One of the most underrated aspects of marketing is a brand’s tone of voice. In many ways, this is the most important part of selling a product in the modern age, given how spoilt for choice most consumers are.
For example, if somebody wants to buy a cheese burger, they have a wide range of choices; McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s and plenty of other options will likely be within easy reach of them, especially if they live in a big city. So how do they make their decision? The research suggests it’s to do with their brand’s identity and tone of voice.
For example, 81% of consumers believe that the behavior of a company is just as important as the product they sell, and 74% would boycott a brand they didn’t trust. This means a business’ identity holds a lot of weight, particularly when the quality of their products isn’t far removed from their competitors’.
So, how do you use tone of voice to build a reputation as a brand you can trust? One key piece of advice is not to blend in with the crowd, and that’s exactly what these four companies have managed to do. Here are some of the more unique brand voices out there, and why they work so well:
This fast-food chain is the go-to example for brand tone of voice, and for good reason: it’s used Twitter to cultivate a savage personality for itself that has really won customers over. Take a look at these tweets:
Notice anything? They’re directly criticizing their competitors, but not in a way that feels petty or mean. They’ve clearly cultivated a specific sense of humour that pokes fun, but in a playful way. The fun part is that they even go as far as to poke fun at potential customers:
Some customers even welcome Wendy’s insults, showing how successful this branding has been. Of course, it only works because fast food isn’t seen as a particularly ‘serious’ business. Other brands definitely wouldn’t be able to get away with the same thing!
Because Slack allows third-party creators to add bots to its app, we can see exactly how they view tone of voice in their guidance for bot creators.
This is clearly something the business does itself:
It’s clear and concise, but with small tweaks that make the copy very human. It’s not trying too hard by making things overwhelmingly quirky, it’s just using everyday, conversational language we all recognize. Here’s another example:
There are some very subtle word choices there. For example, using “realm” for email makes it seem old-fashioned, which in turn makes the “gentle nudge” a push in the direction of progress. Overall it’s something you could easily imagine a friend or colleague saying. This brand voice is all over the app itself as well:
That’s just one example of the messages that appear as Slack is loading. It’s very simple, but the language it uses is human; it really seems as if it comes directly from the team at Slack, not from the app.
If you had to sum up Skittles’ brand identity in a single word, it would be ‘weird’. The company has crafted a distinct personality that’s unlike anything else you’ll see in its industry.
Each of these tweets make use of absurdist humour by juxtaposing stereotypical brand messages put out at different times of year with… well, Skittles. It’s silly, but it creates a distinctive personality for the company. These are accompanied by more impromptu bizarre posts, such as this one:
This fits with a basic principle of this kind of marketing: you don’t necessarily need to highlight your product's benefits, as long as you stick in the minds of potential customers. To put it another way, when someone gets a craving for something sweet as they’re passing a store, one of the first brands they’re going to think of is Skittles. This isn’t necessarily because they’re the best sweets around, but because their tone of voice is incredibly memorable.
British cosmetics brand Dove has built their identity around body positivity and confidence. In an industry where models are generally only one body type, with flawless skin and hair, Dove stands out by highlighting women who don’t fit with this set of beauty standards. It might sound simple, but it’s effective. Here’s the first thing you see on the company’s website:
Part of their #ShowUs campaign, Dove is running to tackle the fact that 72% of women in the UK don’t feel represented in the ads they see. Rather than choosing standard models, the company works with women with skin conditions, women who are older or larger than the industry standard, who are transgender or non-binary models. This attitude comes out in the language they use as well.
Dove makes use of emoticons and emphasis to create a message that’s perhaps more powerful than other brands, and - more importantly - that uses the kind of language its customers use. This makes it more familiar and relatable.