What is tone of voice and how to use it for your brand


Remember the Coca-Cola New Year’s Eve commercials? The red truck is in front of your eyes, and the song with the words ” Holidays are coming” is in your head. You recognize the product, even if the name of the brand is not mentioned. The tone of voice plays an important role here.

It allows you to show brand values, to distance yourself from your competitors and to get closer to your target audience by speaking the same language with them.

But sometimes brands ignore the development of an individual tone of voice: so they “sound” different in different channels and move away from consumers. We tell you how to develop a tone of voice to retain and increase their loyalty, as well as gain a high position in the market.

What is the tone of voice and why is it important?

Tone of voice (ToV) is the tone that a brand uses when communicating with its customers. It is the tone of voice that defines the relationship a company has with its potential target audience and whether people will want to associate with the brand. The rules of communication between a company and its audience are the same for different channels: the website, social media, mailing lists and even phone calls. They include requirements for language style, presentation, and form of corporate information, and are usually spelled out in a brand book. For example, you manage a group on FB and run several advertising campaigns on targeting. The tone of posts and ads should be about the same.

ToV increases brand awareness and helps to distance yourself from your competitors.

There are plenty of offers on the market. Mobile operators, banks, appliance stores compete for every customer. Tone of voice is part of a brand identity that is memorable to the audience.

Often consumers go to companies they have heard of because they have more confidence in them. It is as if they are familiar with the brand, so they are more loyal to it. Developing a tone of voice helps to successfully market the brand.

ToV helps establish an emotional connection with consumers

65% of consumers believe that an emotional connection with a company makes them feel like they are cared for. People usually become friends with those who have similar interests, values, and outlook on life. Similarly, consumers choose brands whose voice resonates with their thoughts. Many purchasing decisions are made based on emotions.

ToV translates company values

Brand communication with the audience shows the mission and values of the business, what the company lives by. The information must be readable, being an integral part of the image. 64% of the consumers are sure that common values are the basis of trust to the company.

ToV maintains unified communication across all channels.

If designer creates cringe-worthy memes for social networks, and e-mail marketer writes boring and dry texts, the audience will be dissonant. Tone of voice helps to define a unified style and maintain it everywhere.

Types of tone of voice

Conventionally, all variants of ToV can be divided into several groups.

Formal or Informal

According to surveys, 65% of customers want support staff to talk to them informally. But perception is influenced by context, so 78% of customers will remain unhappy if their request is rejected in informal language.

Formal language allows for subordination through communication. The emphasis is on rationality, not emotion. At the head of the matter is brevity, precision of wording, facts.

It makes the brand more authoritative, but can seem cold to readers because of the impersonal tone it creates.

This tone of voice is often chosen by banks.

Informal language is closer to casual conversation, so it helps to get on the same page as users. The brand communicates with the audience as an equal. He can recommend something, but as a friend, not a mentor. Respect, light humor and good news are a priority.

Informal language can give a sense of friendliness and personality that formal language lacks. That said, an overly informal tone can make readers think the brand is inexperienced or unprofessional.

If you think communicating with customers should only be formal, Burger King is willing to argue

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Funny or serious

A cheerful, humorous tone brings you closer and increases the memorability of information. Humor allows you to stand out from the competition, as long as the audience finds it funny. But you have to be careful. Jokes can leave the impression of non-seriousness, unprofessionalism. Also, in some areas, such as medical, humor can be inappropriate.

A serious tone adds status. It conveys a sense of importance in messages, emphasizes competence, and positions the brand as a reliable source. At the same time, it can feel like the brand lacks emotion.

Respectful or bold

A respectful tone creates a sense of friendliness and cordiality. But it’s important not to overdo it. An overly respectful tone, even at the wrong time, can make it seem like the brand is trying to ingratiate itself with the reader.

The Pampers account is presented in a respectful and caring manner

The cheeky tone helps set it apart from its calm and serious competitors. Characterized by a lot of “on the edge” content and sarcasm, sometimes there is some mat or hints of it. A cheeky tone helps a brand appear authoritative and confident, giving a sense of superiority over competitors. But disrespectful language can offend or scare readers away.

One of the more decent VIZIT brand posts

Admired or restrained

An admired tone appeals to emotions and feelings. It gives a sense of friendliness and helpfulness. But when used at the wrong time, it can bore or irritate the reader. Another thing to consider is that the user does not trust an abundance of emotional messages.

A restrained tone creates a sense of simplicity and honesty. Restraint is appropriate when it is not important for the brand to get the user emotionally involved in the communication.

How to find your tone of voice

Let’s analyze the selection of the most appropriate tone of voice on the example of a women’s clothing brand.


Company N is a new manufacturer of women’s clothing. It produces only strict suits for active business women with high income. All products of the same size range are sewn in a single copy. They are hand-finished with the author’s embroidery and decorated with accessories with precious stones. The suits are expensive. They can be worn not only to work in the office, but also at social events as an alternative to an evening dress.

How to determine which tone of voice will help company N attract customers?

Step 1: Find out your brand DNA.

Let’s consider a few simple ways that will help you better understand how and on what topics to communicate with potential customers, how to present yourself, etc.

Analysis of insights, STP and brand value

To do this, you need to ask the questions:

  • What is the brand?
  • Who is it built for?
  • What is its usefulness?
  • Why does it exist?
  • How is it different from its competitors?
  • Why was the brand created?
  • What is the mission of the brand?
  • What social ideas does the brand support?
  • What values does it want to share?
  • What values are closest to potential customers?

Once you’ve identified the values, you need to think about how to communicate them to those who are also close to them.


Company N: Expensive exclusive business clothing, which emphasizes the advantages of a woman’s figure. The products are decorated with author’s works of jewelry and arts and crafts.


  • A business suit is not boring.
  • A business suit is able to look appropriate for all social events.
  • Business suit is ready to compete with evening dresses.


  • The same clothes are appropriate everywhere: at the theater, at work, and at a private party on the anniversary of a glossy
  • magazine.
  • Wearing exclusive clothes from designers is status and prestige.
  • All women are unique. Therefore, they should wear luxury suits, which no one else has.
  • All of these messages can be the basis of a brand communication strategy.

Describing the brand as a real person

Imagine that the brand is a person. Describe him by answering the questions:

  • What are his habits?
  • What character traits does he have?
  • What does he look like?
  • What are his hobbies?
  • What is he interested in (what does he watch and read)?
  • Where and how does he spend his free time?
  • What are his social circles?
  • How does he communicate with different people (what words does he use, what tone of voice does he use, at what speed, etc.)?
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The questions should be answered honestly and in detail. Think about what is usual for a similar person, to whom he is close and interesting, what is expected of him, how he differs from others, why people want to communicate with him.


Company N is a confident woman, 25-45 years old. She has built her own career and has a high level of income. Heads a department in a large international company. Groomed, educated, stylish.

The female prototype of the brand is oriented on, considered unlike the others. She is strong in spirit, but feminine and sophisticated. She enjoys attention on social networks, attracts people to her. She often goes to social events, but because of the workload does not always have time to pick up an outfit. Appreciates the handiwork and knows that it is expensive.

She is communicative. Speaks easily, intelligently, but loves high-sounding turns of phrase. She is interested in business, culture, fashion, human rights issues, etc.

General impression – socially active intelligent woman, careerist, attracting the eyes of others by her appearance and striving always to keep up her mark in different spheres of life.

Stage 2: Drawing up a portrait of the brand’s target audience

There can be a variety of people among your customers. But if they choose a particular brand, they have something in common.

You should analyze the potential clients – choose 5-6 specific people and write a questionnaire for each of them, using chat rooms on open forums, accounts in social networks and other channels. To refine the data, you can use the analytics system Google Analytics.

It will be necessary to find out:

  • education;
  • country and city of residence;
  • position;
  • lifestyle;
  • age;
  • personal life;
  • consumer preferences.


To make a more accurate portrait of your target audience and find out how to build off the competition, you can look at how brands from other fields communicate with your potential customers.

As a result, you should create one or more portraits of standard CA representatives. To make it clear, you can depict them on the presentation slides as characters with descriptions.

If it is possible to communicate directly with real customers, you need to take this chance:

Ask them to describe the brand as a live person (the list of questions was listed earlier).
Ask about the personal:

  • What do they do on a daily basis?
  • What inspires them?
  • What is their social circle?
  • How and where do they spend their free time?
  • How often and where do they interact with the brand?
  • What do they value the brand for?
  • How do they communicate (do they use clerical language, slang, imagery, etc.)?



Let’s analyze the portrait of the target audience of company N:

  • Socially active, serious woman of 30.
  • Received higher education in a prestigious university, has an MBA degree.
  • Manages the commercial department of a large financial firm. Works overtime.
  • Financially independent.
  • Married for several years.
  • Loves beautiful exclusive things and often buys them.
  • Wants to devote more time to her family and engage in self-education.
  • Monthly visits social events related to professional activities.
  • She takes care of herself in beauty salons.
  • Believes that a woman should always be visually appealing, exquisitely and beautifully dressed, stand out among other women.
  • Her idols are Hollywood stars who look gorgeous and work hard.
  • Communicates simply, usually using business slang, but loves to dilute simple sentences with florid expressions (combines artistic turns and formal business speech).

Step 3: Conduct a brand communications and content audit

In this step, the answers to the questions you received earlier will help. First it was necessary to determine the approximate manner of communication of the brand persona, and then – the specifics of customer speech. Now it is necessary to compare the style and tone of the current content with the collected information.

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It is important to analyze all the content that is addressed to the audience. Email newsletters, website texts, posts and stories on social networks all need to have the same style of presentation.

Nielsen Norman Group has developed a frame of reference that helps create a tone of voice. It needs to define the brand’s place in each row.

First you should choose a characteristic in each row which corresponds to the tone of the current content. After that – check the boxes next to the adjectives that will reveal the brand persona, insights and values, STP, as well as create the desired impression.

Refine the tone of voice with a list of tone characteristics. The Norman Nielsen Group has created a list of words that can be used for this.

Important: one brand – one persona – one message in communication.

By identifying the characteristics of tone of voice, you can map the words you plan to use in the communication. Divide nouns, adjectives and verbs into groups. In the future, the document can be supplemented, such as stop words.


Company N will have the following tone: serious, informal, respectful, admiring.

A post for social media might look like this:

Before leaving the house, every Lady N:

  • Applies light makeup;
  • Makes sure the glossy business cards smell like her favorite perfume;
  • Marvels at how the emeralds on her suit vest accentuate the beauty of her green eyes.


And, of course, says to herself: I feel great because I look great!

How to Measure Effectiveness

There are no exact metrics that help track the viability of voice. Indirect metrics help determine effectiveness.

  • Increased recognition – If people recognize the brand through visuals and text, then tone of voice is working.
  • Increased number of mentions – if tone of voice works, people will want to talk about communication with the brand and make reposts. For example, you can track mentions via Google Alerts, Brand Analytics, etc.
  • The number and general tone of references – if the audience likes communicating with the brand, they will start a dialog: share their experience of using the product, ask questions, leave feedback.

What are the most common mistakes?

Sometimes companies make mistakes when choosing the tone of voice: they don’t define the limits of what is acceptable in communication, they don’t consider the specifics of audience, they don’t stick to a certain strategy. As a result they alienate the audience, damage their reputation and lose credibility.

Copying someone else’s tone of voice

If a brand communicates the same way as its competitor, customers will immediately see that. Confidence will be lost, and consumers will choose a company with a unique voice. Don’t copy your competitors’ posts, words, tricks, and headlines: analyze their experience and work out your own specifics.

A dramatic change in brand voice

A company’s values may change. Along with them, the voice changes. But it’s important to stay grounded, and to introduce changes slowly and smoothly. If a brand talks to customers in a friendly way and shares helpful content, and then suddenly becomes provocative and defiant, audiences won’t appreciate the point of change.

Same responses.

When communicating with your audience, you need to consider context. If a brand has a fun tone of voice, that doesn’t mean jokes have to be in every message. The tone of voice is the basis for communication, not a program for mandatory repetition. If a customer came forward with a problem, you need to solve it, not make jokes.

Lack of guidance on tone of voice

Sometimes different employees in a company have different understandings of the brand’s voice. In order to maintain a common tone of voice with the audience, and to avoid disagreements in delivery, a single set of rules for tone of voice with examples is created-a tone of voice manual. It can be in the form of a separate document or a section of the brand book.

Sample structure of the manual:

  • A portrait of the target audience;
  • Brand manifesto (values, mission, etc.);
  • brand image;
  • TOV characteristics and word map;
  • anti-examples and examples of textual content for communication in different channels: social networks, website, phone, mail, etc.

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