Brand Identity: Understanding the Difference and Importance of Voice, Tone, and Style

03/01/2018

Defining brand identity is a journey every company has to go through in order to increase the value of a company. It comes down to both proving a direction and motivation for the employees, and acquiring new customers easier.

To build strong, cohesive and consistent brand identity you need to define voice, tone and style of your brand. The way you, as a brand, communicate with the rest of the world is what sets you apart from the competitors, therefore, you must choose your voice, tone and style of the speech wisely. But what is the difference between the three and why is it so important to get it right?

Brand voice

Voice is a unique and distinctive element of your brand’s communication with customers. It remains consistent throughout all the content that you create. In most cases, voice is the reason why you can easily recognize new commercials by Coca-Cola or Nike even before you see the brand logo.

A brand’s voice is characterized both by what it is and what it is not. For instance,

  • Straightforward, but not abrasive
  • Cheeky, but not offensive
  • Inspiring, but not cheesy

Clearly defined brand voice not only makes your company stand out and be easily recognized, it also communicates unique values and personality of your company.

Brand tone

Unlike voice, a tone of your brand can change depending on the situation.

Different tones are used to build an emotional connection with the audience through expressed empathy. To do that, you need to have a strong understanding of your buyer personas to help them engage with your brand seamlessly. That is why you need to carefully analyze your buyer personas and their journeys to pin down what are different tones you should use to connect with your audience in the most efficient way.

What is the difference between voice and tone?

In life, every one of us has a unique voice that remains more or less the same at all times. Tone, on the other hand, changes depending on the situation we are in. Let’s say we are asking for a favor, or making a complaint – our voice remains the same, yet tone changes.

Similarly, anything your brand communicate to customers has a common voice. It is something that makes your speech distinctive from other brands. However, the tone of speech, for example, might change due to real-time events.

For example, finance companies tend to choose a friendly voice to communicate with their customers and prospects. Quite often their services offered are not that easy to understand for everyone, therefore communicating in a friendly manner helps reassure target audience that company is there for them.

For any businesses in finance, maintaining a credible and trustworthy image is crucial. Therefore, such companies tend to use clear-cut phrases and provide convincing arguments that are supported by data, keeping the tone mostly professional.

Brand style

Style describes how something is said or written. It comes down not only to vocabulary but also a length of sentences, grammar and much more. Take a look at two different makeup brands that offer the same product, but use significantly different style to introduce them to their audiences.

ColourPop’s (left) product description is short, rather vague, includes excessive use punctuation (not to mention $ symbols that are read as “money”). On the other hand, Clinique’s (right) product description emphasizes core characteristics of the product presented in two traditional style sentences.

The difference between the two is based on the overall personality of the brand, as well as target audiences. Without knowing a lot about these brands, we can easily point out which company is targeting younger, and which – more mature audiences.

Clearly defined style also includes the use of capitalization, punctuation, linking, abbreviations and acronyms, bullet points, heading, titles… the list goes on and on. It might even include the guidelines for using such design elements as logo, fonts, and images.

Stick to it

Once you’ve got your voice, tone and style pinned down – stick to it. You will be surprised to learn, that this is, in fact, the most difficult part. Starting from product names and descriptions to social media posts and commercial emails, everything you communicate to your audience should come from the same place. There are three main things you have to do in order to avoid inconsistency in your speech.

1. Document it
Whether you are in a process of defining the voice of your brand for the first time or making changes to existing definitions, make sure it is documented and easy to access to everyone on your team.

2. Keep the team updated. Do not only update your marketing materials, let others know about the changes you’ve made.

3. Run occasional content audit. From time to time carefully analyze the content you publish on various mediums. Does it match defined voice and style? If no, look for solutions with your team to make it work next time.

Final thoughts

The key to defining your brand’s voice is deeply connected to the understanding of how you want to connect with your audience. Once you’ve stumbled upon the tone and language style that suits your brand voice best, keep on using and expanding it. And as mentioned before, make sure to put it all down on paper and send it out to your team.

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