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Tone of Voice – 3 Steps to a Strong Voice

  • Caroline Pieracci

What is a tone of voice? And why do we need it? With lots of examples we show the benefits of a tone of voice and what it takes to build a strong voice.

Step 1: Find Your Voice

Every car gets you from A to B. But which one do you pick? The brand’s image is what makes the difference. Urban speedster? Sporty powerhouse? Or elegant premium look? Mini, BMW or Mercedes? You choose the one that’s best for you, your lifestyle and your social environment.

Mini test drive: phrases such as ‘style hunting’, ‘style in the city’ and ‘style aficionados’ show that they are appealing to stylish city dwellers.
Source: MINI Test Drive, accessed May 2018

BMW test drive: the claim of ‘ultimate driving machine’ shows that this is about a powerful engine. ‘Unmatched driving pleasure’ conveys competition and strength. We are targeting people who live or want to live life in the fast lane.
Source: BMW Test Drive, accessed May 2018

Mercedes test drive: ‘done your way’, ‘that suits you best’. This is all about the customer. A premium experience is the be-all and end-all.
Source: Mercedes Test Drive, accessed May 2018

Brand Values Inspire a Tone of Voice

The basis of your voice is your corporate identity: if this is clearly defined, then your tone of voice is fairly easy to work out. If your corporate identity is the dry theory, then your linguistic world is its practical implementation. Here are a few examples, once again using the car industry.

MINI
Brand values inspiring
Linguistic implementation using creative, playful language
Stylistic methods such as puns, punchlines, half sentences, exclamations
Source BMW Group/MINI, accessed May 2018

BMW
Potential brand values daring
Linguistic implementation using competitive language
Expressions such as ‘be/become the best’, ‘show them all’, ‘the way to the top’
Source BMW Group, accessed May 2018

Mercedes-Benz
Brand values excellence
Linguistic implementation using an elaborate code that stands out from the masses
Source Mercedes Mission and Values, accessed May 2018

Step 2: Make your Voice Consistently Heard

Once you have found your voice, it has to resound in every valley of the marketing universe and cover all content needs users have.

BMW is a perfect example of how to implement your tone of voice. Everywhere you can feel a love of performance and the pursuit of competition – as here, in its report of an extreme expedition.
Source: bmw.com, accessed May 2018

The ‘ultimate driving machine’ is the constant focus: here, for test training in the snow.
Source: bmw.com, accessed May 2018

A love of performance played out over and over, in the choice of themes and of linguistic expression.
Source: bmw.com, accessed May 2018

Read our blog post about how you make your voice heard on search enginges

Step 3: Stick with it – for Decades

Consumers only ‘consume’ for just a few minutes – the rest of the time they are people with busy lives. If they are not listening to your company’s message, they will not hear your voice. It is therefore important that your company gets its message out over and over in the right tone, as this is the only way to lodge it in people’s minds and ensure recognition. So how long for? How about a couple of decades?

BMW: Ultimate Driving Machine
45 years old
Created in 1973 by the agency Amirati & Puris

Axe: The smell that drives women crazy
33 years old
Created in 19852 by the agency Lintas

Nike: Just do it
30 years old
Created in 1988 by the agency Wieden & Kennedy

Learnings

Do you think the tone of voice the agency is suggesting is a bit too expensive? If you remember that BMW has been using the same tone for 45 years, it quickly pays off.

Speak, find out who you are – and then let the world join in. Again and again. In fact, again and again and again. And if you choose to develop or continue your tone of voice, we at Liip are happy to help.

Checklist

  • Step 1: find your voice
    Fresh and bold or friendly and polite? However you sound, make it a conscious choice.

  • Step 2: make your voice consistently heard
    Every communication situation counts, as your image out there is a collection of individual experiences.

  • Step 3: stick with it – for decades
    It takes time to make a lasting impression. So you can safely hold on a bit longer than you think.

The experts behind this article

Thanks to Christoph and Jenny for content and copy assistance, to Jan and Jérémie for the images. This article would not have been possible without you!


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