04/08/21

A Content Creator’s Guide to Tone of Voice

By Sophie Connolly

When you spend time with friends, family or co-workers, your choice of words and tone reflect your character, opinions and individuality. How you speak – combined with your body language – is what makes a first impression, and in some cases a lasting one!

But it isn’t just people who channel their identity through words; to express their values and USPs, and connect with their customers, brands use their tone of voice. And this goes beyond just words, with assets like logo, colour palette, design systems and photography styles all playing a vital part in this. While a brand’s messaging clearly states what it wants to push, its tone of voice distinguishes how it wants to be perceived and speak to its audience in a way that shows a clear personality.

Every aspect of communications, from the way a brand refers to itself (‘We’ or in third person) to how it addresses errors (‘We’re sorry’ or ‘Woops!’), can be covered in a tone of voice guide – the more details and direction, the more consistent and strong it will be!

It’s almost like the process an actor goes through when preparing to play a role; in order to create and step into the shoes of the tone of voice, one must ask themselves the following questions:

  • Who am I?
  • Who am I speaking to?
  • What is my desired outcome?
  • How will I achieve this?
  • How can I use my voice to reach that outcome?
  • Did it work?

Here in the central brand team we even created our own tone of voice guide so each of us – whether a designer or researcher – can share our own knowledge and skills in a way that is immediately identifiable as the brand team.

We often conduct workshops with our local teams around the world too, to support them in establishing a new tone of voice. During these extensive sessions we deep dive into different areas, such as inspiration from other brands, aligning on what key words define us, and how we can express these across different touch points, like social media and UX. It’s also helpful to audit existing materials to see whether they still fit or need updating.

So, now we’ve given you a quick lowdown on what tone of voice is, you might be wondering: why is it so important? Great question – and we’re here to answer it!

It makes a brand distinct

Delivery Hero brands face stiff competition in many of our markets, but while different companies may deliver similar services, their tone of voice differs. This is what makes a brand unique and can help boost brand recall, loyalty, likeability and affinity – especially if the language, visuals and communications are topical and show social awareness. 

Take our brand talabat for example, the market leader in the Middle East. Following a refresh in 2020 as it extended its offerings into groceries, flowers and more, talabat took the words ‘bold’ and ‘confident’ to a whole new level. Combined with a fresh new look featuring new colours and designs, talabat is incomparable to other brands in the region.

In fact, its identity is so well known across the region that through internal brand research over the last year, we found that customers name talabat as one of the top brands that comes to mind when asked to name delivery services!

It can boost business

A strong voice can persuade and influence audiences to perform certain actions – and a strong voice will definitely be listened to.

Furthermore, when a brand is consistent – not only visually but verbally – it has been found by brand templating platform Lucid Pressto to increase revenue by up to 23%! This means keeping the voice the same across all channels and simply adjusting the tone ever so slightly depending on the circumstances.

For example, on social media a brand can be more playful, engaging and on-trend, whereas in complaints communications the tone needs to be more professional – but both must still capture the essence of the brand.

Our brand in APAC, foodpanda, is a great example of how to bring one tone of voice to life in different formats. It’s ‘Tap into everyday’ campaign uses upbeat music and shows ‘fun’, ‘quick-witted’ scenarios in line with its tone of voice…

And on Instagram, they exude youthful energy with ‘simple but impactful’ content that shows they are ‘responsive’ to trends (in the below case, the popularity of Black Pink’s hit track ‘Ice Cream’!)

It forms trust between brand & consumer

It’s all fine and well knowing a brand you use gives you exactly what you want, but why do you choose to use the same brands over and over again? Perhaps you enjoy the way it makes you feel when you receive an email or push notification, or perhaps you feel a connection with the brand – like they really understand you as a person and the causes you care about. 

A survey conducted by research provider Consumer Thermometer found that 65% of customers are emotionally connected to a brand in a way that makes them feel like the company cares about them, while 45% connect with brands they feel ‘get’ them. Elsewhere, Sezzle, a buy now pay later fintech company, found that 81% of respondents think it’s important to purchase from brands that reflect their own values – so you can see, tone of voice can really form strong bonds!

One of our brands that does this well – and was named as the Grand Prix winner in the Advertising Campaign Category at the 2021 NYX Macrom Awards – is HungerStation. Its Ramadan campaign, ‘The Neighbour that Gets You’, shows various scenarios where it positions itself as a reliable, trusted companion in its customers’ lives – and the catchy song definitely helps boost that connection!

It expresses the team behind the brand

As mentioned above, our brand team tone of voice was created with everyone in mind. Although we want our voice to be consistent, we don’t want it to be the case of ‘one fits all’ – check out an excerpt from our guidelines below: 

“When it comes to showing our personalities and bringing all of our voices to life through one strong, consistent language, you may think it will be a challenge. But we don’t want everyone to sound the same; we want you to embrace your individuality, while overall communicating in a way that is consistent and immediately recognisable by being on-brand.”

So, next time you use your favourite brands, pay close attention to the words they use and whether or not they communicate in the same way across different channels – you may discover a lot and enjoy using them even more!