Once you have a good idea of the type of information you want to share with your audience, whether it’s through your website, email marketing or social media sites, you’ll want to work on integrating a distinctive tone and style into your content to keep your message consistent and build your online personality.
Think about the personality you want to portray through your marketing. What does if feel like? The tone you choose will impact the perception readers have of your brand or business. The perfect brand tonality is one that supports the values and personality of your company and can also connect with your readers. Maintaining a consistent brand tonality throughout all your marketing content not only builds your brand, it builds trust with your audience.
Although there are several tones you can use in your writing, we’ve narrowed them down into four categories. Depending on your stage in this creative process, these categories may lead you in the right direction for developing your tone or help you refine an already established tone.
A direct tone may seem like a safe route to take because it’s described as professional, conservative and traditional. But the tonality can convey emotion too. When a direct tone is used to deliver powerful, clear messages, it creates a sense of trust and reliability. The U.S. Army is known for forming their messages with a courageous and brave tone that leaves others feeling motivated and empowered. Be careful though — an overly direct tone can come off as cold or rude.
Friendly tones evoke warm and calming emotions, making them a good choice for brands that are family oriented and dedicated to showing kindness and care to its customers. These tones are often associated with producing the “aww” factor. Google often uses this tonality in their messaging. For example, in one Google commercial, a dad types emails to his daughter as she grows up, compiling memories for her to see when she is older. Coca-Cola and IAMS generally use this tone as well.
Infomercials and advertising targeted towards kids tend to adopt an energetic tone by default. This “YAY!” tonality conveys enthusiasm and optimism, and often happiness. Companies wanting to make their readers feel excited and lively could benefit from using this tone.
For example, a company promoting a certain diet regimen may choose to use an energetic tone to portray dieting as a fun and rewarding process as opposed to a terrible “I can’t eat chocolate and ice cream” process.
If friendly tones have the “aww” factor and energetic tones have the “YAY!” factor, then trendy and bold tones definitely portray the “huh?” factor. Think Skittles and Super Bowl commercials. Bud Light’s “Dilly dilly!” campaign. These types of tones are more common in the marketing and advertising we see today. It’s all about being a little bit wild and weird and leaving people wondering if what they just saw actually happened. At the same time, cleverness plays a big part in defining this tone because it makes a brand memorable.
Your company’s tonality isn’t limited to the four in this post. You can mix and match and make your own. Take Duluth Trading Co. for example, their animated commercials talking about wedgies fit right in the Trendy & Bold tonality. While their product descriptions and website titles are a mix of Bold and Direct tones, their commercials make you feel like they were written by a direct and witty friend.
When Fisher-Price runs ads to kids, they take an energetic tone like in Elsa’s Ice Palace ad. When they talk to adults, they use a nostalgic friendly tone with a twist of bold to catch your attention. They change tone based on their audience, but all of their ads still feel like Fisher-Price commercials while offering a note of entertainment for their viewers.
Listen. Developing an awareness of how you are in your work environment is the first step to defining your tonality. Become aware of the conversations around your office, the way you talk about your work and clients. How do you speak to your customers? How do you answer the phone? Of course you’re professional, but professional manifests in so many ways. What way are you? Your goal is to find an authentic tonality that’s representative of you, not your profession or your competitors, but you. Write down the words and phrases you hear often.
Dig deep. Define your values. You want your tonality to reflect those values so people can be drawn to who you are. You want to work with people who value the same things as you. About once a year we go through a values definition activity as a team at MayeCreate. We start with a list of words that may reflect our core values. We check every word that appeals to us.
Then we take all the words we selected and pull it back to just ten. Then five (if we can). There’s not a hard and fast rule of just having five core values — the goal is to get more specific and not just choose words that appeal to you but to select the ones that you truly connect with. After you’ve chosen the big five, you’ll journal on it.
For each word, complete the following statement three times: [Core value] is important to me because __________________. You’ll complete the statement three times because we often cite the most superficial reasons first, and we want to make a real connection with the value. After three times, you’ll be much closer to the real reason you find the value meaningful.
We do the core values activity annually to see if we’ve changed — after all, we are allowed to change, right? Both as people and as a business. There is no right or wrong answer for your core values. Just honesty or well lack of self-awareness.
Embrace it. Just like core values, there’s not a right or wrong tonality. Just an authentic voice that connects with your audience!
So once you’ve decided which tone best suits your brand personality, keep that tone in mind as you start writing. At first you might find it difficult to incorporate that tone with your content in a seamless way,. and that’s okay! Writing is considered a process because you can write your drafts and then go back and edit your work to better reflect a certain tone. The important thing is to first get your thoughts on paper.
To get started, try writing in a free flow format. Free flow writing is very similar to speaking, as you tend to add in a lot of extra, unnecessary words to get your point across. It’s better to write your thoughts down as you think of them without being preoccupied with your verb and adjective choice. I start most of my writing with a dictation, so my fingers aren’t limiting my flow of thoughts. I only type 60 words a minute but my brain, thankfully, clips along way faster.
Once you’ve expelled all of your ideas from your head, then you can go back and edit. What you initially wrote might not make perfect sense, but the overarching idea is there. Now you just have to clean it up and make it sound like your brand.
Original publish date: June 7, 2014
Updated: March 12, 2020
Monica is the creative force and founder of MayeCreate. She has a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture with an emphasis in Economics, Education and Plant Science from the University of Missouri. Monica possesses a rare combination of design savvy and technological know-how. Her clients know this quite well. Her passion for making friends and helping businesses grow gives her the skills she needs to make sure that each client, or friend, gets the attention and service he or she deserves.
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