Let’s suppose you’ve done all of the above. You have your story. Your brand story. So is that it? Well, sorry, the answer is no. You still need one more step in order to be successful.
A wise American communication guru once wrote a book entitled ‘Words that work’, but the subtitle of the work is perhaps the most interesting aspect: ‘It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear.’ In other words, it's not what you say that matters, it's what people hear that makes the difference. You know yourself that you sometimes hear the same thing differently. And that usually has to do with who says it, and above all, how and with what words.
Great, but how can we get it right? It’s simple: you think about how you say things. And if you’re smart, the way in which your brand story is told will be one hundred percent consistent with the personality that you have given to that brand. For example, if your brand takes the attitude that an individual athlete should try a little harder to excel in a specific sport, then you will tend to speak in the form of a command. Just do it, for example.
The right story, the right words, but also the right tone, make a brand recognisable.
You may have perfectly determined the identity of your brand, but if the brand doesn’t behave and hence talk correspondingly, that identity is worthless. Can you imagine an asset manager talking to its clients in the way that Devos Lemmens does about its sauces? OK, we think we’ve made our point.
There is little need to point out how important tone of voice is. Professor Albert Mehrabian was a pioneer in communication sciences back in the 1960s. He concluded that the success of communication is determined by three things: the words (7 percent), the way the words are spoken (38 percent) and the facial expressions (55 percent). Often, facial expression is not a consideration, so the tone of messages, for example on social media, becomes crucial.
Are you aiming to be funny? Or mostly serious? Will you approach your customers very formally, or in a relaxed manner? Will you be very respectful towards your customers or adopt a teasing attitude towards them? Do you want to be brimming over with enthusiasm or level-headed? These are just a few questions, but they already give you a much better idea of how you want to talk as a brand.
A carefully chosen tone of voice
determines the way your brand communicates, both on paper and in writing.
It forms the impression you leave, and that impression should be completely unique for each brand. As a customer you get a feel for a brand’s stance. The use of language – the style, the presence or absence of humour or abbreviations or terms from other languages are used – must be the same everywhere. On the website and on social media, but also in emails, during sales calls, by the receptionist, ... in every context.
If your brand personality is right, and your tone of voice gets through to the specific target public you have in mind, your brand and your message will be recognised by the right people. Look at it from whatever angle you like: the way you speak is intimately connected with who you are. That’s just the way it works!