What’s Your Tone Of Voice?20 Feb 2013
I’m a big fan of Zappos – both the business and the brand.
One of the brand elements that Zappos really gets right is its tone of voice.
But more about that in a moment.
What I love most about Zappos are the videos made by its sales staff to help customers get a better look at the product they’re interested in and to communicate key features and benefits.
These 2 min videos are a gem – instructive, warm, friendly, and slightly irreverent in their delivery.
Plus, I love to hear some of the technical explanations and names they give to shoe features like “gilly lacing system” or “nylon shank” or “mesh uppers”.
The tone of voice in these videos is warm, inviting, friendly, informal.
By contrast, if you spoke to a salesperson in an actual brick and mortar store, its safe to say you wouldn’t get much insight on a shoe’s features and benefits. You’d be lucky to even have a 2 minutes conversation.
Now, the tone of voice Zappos uses works well for them, but, it may not work well for your brand.
For instance, if you’re a drug company or a business operating in the b2b space, it’s almost mandatory to adopt a serious authoritative tone in the way you speak.
But, for most businesses – like most human beings – it’s usually important to modulate the way you speak so that impressions and values are carefully and appropriately shared and expressed.
Take Barclays bank for instance – their values are witty, warm, accessible and confident. Yet, every time the brand ‘communicates’ it must determine the right balance of how these values are portrayed. Communications that are designed to sell or to motivate the consumer are more likely to be witty, whereas communications that purely inform, warn or say sorry shouldn’t be witty in the conventional sense – they should be more serious and appropriate to match the content and the information that’s being shared.
Creating a brand’s tone of voice requires a combination of elements including: an understanding of the current tone of voice, a diligent cataloging of the various touchpoints used to communicate to customers, then the creation of guidelines on how to speak (and to whom) across these various touchpoints.
Once accomplished, a brand can ensure it speaks with a consistent and coherent tone of voice.
Now, if you’ll excuse me a moment, I have some shoes to buy.