In marketing, tone of voice (TOV) can make or break your brand. Getting it right means you can communicate your brand’s personality to the rest of the world. Get it wrong, and people won’t understand what you’re all about, and there’s a chance they might be put off.
Sort of like people, brands can have unique personalities that allow them to do one crucial thing: connect with their customers on a personal level. There are thousands of brilliant brands out there, but I believe only a handful have truly mastered tone of voice.
From a website’s content to their social media posts, I’ve taken a look at three very different brands who use the written word to convey their unique TOV.
This post will highlight key takeaways from each brand, and will explain how these findings can be applied to your brand to help to shape or improve TOV.
The motivating one: Fitbit
Tone of voice:
friendly, informative, slightly cheeky, motivating, not patronising, helpful, specific and casual.
How Fitbit’s tone of voice is created
Lots of fitness brands take a very serious, professional, all-or-nothing approach to their marketing. When it comes to sport and exercise, we hear a lot of high energy music, see a lot of sweat and are told by brands to ‘Just do it’.
Fitbit has a different method. It inspires people to reach their health and fitness goals by encouraging them to have fun, smile, and feel empowered along the way.
Throughout the day, Fitbit logs a range of data about your activities (including exercise, food, heartrate, weight, calories burned and sleep), and encourages customers of all abilities to find their ‘fit’ and stay motivated. It provides tons of helpful resources on site (how-to videos, a help forum, help articles and wear and care tips) and this caring and helpful message is reflected in its app, newsletters and social media channels.
The words Fitbit uses on the app and other mediums communicate brand messaging perfectly. Users are congratulated when they’ve earned an achievement. This week, Fitbit gave me a shout-out when I met my daily goal of 10,000 steps: “Stephanie N crushed it!” and it motivated me to do more when my competitors were gaining on me: “‘It’s gonna be a close call between Stephanie N and Madeleine R”.
The unique thing about Fitbit is that they use their TOV to place their product in the context of everyday life. They use motivating language that suits the casual context of day-to-day exercise. From walking to work to monitoring how much dancing you do on a night out, Fitbit speaks to users in a way that makes us feel getting healthy can fit into all lifestyles.
The caring one: Lush
Tone of voice:
Lush articulates its brand message in every aspect of its marketing: ‘what makes you feel better’, not ‘use this to make you look better’.
How Lush’s tone of voice is made
One of Lush’s core business messages is that it’s fighting against animal testing – something it does passionately. It demonstrates this everywhere: from packaging to social media posts.
Lush has used its voice for many years to stand up for what it believes in and will continue to do so if it feels the need to speak out against something. It works with animal campaign groups to publicise issues and educate others. In fact, it has a page dedicated to all the things it does.
Interestingly, Lush has never paid for advertising; it has always relied on word of mouth. Modern day bloggers and vloggers have helped boost its online presence massively.
Lush is ultimately an activist company at its core, that injects light-hearted humour, and sprinkle of glitter, into the world.
Lush’s language is playful and casual, as if you’re chatting about beauty products with a friend. But it pulls it off without being too buddy-buddy. As you can see above, it keeps things short and a bit random, but it doesn’t feel forced.
The cheeky one: Lovehoney
*Warning: Stop reading if easily flustered*
Tone of voice:
Very, very, very cheeky
How tone of voice is made
What I like the most about Lovehoney is it breaks away from the stigma of ‘seedy’ sex toy shopping. It encourages people to celebrate and explore their sexuality without feeling embarrassed or shameful. Its tone of voice helps to create a comfortable, couple-friendly online space intended to appeal to all sexualities, genders and relationship types. You can see its latest TV ad below:
It’s difficult not to engage with Lovehoney’s social media posts. The light-hearted approach helps to remove the taboo around sex and sex toys, unashamedly celebrating the fun aspects of sexuality, which is one of its core aims.
Nipple clamps, anyone?
To many, the thought of using pinch-adjustable nipple clamps would be daunting to say the least. But Lovehoney’s tone of voice removes the awkwardness and tries to encourage users to try something new.
By using pop-culture references (like around the 50 Shades book and film series above) and acknowledging that what it’s suggesting is a bit unconventional, Lovehoney creates a space where, even if you have no plans to use nipple clamps, it doesn’t feel weird to talk about them.
Who is your brand?
Your brand needs to have a personality of its own that people will recognise, relate to and remember. Get this right, and you can connect with your customers on a personal level.
Once you’ve established your tone of voice, be consistent. Everything you write that could be read by your target audience should adhere to that tone – whether it’s a social media post, newsletters, TV ads, or the small print on your packaging.
How do you do it? Looking at our examples, the key is to pin down your values and shape your TOV around them. Fitbit wants to help everyone get a little bit fitter, without making them feel like they should be an Olympian. Lush wants to encourage people to pamper themselves, ethically, without being overly serious about it. Lovehoney thinks it’s about time people talked about sex and ‘sexploration’ without blushing.
What does your brand want to achieve for your customers? And how do you want to sound while you convince them to do it? Answer those questions, and you’ll have your tone of voice.