What your tone says about your brand

Your company’s tone of voice is an essential component of your brand strategy, so how do you communicate it? Achieving brand recognition isn’t simply about visual representations, logos or even targeted messaging. It’s also about the way you speak and deliver your message. Have you developed a recognizable tone of voice?

If you’re talking to your customers in digital spaces, you have likely already embraced the power of your website. It’s your conversation tool. But how well does it convey your brand? Don’t underestimate the emotive appeal your tone can deliver. Many of us might think tone of voice is intuitively addressed in our messaging. But more often, it’s an approach not fully explored.

Why tone is important

Tone of voice is essentially the way you express your feelings or mood to your readers. It is not just about the words you use; it’s how you weave in your personality. It reveals the way you think about a subject, and the better you are at exuding your personality, the more you can influence readers and help them deepen their relationship with your brand. Ultimately, the goal is to connect with your reader based on a shared and receptive understanding of who you are and the value you represent.

Breaking it down

On a superficial level, discussions about tone tend to recommend the obvious. Try to avoid obligatory terms, use power words, convey vulnerability and demonstrate warmth. But to do those things, you need to dig deeper. First, you have to decide what impression you want the leave with the reader. That is your tone strategy. Here’s a list of four main approaches that can help frame your tone of voice:

  • Funny or serious – do you want to add humour, or must you speak deliberately?
  • Formal or casual – can you communicate casually, or is it necessary to use precise language?
  • Respectful or boldly sarcastic – should you speak courteously, or is it okay to be cheeky at times?
  • Enthusiastic or plainspoken – do you want to elicit excitement, or must you be more stoic?

Differences in tone

Financial institutions or financial technology companies are in a unique position. If you are a financial services marketer, you typically communicate complex concepts, technical data and sensitive investment details that demand clear messaging and formal language. That doesn’t mean your tone always has to follow a rigid approach. In fact, it can adapt according to the medium or content.

Tone of voice can be intricate and meaningful. Often your brand might embody multiple tones in different contexts. Here are a few examples to show how you can vary tone – even in the same communication.

Inflationary pressures and market volatility are hot topics that can worry readers. The central message is usually about current conditions and how to navigate them. Whether you want to inform, reassure, or explain, there are various ways to communicate the details people need. Consider this news statement:

“Attention homeowners: the value of what is probably the biggest single investment you will ever make is falling.”1

The comment is not trying to make people feel good. It plays on valuation concerns to communicate the gravity of declining home prices. It is a serious, formal, bold, and matter-of-fact warning. But the title of the article in which the statement appears is a little more casual and reassuring:

“Market corrections are just part of life — embrace the correction.” 1

That statement is direct, serious, and respectful. If it were edited slightly to read “let’s embrace the correction,” the shift to a plural first-person pronoun would convey “we” are in it together, and the message becomes even more casual and conversational. Now take a look at how the author changes the tone with a more enthusiastic, positive mood further on in the article:

The good news is owning a home probably remains the best investment you will ever make over the long term.” 1

Again, consider how a few minor changes, more reassuring words or even a metaphorical statement could change the way a reader aligns with the message and how they view its personality:

“Don’t sweat cooling housing prices. Owning a home is still the best long-term investment you can make.”

It’s all about the brand

Deciding what tone works best for your company’s brand strategy always comes back to the personality you want to convey. In financial contexts, it is probably not a good idea to be overly exuberant or cheeky because it could diminish your credibility or seem disingenuous. Consider what you want your audience to feel when they read your message. How do you want them to perceive you? If you’re not sure which tone strategy you should pursue, try A/B testing a few in a controlled setting.  

Don’t forget the contractions!

Yes, contractions play a vital role. It used to be that writers frowned on the use of contractions as overtly casual and not appropriate for formal contexts. The fact is contractions (e.g., merging “it is” to “it’s” or “we are” to “we’re”) are conversational and their use can add the relatable tone you need to convey your personality. You will want to determine if they work for you.

Remember, your personality should be consistent but flexible enough to adapt to the subject and align with your reader’s needs. For example, you might adopt a conversational tone across your website but avoid adding colloquial or humorous references except where you want to showcase your culture, people or social settings. Since design and graphics are a big part of any brand strategy, you should consider how they can best support your chosen tone. Imagery needs to complement, not compete with, your brand personality. If your tone is clear and direct, you’ll want to match it with a design system and elements that aren’t in stark contrast. If you’re focused on conveying trust, warmth and reassurance, consider design attributes that support that aim. Above all, be consistent and authentic. Readers will notice contradictions.   

Need help defining your brand voice? Ext. Marketing can help you create effective brand appeal by identifying the tone strategy that works best for you. Contact us today at 1.844.243.1830 or