What is Tone of Voice?

09/06/2015 11:04:26

What is Tone of Voice?

    Good morning, how are you?

    Hey, how’s it going?

    How someone says something can change the way you receive that message – and how you feel about who delivered it. That is tone of voice: not what you say, but how you say it.

    Why is it important?

    Your company’s tone of voice defines the way you speak to your customers, online, in custom posters, leaflets, brochures or business cards and on packaging. It is your first step in building a relationship with your customers, as people will quickly form an impression of you from the way you speak to them.

    Tone of voice is the clearest expression of your brand personality, your values and who you are. It should be recognisable, consistent and feel like every word comes from the same place. This builds familiarity and trust in your customers, putting them at ease and making them more receptive to what you have to say.

    Defining your tone of voice

    If your business was a person, what would you be like? Choose the three core values that would define you – this should be enough to establish the essence of your brand, any more and you could end up repeating similar values. 

    For example:


    Value 1

    Value 2

    Value 3

    Innocent Drinks




    Clarks Shoes




    Xerox Printers




    Remember these values should be relevant and appropriate to your product and your target audience, or you risk driving away the people you want to attract. Someone looking for a drink at lunchtime probably doesn’t want to be lectured by an ‘expert’, just as a business spending thousands of pounds on a printing press will be less reassured by a ‘cheeky’ approach.

    In the case of the third example above, you may find that most B2B or professional services companies have very similar values. Rather than try to be self-consciously cool or edgy (which could come across as forced or fake and deter customers), try to focus on your strengths and develop a unique selling point to differentiate yourself from your competitors.

    Expressing your tone of voice

    Now you have your three values, it’s time to think about how they will translate into copy: the register, vocabulary and grammar.

    The register is the persona you adopt when writing. Whether you want to be a pal to your customers or a professional consultant, your register will exist somewhere on the following spectrums:





    Laid back.....................Lively

    Vocabulary is the choice of words you want to use. You could decide that you want to keep your copy simple and direct with short, easy to understand words. Or you might work in a specialist field that demands more specific wording and technical terms, such as law or engineering. Whichever applies to you, it is a good general rule to avoid using jargon unless absolutely necessary.

    You may find using contractions (such as we’re, it’s, etc.) help to make your copy less formal and more conversational. Just make sure that whatever you decide, you apply it consistently.

    Next steps

    1. Do a content audit: take a look at the copy on your current posters, leaflets or brochures and highlight what you think works – and, more importantly, what needs to change. If you’re starting from scratch, take a look at your competitors’ marketing materials and go through the same process.

    2. Identify your unique selling points: give your staff 30 seconds to explain why your customers should choose you. This should reveal anything your company does differently, and may help you identify some of your core values.

    3. Choose a celebrity spokesperson: looking at the qualities and characteristics of your hypothetical spokesperson could help you choose your brand values, your persona and the language you use.

    4. Go to our Guide to Building a Tone of Voice article: and start developing your new brand style.


    Tags: Marketing