We all have things that infuriate us.

For some, it’s people who say ‘dubious’ when the mean ‘sceptical’, or ‘less’ when they mean ‘fewer’. Admittedly, those annoy me. But in our industry, the mistake that irks me most (sparking a scream of shirt-renting angst) is people using ‘tone of voice’ incorrectly.

It’s brand voice!

The simplest way to explain why is to say a brand is like a person. It has a personality and an image. And it has a voice. One voice. Just like you have one voice.

That voice doesn’t change, but the tone might, depending on the context and the message.

Let’s take a hastily imagined utility company “GoodFlow Energy”.

Its brand voice has 4 pillars that anchor its expression:

  • Professional
  • Friendly
  • Energetic
  • Clear

Each time GoodFlow speaks, you’ll see these pillars expressed in its copy. But which pillars come to the fore (eg how tone varies) depends on what’s being said, where and to whom.

Good news tone

(Communicating with current customers)

Good news! Your energy prices are protected

Hi Steve

You might have heard that GoodFlowEnergy is increasing its prices, but you don’t have to worry. You’re on our Fixed Price Plan. Your prices are locked down for 10 more months, until 31/12/19. Good news, indeed!

Tone here is led by the energetic and friendly pillars. It’s upbeat and positive. And there is clarity too, with the deal end date given.

Serious news tone

Important information about your energy deal

Hello Steve

We wrote to you recently to say your Fixed Price energy deal was coming to an end on 31 May 2019. However, we made an error on the date. We should have said your deal was ending on 31 March 2019. We’re really sorry about this.

We always do our best to get things right. We hope this mistake hasn’t caused you any issues.

On the upside, we have a great range of energy deals for you to choose from, including another Fixed Price option. Take a look at the list and pick your favourite. You can log into your account to activate your new deal, or call us. We’re here to help.

Tone here is led by the professional and clear pillars. The pace is slower. There is complete clarity about the dates and no jovial language in the first two paras. We also acknowledge that the customer might have negative feelings about this. By para three, we see a shift to a more energetic and friendly tone.

So, same voice, different tones.

Which is why hearing people say, ‘Are there tone of voice guidelines?’ is excruciating.

So, please, let’s stop saying ‘tone of voice’ and ‘brand tone of voice’.

It’s brand voice.

Just like it’s brand identity, brand character and brand personality.

Brand voice in the tech sector

We recently created a new brand voice for Snow Software – a leading provider of Software Asset Management (SAM) solutions. This was a central part of Snow’s website redesign. The challenge: All SAM providers talk about the same things and offer the same overall benefit. This meant our new brand voice had to make Snow sound distinct from the pack, and our approach had to find a new way to talk about what Snow’s technology could do.

We took inspiration from Snow’s brand and spirit to find that difference.

Snow’s core values: All in for the win, be empowered, deliver brilliance, be brave.

This helped us understand Snow’s unique character and attitude, which translated into the brand’s new voice.

To stand apart from all the same-sounding tech burble, we decided to talk more directly to the individual, person to person. And to use accessible language when talking about the tech.

Have a read and see what you think – https://www.snowsoftware.com/int/software-asset-management

If you’d like to talk to us about your brand voice, give us a shout.

Sarah Compton – Senior Copywriter