Brand Voice vs. Brand Tone: A How-To Guide for Start-Ups

By David Card
Branding

Brand voice and brand tone are both essential elements of a company's branding strategy, with each serving a distinct purpose.

What is brand voice?

Brand voice refers to the overall personality, style, and perspective of a brand’s communication, representing the unique way a brand expresses itself across various channels and touchpoints. A brand’s voice is vital to its identity or DNA, which remains relatively consistent over time and helps create familiarity, build trust, and evoke specific emotions among the target audience. 

Voice should align with the brand’s values, target market, and positioning. For example, a brand could have a voice that is friendly, informal, humorous, or professional, authoritative, and serious.

Image of Brand tone

What is brand tone?

Brand tone, on the other hand, refers to the specific variations or adaptations of the brand voice used in different situations, contexts, or campaigns. Tone reflects how the brand adjusts its communication style to match the specific message, audience, or platform it’s currently addressing. 

While the brand voice remains consistent, the brand tone may vary depending on the desired effect or the nature of the communication. For instance, the tone could be empathetic and compassionate in customer support interactions, persuasive and motivational in marketing campaigns, or informative and educational in instructional materials.

Both brand voice and brand tone are crucial for maintaining consistency and creating a recognizable brand identity across all communication channels.


Why brand voice & tone matter

Brand voice and tone help shape a business’ identity, establish emotional connections with customers, and differentiate the brand from competitors. 

  • Consistency and Recognition: Use a distinct and consistent brand voice and tone across all marketing channels to create familiarity and recognition among your target audience. When customers encounter consistent messaging and communication style, they are more likely to remember and engage with your brand, leading to increased brand loyalty and trust. You really want every touchpoint an individual has to be obviously your brand, even without explicit mention.
  • Personality and Identity: Brand voice and tone reflect the personality, values, and identity of a business. By defining and consistently using a unique voice, businesses can position themselves as authoritative, friendly, innovative, professional, or any other desirable trait that resonates with their target market. This helps customers understand what the brand stands for, and to develop an emotional connection.
  • Audience Engagement: An effective brand voice and tone can captivate and engage the target audience, making them more receptive to the brand’s messages. By understanding their customers’ preferences, interests, and communication style, businesses can tailor their voice and tone to seamlessly align with the needs and expectations of their audience–leading to increased engagement, interactions, and ultimately, conversions.
  • Differentiation: In a crowded marketplace, brand voice and tone can serve as a unique differentiator. A well-crafted voice that stands out from competitors can make a lasting impression and attract customers who not only resonate with that specific style or approach, but keep coming back to it. Your brand’s voice can help create a distinct brand identity that sets your business apart, fostering loyalty while also attracting new customers.
  • Trust and Credibility: Consistency in brand voice and tone helps build trust and credibility among customers. When a brand communicates consistently and authentically to its values, customers perceive it as reliable, transparent, and trustworthy. This fosters positive brand associations and encourages customers to choose the brand over competitors.
  • Emotional Connection: Brand voice and tone have the power to evoke emotions and connect with customers on a deeper level. By understanding the emotions your target audience seeks to experience, your business can craft its voice and tone to evoke joy, excitement, trust, empathy, or any other desired emotion. Emotional connections increase brand loyalty and advocacy, and create positive appeal through their perceive human touch.

Businesses that effectively leverage their brand voice and tone are more likely to create meaningful and lasting relationships with their customers.


How to define your brand voice and tone

Taking a deliberate approach to defining your brand voice and brand tone can help you create a strong and consistent brand identity.

  1. Define your goals: Start by listing everything you know about your brand’s values, mission, target audience, and unique selling proposition (USP). This knowledge will serve as a foundation for developing your brand voice and tone. Make sure that your internal stakeholders are all aligned on this vision, both of the brand and the target audience you are trying to serve.
  2. Know your audience: Identify your target audience and dig deep into understanding their demographics, interests, preferences, and communication style. If you don’t have existing market research available, you may need to consider how you can best survey the needs of actual members of your target audience.
  3. Name your brand personality: Think about your brand as a person striving to connect with the target audience you’ve defined. How would you describe your brand’s personality traits? Is it formal or casual, serious or lighthearted, authoritative or friendly? Consider the emotions and attributes you want your brand to stand for, and what your audience expects from a top brand.
  4. Choose brand voice attributes: Determine the key attributes that define your brand voice. For example, you might choose attributes like friendly, knowledgeable, and innovative. These attributes will guide your content creation and communication efforts.
  5. Conduct a voice audit: Examine your existing communication materials, such as website content, social media posts, and marketing materials. Assess the consistency and effectiveness of your current brand voice. Identify elements that align with your desired voice and tone and those that need improvement.
  1. Create brand voice guidelines: Develop a set of rules that clearly articulate your brand voice and tone. These guidelines should provide specific instructions on how to communicate in different scenarios and platforms. Include examples and explanations to ensure clarity and consistency.
  2. Craft sample brand messages: Create sample messages or statements that embody your brand voice and tone. These can serve as reference points for your team members when crafting content. Ensure that the samples cover various scenarios and communication channels.
  1. Train your team: Educate your team members about your brand voice and tone, especially those involved in content creation and customer interactions. Provide them with the brand voice guidelines and explain how to apply them consistently across different touchpoints.
  2. Test and iterate: Implement your brand voice and tone in your communications and observe the audience’s response. Gather feedback and analytics to evaluate the effectiveness of your brand voice. Make adjustments and refinements as necessary to enhance the impact and resonance of your brand.
  3. Maintain consistency: Consistency is crucial for establishing a recognizable brand identity. Continuously monitor your brand communications to ensure they align with your defined voice and tone. Regularly review and update your brand voice guidelines to adapt to evolving market trends and audience preferences.

Once you’ve defined a distinctive voice and tone that effectively communicates your brand’s personality and resonates with your target audience.

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