Taking tone of voice beyond the page and screen

Most of us can detect a brand’s tone of voice in traditional forms of marketing such as press ads, websites and direct mail. But when tone of voice is working at its best, it spans all forms of media, from signage to social media.

As increasing numbers of brands connect with customers through Facebook and Twitter, marketing teams are adapting to this impartial and ‘free speaking’ environment. So whether they’re promoting something, dealing with complaints or lapping up the praise, the tone of their responses needs to match the mood of the people – while still feeling like it’s coming from that particular brand.

An award winning example of social media successfully backing up a popular advertising campaign is Compare the Market.com. Featuring the lovable meerkat Aleksandr, who plays a starring role in the TV commercials, the marketing team created Aleksandr’s own Facebook profile. On here he posts regular status updates about where he is, as well as funny sneak peeks of the next ad in the series.

At the other extreme, you have social media gaffes such as the recent McDonalds’ Twitter campaign – #McDStories. This ‘tell us what you think…finish this sentence’ strategy backfired on them spectacularly as many of the tweets that flooded in were less than complimentary about the company.

Sound like you?

It sounds obvious, but the way someone answers the phone to a customer gives an immediate and lasting impression. In fact, the voice is one of the best vehicles for making the customer trust and like you – a theory used to great effect by First Direct – who pioneered 24/7 telephone banking.

Their service lives up to their motto of – ‘real people not machines’. First Direct customers experience an unscripted conversation with the adviser, so they feel like they’re having a helpful chat with a friend, rather than a faceless banking automaton.

Supermarket in-store announcements are another form of communication that often feels removed from the brand’s true identity. The current slogan might be dutifully tagged on the end of that day’s recorded promotion. But all too often dodgy PA systems impart an unnatural, tinny quality to the recorded message – which can make the message sound more like a train station announcement, instead of an exciting offer.

Signs for the times

Signage can be a useful vehicle for demonstrating tone of voice. London Underground, famous for their campaign that encouraged the reading of poems on the Tube, inspired station personnel to literally take a pen into their own hands. A Service Information board at the entrance of Oval station cheered up customers with a daily ‘Thought of the Day’, such as – Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do. John Wooden.’ In short, tone of voice can be seen and heard at every point of a customers’ journey. And the written word has the power to go further than the usual commercial formats – carrying with it everything the brand has to say about itself and the image it would like to convey.


If you’re after some tone of voice advice, just drop us a line at info@inkcopywriters.com or ring us on 01225 731 373.