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Understanding brand tonality

Every brand has a general tone, or ‘tonality’, whether we as consumers are consciously aware of it, or not, it’s there.

  • In the images they use.
  • The fonts they use.
  • The words they use.
  • The punctuation they use.
  • The content that they showcase to promote their products and services.
  • In how the brand represents itself overall: on social media platforms, billboards, media articles, and so forth.

Types of brand tone

Brand tonality is a complex and complicated business. But it’s essential to commit to a tone and stick to it. Consistency is key because a consistent tone helps manage consumer and client expectations. It builds trust.

What’s your business? What’s your current brand tone? Have a think for a minute.

  • Is it playful?
  • Is it sincere?
  • Is it edgy?
  • Enigmatic?
  • Experimental? Is it serious?
  • Is it confident?
  • Is it enthusiastic?

Or perhaps a combination of things? To accurately determine brand tone we need nuance, context and a better understanding of the mission, vision, and values of a brand and its current managers, employees and target market.

Getting your brand tone right

Certain tones don’t match certain brands. No one wants their bank to be playful and edgy. If they are managing your hard-earned money, you expect a brand tone that communicates trustworthiness, reliability and confidence.

In other sectors, there is more room for creative play. Like in fashion, food, or film for example. The more creative an industry, the more we as consumers expect an element of boundary-pushing and experimentation.

To determine whether you have a brand tone that is consistent and successful, ask yourself these questions:

1. What brands am I attracted to?

Ask yourself why you like the brands you do. Here’s a hint: usually, we like brands that we identify with. We like their values, and the services or products they provide match our own personal and professional aspirations.

2. What makes any brand tone or brand voice successful?

Think about the eternal Apple vs. Microsoft wars of one-upmanship. Or Apple vs Android. Or Facebook vs. Instagram (despite the fact that both are now part of Mark’s Meta empire) or Land Rover vs. pretty much every other car manufacturer. These brands are all vying for pole position and their tone has a lot to do with why you choose them, and why you stay loyal.

We think it’s simply their functionality that makes us buy these products, but the truth is, there’s a part of us that feels those brands align with our own.

3. Does my brand align with the values of my target markets?

Do a brand tone audit. Read through your web copy, social posts, and emailers. Check your email signatures. Your staff uniforms. Any customer-facing imagery or content. Is it consistent? Can you identify key elements and qualities in the tone you convey to the market? If not, it may be worth calling in the professionals to help you sort it out.

4. Is my brand tone authentic?

If you are being insincere, consumers will smell it on you. So just don’t do it. There’s no need for it. We live in a kinder world, post-pandemic. People want real. They want authenticity. They want ethical behavior from service providers and goods manufacturers.

If you are trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ just stop. Don’t try to make your brand something it’s not. Faking is exhausting. It’s also not sustainable.

If your brand is having an identity crisis, go back to the drawing board and take time to figure out who you are. And if you need help, well. You know who to call.

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