Tone of Voice—How a Brand Sounds and Speaks

Sonja Reichel
14 December 2021

Brands are successful if they are recognizable and provide outstanding user experiences at all touch points. Be it website, social media, point of sale, marketing or virtual assistant — only a clearly defined brand personality ensures a consistent and unique encounter between brand and user at all times. This always includes the tone of voice. Since the tone of voice is never separate from the brand, it is essential to first define the brand personality.

The tone of voice defines how we speak and write as a brand. Through the tone of voice, the brand’s personality becomes verbally tangible. So it’s not about what we say or who we talk to — but how.

Uncover the Brand in the Discovery Workshop

If the brand was a person, how would it behave and be perceived by others? This is one of the crucial questions we regularly ask in our discovery workshops. Later, in the define phase, we reflect the insights gained this way by writing a prose text about the brand, assigning it the behavioral attributes contained therein.

In a next step, we group them into clusters and select the strongest attribute from each. From these key attributes, we derive the brand filters that we use to align look-and-feel, user guidance, and tone of voice. The twelve archetypes serve as further orientation because they have been linked to emotions and characteristics for generations. They are therefore useful when it comes to defining the role of a brand — in the market, towards competitors and, above all, towards customers.

Three of twelve archetypes that define the role of a brand

The Linguistic Dimension

In the discovery workshop, we also have the participants define an initial framework for the tone of voice. Five dimensions serve as guiding principles for determining the respective degree of seriousness, formality, emotionality, approachability, and the level of deference to the brand or product. This framework provides an initial feel for the language style. When developing the brand strategy, we later check whether it is congruent with the brand filters and readjust if necessary.

Taking a Refined Approach

Let’s assume that a brand is primarily empowering, smart, and sophisticated as a person — how would these characteristics express themselves in writing and speaking? We specify this in the language principles by using the brand filters.

For example, a sophisticated tone of voice means that we communicate eloquently, with our speech fluid and full of elegance. This way, we emphasize the premium character of the brand, but do so in such a nonchalant way that it never comes across as showy.

We then clarify how these language principles affect sentence structure and word choice in particular and illustrate this with the help of concrete examples. To do this, it is a good idea to run the customer’s existing texts through the defined language filters, rephrase them, and explain how and why something was changed.

Use the Right Tone to Add Persuasive Power to Your Corporate Identity

Linguistic principles and guidelines are an important addition to the CI portal of any brand. Along with the existing visual brand basics, they ensure that the brand acts and communicates according to its personality.

We all know about the power of words. When used cleverly and coherently, they sharpen the brand and make it both real and accessible.

Learn more about brand personalities and our branding approach in the standard work on digital brand management “Branded Interactions. Living Brand Experiences for a New Era.”