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Brand tone of voice is a consistent way of conveying your brand message to your audience.
It’s a part of a brand expression that together with more tangible visuals define your brand identity.
Many brands call tone of voice as communication best practices.
The way a brand looks is just as important as the way it sounds.
Words are an important part of your brand identity and when used effectively, they can shape the way your brand is perceived.
So besides defining how your brand looks (visuals), it’s also important to define how it speaks.
That’s why you brand needs a definitive style of writing and speaking, often referred to as tone of voice.
First, let’s look at the tone of voice examples of famous brands.
And next, I will show you how to develop your brand voice.
Starbucks has a clear and concise brand guidelines available online, with a section dedicated to its tone of voice.
The Starbucks voice is functional and expressive.
Starbucks’ brand voice guidelines consists of many examples on how to design different applications.
The functional tone is used primarily for way-finding and ordering with a goal to keep the copy clear for maximum legibility.
While the expressive tone is where the Starbucks brand personality really comes to life.
The expressive voice is used to tell a passionate coffee story, wherever it’s possible.
Using both functional and expressive tones allows the brand to create more space for relevance, connection and joy.
Sometimes the copy will make you smile, other times it will clearly navigate you in purchasing experience.
Uber’s tone of voice provides a set of core elements to define quality writing across all touchpoints.
The Uber brand voice is considerate, simple, bold and consistent.
Uber brand voice guidelines shows you a bunch of examples on how to write copy (before and after).
Uber’s voice expresses the brand’s essence signaling what the brand is, what it stands for.
Considerate means that writing should be audience-first.
Simple & Direct refers to writing in a straight-forward and easy to understand way.
And consistent obviously tries to unite the experience across all departments, countries and languages.
So that they can all together create the feeling: “that sounds like Uber.”
Uber voice style guide is much more comprehensive than Starbucks’ is.
You’ll also find supporting tone of voice, together with additional tools and even editing tips.
MailChimp speaks to its customers in a tone that is usually informal, but not inappropriate and never snobbish.
The Mailchimp brand voice is clear, genuine and with a bit of dry humor.
MailChimp's brand voice guidelines brilliantly explain how to use offbeat humor and a conversational voice to write empowering content.
Clear means that MailChimp strips away all that jargon, hyperbolic language and value clarity above all.
Genuine voice helps to relate to small businesses and their challenges speak to them in a familiar, warm, and accessible way.
Mailchimp’s tone is usually informal, with a bit of dry humor that might be a bit weird, but not inappropriate and never snobbish.
The Mailchimp content style guide also advises that if you want to make a joke—forced humor can be worse than none at all, so if you’re unsure, it’s better to keep a straight face.
In the guide, you’ll also find helpful tips and key elements for writing using the brand voice.
Harley-Davidson is a perfect example of how a more aggressive tone can be used for the right brand.
The Harley-Davidson voice is strong, confident and aggressive.
Some brands try to speak in a pleasant and cheerful way or with a playful and fun voice, but Harley is definitely not one of them.
Harley-Davidson tone of voice challenges the reader to show that they are worthy of handling one of their motorcycles.
The brand clearly fits the Outlaw archetype, therefore their personality is rough and rugged, so it’s their voice.
They show their personality through a unique and consistent tone of voice that speaks well to their target audiences.
This type of voice resonates well with rebellious, bold, and fiercely independent customers (or wanna-be).
Everything about their marketing evokes confidence, freedom, patriotism, and masculinity — just look at their website and the headlines they use.
Coca-Cola is one of my favorite examples when it comes to consistent brand voice.
The Coca-Cola voice is positive, friendly, and down-to-earth.
They are always showing us concepts of what a happy life looks like accompanied by positive voice.
They have been on the market for over 130 years, but their voice remains consistent with a single purpose to evoke happiness.
You can see polar bears, families getting together to have dinner (and a Coke) or friends dancing and smiling—in every marketing campaign you’ll see the concept of happy-life.
Coca-Cola brilliantly connects positive feelings with their drink through evocative images and perfectly-constructed tone of voice.
Old Spice had long been the leader in men’s deodorant, but when Axe entered the market, the brand began to lose share and had to rebrand.
The Old Spice voice is humorous and masculine.
The NY agency Landor established Old Spice’s unique voice and inspired new ways to engage consumers.
The Old Spice brand, similarly to Coca-Cola, is an older brand that was on the market for over 90 years.
However, unlike Coca-Cola, the brand wasn’t good at branding as people started associating it with old people smell.
That’s why the company had to undergo a total rebrand in 2010 which included, of course, changing the tone of voice.
They began using plenty of humor in their advertisements and on social media, which proved to be very successful.
Now, Old spice uses a consistent tone of voice with a bit of witty humor that helps the brand to redefine masculinity and dominate the deodorant aisle.
Tiffany is not just about the shade of baby blue, but it’s also about brand personality.
The Tiffany tone of voice voice is witty, elegant and classic.
The content team and social teams work together for voice consistency between social posts and branded content
“Historically, Tiffany’s voice as a brand was witty and twitter allows us to bring that back.“ said Hong, who leads the team of art directors and copywriters.
Tiffany also has a very strong brand voice and is big on social media and marketing.
After all, people are willing to pay much more for a Tiffany product than some equivalent without a Tiffany logo.
They pay for logo, design, and the small blue box that holds the jewelry.
But it wouldn’t be possible to sell this high quality (often overpriced) jewelry without proper tone of voice and messaging.
In every single communication the tone is very elegant and classic and the brand is iconic is a big part thanks to the voice that resonates with customers.
Think of your brand voice acting as a filter for the the words you use to write copy for your marketing materials.
Your tone of voice will stem from your your brand personality and your brand values.
Many successful businesses dedicate a special section in its brand guidelines to the tone of voice to make sure that the brand communicates in a consistent way.
Remember that the tone of voice is not the actual brand messaging — the difference between both is that your tone is how you say it, not the exact words to use. (If you're looking to write actual copy—check out my Brand Story Framework)
Therefore a brand voice acts as a delivery method for the characteristics of brand personality which all ties into developing a human persona.
Check out the Brand Voice Exercise as a part of my Brand Strategy Guide
You'll find there my brand voice worksheets together with instructions on how to run the exercise.
Looking to hire for a branding project? — Just shoot me an email.
What’s your brand voice? Is it funny or serious? Casual or formal? — Leave a comment below.