Messaging strategy essentials Pt 1: tone of voice

6 minute read

It’s not just about what you say, it’s also about how you say it. To stand out from the crowd and deliver exceptional customer experience, a messaging strategy is essential.

In Part 1 of our deep dive into messaging strategy essentials, we cover the key core elements, starting with tone of voice.

What is a messaging strategy?

A messaging strategy is how a brand decides to communicate with its customers and prospects. That includes what you say, how you say it, where you say it, how frequently you say it and so on. The goal is to deliver the right message to the right individual on the right platform at the right time to garner the desired action. Every time. Easy, right…?

And that’s just in the short term. An effective messaging strategy has the power to increase brand awareness, loyalty and advocacy by fostering familiarity and clearly communicating the business proposition. It can create long-term emotional connections that boost customer lifetime value.

It’s no exaggeration to say that a successful messaging strategy is a key element of a sustainable business.

What does an effective messaging strategy do?

Strengthens the visual identity and wider brand strategy

A successful messaging strategy will complement and strengthen the visual identity. Your visuals are there to attract attention and invite intrigue. Your copywriting should then work to engage, inform and persuade. To achieve the overarching brand strategy, your visual and verbal identities must work together. Whether that is fun and playful or loud and proud, your messaging strategy should enhance the wider brand guidelines.

Builds the brand story and worldview

Good brand stories create emotional connections. If a brand shares the same values and worldview as its target audience, customers will forge deeper bonds and foster a greater sense of loyalty. For that to happen, your customers must understand and relate to your brand’s social purpose. Copywriting that considers tone and language to enhance the brand story will make it more relatable and memorable – but more on that later.

tone of voice

Communicates the proposition clearly

At the end of the day, a messaging strategy is about communicating information. All the personality in the world isn’t going to help if your audience doesn’t understand what you are offering or what value you are adding. A strong messaging strategy must be able to clearly, concisely and quickly communicate the brand proposition.

How do tone of voice guidelines boost your messaging strategy?

A brand tone of voice is mandatory, not a ‘nice to have’. Strong tone of voice guidelines are an essential element of your messaging strategy.

Foster emotional connections with audiences

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking humans operate on pure logic alone. The fact is, emotions drive most actions. Emotional connections hold a lot of power. Our very human instincts toward safe, risk-free environments mean we are attracted to people and places that feel familiar. Brands can use their tone of voice to make customers feel at home.

Distinguish yourself from competitors

There’s a difference between a customer that is satisfied with your service and a customer that is actively loyal to your brand. To reach ‘loyalty’ status, a customer must be able to quickly identify your brand within the marketplace. Creating tone of voice guidelines and a distinct copywriting style can achieve that differentiation and let your brand shine.

Let your customers feel heard

66% of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations. And that number is growing every year. Personalisation is a critical component of successful copywriting and tone of voice can amplify this. Find the right language and tone at the right time to show your customers that you understand them and their challenges, and your business will be rewarded.

What does a strong brand tone of voice look like?

It uses language that customers feel to build emotional connections

To paraphrase Thomas Cranmer: “what the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies”. People tend to make decisions based on emotion rather than logic. Your tone of voice guidelines are a critical tool to build those emotional connections by using language that your audience really feels.

tone of voice

Take this copy from a (real-life) car brand, for example:

Born to corner. Diving a [X] is a ton of fun, thanks to its legendary go-kart handling. We could go on about its lightning-quick responses and glue-like grip.

There are no buzzwords here. No jargon to describe the car’s features. You’re simply left with a real feeling of the driving experience.

It uses narrative techniques to engage audiences

To quote the old marketing adage, “facts tell, stories sell”. An effective messaging strategy will take all the elements of a compelling story and build them into a brand narrative. A distinct tone of voice can then create a seamless story across platforms and channels, engaging audiences and guiding them towards desired actions.

It reinforces your brand promise to build trust

A brand tone of voice loses impact if only the marketing team use it. If your distinct voice disappears once the sale is made, your brand values and promise start looking a bit ropey too. Brand trust is a major element of purchase decision-making. In fact, Edelman found it was in shoppers’ top three considerations after ‘value for money’ and ‘quality’. This is why it’s essential to share your tone of voice guidelines outside the advertising team. Every single customer touchpoint should deliver a consistent experience.

How to start crafting your brand tone of voice

Consider brand tone and brand voice separately

Getting granular for a moment – let’s separate the ‘voice’ from the ‘tone’:

Brand tone: This is the attitude with which you share your messaging strategy. Your brand tone will contextualise the content of your communications and link to your overarching brand persona and values.

tone of voice

Brand voice: This is the language and words you use to communicate with your audience. Again, this links back to your brand values and can be used effectively to relate to your customers and foster familiarity.

When crafting your tone of voice guidelines, it can help to consider these elements separately and how they relate to your overarching messaging strategy.

Build in your brand values

Your brand values are a great place to start for tone of voice guidelines. The brand values and social purpose need to align with the tone and language you are using to effectively deliver the brand story. Take Oatly’s masterful example. A plant-based alternative to dairy milk, Oatly’s messaging is often about serious topics such as the climate crisis. However, rather than adopt a preachy and worthy tone of voice, Oatly’s copywriting leans heavily into irreverent humour. This tone softens the seriousness of its brand values, makes it more relatable and, of course, highly memorable.

Remember your customer personas

A consistent tone of voice can still be applied in different ways for different audiences. Every brand has an audience made up of different personas with varying motivators, concerns and values. Tailoring your copywriting and messaging depending on the person or point in the customer journey can improve the overall experience for your customers.

Need a hand with your messaging strategy?

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