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Think 'Tone Of Voice' Is Just For Marketing? Think Again

Does your company have a tone of voice? You do? Congratulations, join the club. We surveyed 200 brand and marketing directors, and pretty much all of them do, too. In fact, 97% say tone of voice is so important, it can impact your bottom line as a business.

So far, so good: Most of us have a brand tone of voice, most of us think it matters. But here’s the million-dollar question: Is your tone working?

Perhaps not. When we asked this same group whether people in their business were actually using their tone of voice, the results weren’t so sunny: only a measly 9% reckon most of their colleagues do. 

 So why the gap?

Partly, it might be a global thing. With the rise of virtual work, borders seem to matter less: nearly everyone we spoke to had “global” in their title and said they worked across three countries or more.

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They told us some of these countries don’t use their tone of voice at all. For example, the majority said brands can be funny when they’re talking to an Australian audience -- but they didn’t think that approach would work in Asia.

Suddenly it seems obvious why your tone of voice isn’t getting used: Different regions are following different rules.

Perhaps we’re all thinking of tone of voice wrong

When we asked the group where it matters most, marketing and comms topped the list. That makes sense -- we all like catchy slogans and well-written ads. But do they matter most?

Poorly worded complaint responses can easily lose you customers; the emails and Slacks you send internally can make or break your company culture. Don’t these things matter at least as much?

From billboards to behavior change

If you want your tone of voice to catch on, you need to think of it as something that’s for the whole company: complaints, collections, HR, your higher-ups. Here’s how.

  • Make a team.  What we’re calling the Ikea Effect says we value things more highly if we’ve played a part in building them. So while you’re creating your tone of voice, get folks from different departments and regions involved.
  • Make a difference. The value of a tone of voice might be obvious to you, but it won’t be to the rest of your business. So start measuring: run A/B tests on comms or collect customer feedback: if you can prove it, people will use it.
  • Make a splash. Your tone of voice needs regular love and care: run internal campaigns on it, get senior folks to endorse it, share amazing examples. In other words, think of it like a program of events -- not guidelines.

At the end of the day, not everyone in your company designs logos or edits ads. But we all write emails, put presentations together and pick up the phone. In other words, for most of us -- in most regions and roles -- words are the way we show how we’re part of a brand. 

If brand and marketing folks want to make the most of that, it’s time for a little less gatekeeping and a little more growing. Help your tone of voice flourish all through your business, and you’ll soon reap the rewards.

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