Wheel
The Archetype Wheel

Archetypes are the typical example of a category.

In psychology, expert Carl Jung opines that each person exhibits the traits of an archetype- or a mixture of two.

He identified 12 archetypes. Marketers use his model to determine the personality of the brand.

Each archetype has a different way of communicating.

For example, a ruler brand is most likely to be sophisticated and assertive.

On the other hand, a jester brand is going to have a lighter step and a good sense of humor.

Look at the difference in styles of communication between these two examples:

EXAMPLES OF DIFFERENT TONE OF VOICE FOR DIFFERENT ARCHETYPES
EXAMPLES OF DIFFERENT TONES OF VOICE FOR DIFFERENT ARCHETYPES

Rolls Royce here is a Ruler Archetype and The Onion is Jester Archetype.

However, this doesn’t mean that every brand that falls into an archetype sounds like the next. Each brand is different, so we should consider the next step in our exercise.

3. Describe your brand’s personality with THREE words

How does your brand behave? Think of three words that can describe it perfectly. This will help you find the right tone of voice for it.

Here are what some famous brands sound like:

Apple: Confident, neat, refined

APPLE
APPLE

Harley Davidson: Aggressive, masculine, strong

HARLEY DAVIDSON
HARLEY DAVIDSON

If you can find the right words to describe your brand’s tone of voice, you will have clarity about how to communicate.

4. Profile your target audience

This is the core part of any branding/marketing exercise.

If you know your audience; their pain points, likes, dislikes, behaviors, and demographic details- you will have a fair idea of what their expectations are from you. Accordingly, you can shape your tone of voice.

Think of Vans- the quintessential youth brand. It always sounds urbane, cool, and street-smart. It wouldn’t connect with its audience if it talked in a serious tone like HDFC Bank.

VANS
VANS

5. Study the competition – and stand out

To sound different- you must not come across as a copycat of your rivals. Own your brand, and make sure you sound distinct from the competition.

Think of Elle18 and Lakme- two makeup brands belonging to the same conglomerate. However, the way they speak is completely different- and it looks like Elle18 is beating its senior, more glamorous sister in its own game.

ELLE18 VS LAKME
ELLE18 VS LAKME

6. Create a Tone of Voice Chart & Guideline

Now comes the implementation part. If you have a clear idea of what your brand should sound like- document it. You must have a clear set of instructions that your writers and marketers can follow. This leaves no room for miscommunication and ensures consistency across channels.

The most efficient way to do it is to create a tone of voice chart, which tells you how to change your tone of voice in writing for different occasions and reflect your values.

Here is a sample brand tone of voice chart for a premium chocolate brand:

TraitDescriptionDoDon’t
IndulgentWe write to convey the sense of decadence & richness that is the hallmark of our product.Use words like “indulge”, “love”, “decadent”, “rich”.Use words like “affordable” or “cheap.”
IntimateWe write to create an aura of sensuality.Use “you” and directly address the reader.Talk in the third person.
SoothingWe want to make the reader forget about everyday problems or mundane things- and take them to a happy place.Use tactile words like “escape”, “dream”, “get lost”, “drown in”, “experience”, “melting”, “velvet”.Be prosaic in your language.

However, a brand tone of voice chart is not carved in stone- it has to be revisited from time to time.

As the brand, the market, and the target audience evolve, you will need to tweak your tone of voice chart accordingly.

7. Use the Nielsen Norman Group’s “tone of voice” scale for clarity

Where does your brand fall, according to these four scales?

Funny vs. Serious
Formal vs. Casual
Respectful vs. Irreverent
Enthusiastic vs. Matter of fact

Let us look at some examples for each dimension.

  • Dollar Shave Club is funny, while Deloitte is serious.
  • Prada is formal, while M&M has a more casual approach.
  • Mercedes has a respectful brand tone of voice, while Old Spice is irreverent.
  • Red Bull comes across as enthusiastic, while Bank of Scotland is to the point.

Map your brand’s ideal tone of voice on these four scales. However, if you find it too complicated, you can leave it to our brand consultants.

8. Launch a rebranding campaign

If you are a start-up- you are starting from square one.

But if you are an older player and feel that your way of communication does not impress your target audiences anymore- you need to go for rebranding.

The rebranding campaign should feel fresh; you can use your new tone of voice to start communicating with your audience.

Make sure you use your unique tone of voice simultaneously across all channels.

Remember, a rebranding exercise should be carefully planned and executed. It is best to entrust it to the experts.

Now that you know how to create your brand tone of voice let us look at some great examples for inspiration.

Top 10 Brand Tone of Voice Examples

Here are the top 10 Brand Tone of Voice Examples to Inspire You

  1. Mailchimp: Approachable, warm, helpful
  2. Salesforce: Welcoming, friendly, universal
  3. Netflix: Casual, conversational, funny
  4. Volkswagen: Warm, friendly, human
  5. Maybelline: Bold, confident, young
  6. Starbucks: Functional, expressive, urban
  7. Tiffany: Witty, elegant, classic
  8. The Adventurists: Irreverent, outgoing, wacky
  9. Hermes: Sleek, timeless, light-hearted
  10. The Body Shop: Conversational, direct, approachable
Top 10 Brand Tone of Voice Examples
Top 10 Brand Tone of Voice Examples

1. Mailchimp

Notice how Mailchimp‘s voice and tone complement each other – the language stays jargon-free, while the tone comes off as warm, friendly, and helpful. Mailchimp is here to help you grow your business, like a trusted friend.

Mailchimp
Mailchimp

2. Salesforce

Salesforce tone of voice is all about forging connections. It has a friendly, warm tone of voice that feels light and amiable.

How Salesforce Communicates
How Salesforce Communicates

3. Netflix

A truly international brand, Netflix has audiences from all countries, genders, viewpoints, and languages.

However, they all have something in common- they are here to relax and have a good time. So, Netflix keeps it conversational, informal, and humorous.

Netflix Reply on Social Media
Netflix Reply on Social Media

4. Volkswagen

For a brand whose name translates to “people’s car,”- Volkswagen speaks in a friendly, conversational- and truly human way. It is persuasive without coming across as strong, and through decades, this approach has made them communicate a whole range of emotions.

Volkswagon
Volkswagon

5. Maybelline

The quintessential youth beauty brand, Maybelline, is assertive, bold, active, and youthful.

Maybelline New York
Maybelline New York

6. Starbucks

Per their own words- Starbucks is functional and expressive.

The brand is to-the-point to ensure no room for the miscommunication but also comes across as fresh and relevant.

Wherever possible, Starbucks tells a passionate coffee story. Starbucks is a rare brand that manages these two opposites well- which is why it is often the signature brand for urban, professional, cool people.

Starbucks
Starbucks

7. Tiffany

The final word in sophistication, Tiffany, is witty, elegant and classic. The brand stands for an experience and lifestyle- and it is well-reflected in the way it communicates with its audiences. When you interact with Tiffany- you feel like you are in the presence of the most charming belle of the ball.

Tiffany
Tiffany

8. The Adventurists

The brand that claims to be “founded by a plonker” is bound to be irreverent, outgoing, and experimental. And The Adventurists don’t disappoint. Instead of becoming another run-of-the-mill edgy and aggressive adventure brand- it offers wacky adventures. It is the perfect witty brand that appeals to people who love their brawn with a cheeky sense of humor.

The Adventurists
The Adventurists

9. Hermes

Hermes is one of the world’s most renowned and distinct luxury brands. Unlike others in its field- it does not take itself too seriously and has a lighter step. Its style of communication is sleek, sophisticated, and timeless.

Hermes
Hermes

10. The Body Shop

The Body Shop is all about serenity, sustainability, and authenticity. With its strong focus on the environment, the brand has crafted a tone of voice that is informal, direct, and approachable.

THE BODY SHOP
THE BODY SHOP

Conclusion

So, now you know how the tone of voice affects communication. You should ensure that your brand tone of voice feels like a natural extension of its personality and values. If finding the right tone of voice for your brand feels like an intimidating task, you can always assign it to team BrandLoom.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are examples of tone of voice?

    When it comes to tone of voice in marketing and branding- it is about how your brand speaks. Think of it as a person; its tone of voice should manifest its personality and values. To successfully communicate with your audience, you must figure out your brand tone of voice and implement it across all channels. If the task seems too daunting- consult our experts.
    Some examples of tone of voice in marketing are:
    Mailchimp- warm, friendly, helpful
    Versace- bold, seductive, assertive
    The Body Shop- direct, informal, approachable
    Zomato- Conversational, humorous, friendly
    Chanel- Elegant, sensual, and classic

  2. What is Nike's tone of voice?

    Nike is a hero brand- which means it stands for empowering people. Hero brands are synonymous with mastery and the determination to be better constantly. True to its archetype and personality, Nike is serious, powerful, and inspirational.

    It has been consistent in its approach, and its brand tone of voice has always stayed true to its values. This is the reason Nike has developed a cult following and is counted among one of the top brands in the world.

  3. What are the different types of brand voices?

    While there is no universal definition of the types of the tone of voice, you can look at the Nielsen Norman Group’s “tone of voice” scale. The scale looks at four parameters for pin-pointing a brand tone of voice:

    Funny vs. Serious
    Formal vs. Casual
    Respectful vs. Irreverent
    Enthusiastic vs. Matter of fact.

    The idea behind this is that even brands that fall in the same archetype can differentiate themselves from their rivals by fine-tuning their tone of voice. This way, they manage to find their unique tone of voice while staying true to their archetype's nature.

    What should be YOUR brand’s tone of voice? We can help you find out.

  4. How do you describe a brand's tone of voice?

    A brand tone of voice is how the brand speaks to the audience. Is it humorous? Is it serious? Does it sound motivating or sarcastic? Is it very formal or conversational? Does it sound youthful or technical?

    Think of the adjectives you can use to define how your brand sounds. If you find that the adjectives that fit your brand tone of voice complement each other, you are on the right track. However, if they contradict each other- you are confusing your audience. Then, you must find the right brand tone of voice and ensure it is maintained across all channels and formats.
    Need help? We are here.

  5. How do you create a brand tone of voice?

    To create a tone of voice, you should:
    – Check your brand’s vision, mission, and values
    – Look at your target audience
    – Think of your brand’s archetype
    – Chalk out your brand’s personality
    – Study the competition
    – Use the Nielsen Norman Group’s “tone of voice” scale
    – Create a brand tone of voice chart and guidelines
    – Launch a rebranding campaign.

    If the task seems too difficult, you can talk to the branding experts at BrandLoom.

Author Avinash Chandra

Branding, Integrated & Digital Marketing Wizard and Founder of BrandLoom Consulting (A $1m startup). I help companies generate more revenue through digital marketing. I have successfully led Business and Marketing operations of several Large & Small; American, European, Chinese & Indian Brands and Startups. In totality, I have worked with over 100 Brands during my 21 years of professional career with a proven track record of Building Sustainable & Profitable Businesses.

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