Getting your tone of voice right

March 30, 2015

There’s a lovely example of how tone of voice works in an episode of Have I Got News For You. They’re discussing the class system, and how a new survey has identified seven classes in the UK as opposed to the traditionally acknowledged three.

Alexander Armstrong, who is hosting the episode, asks if anyone is working class and one wag replies “Rather!”.

Cue hysterics from the panel and the rest of the audience. It’s a superb joke because the person who shouted “Rather!” is playing against accepted norms. We would expect someone from the upper reaches of the socio-economic scale to shout “Rather!” as opposed to a person from the so-called working classes.

In this instance they were looking for people to laugh at their uttering. In this case, the inappropriate language is amusing.

It can be dangerous for a company to deviate from their tone of voice. Unless it’s a) done well and b) for a good reason.

If you pull it off you can make it really work for you. Like this ad for The Economist. Traditionally the Economist used a red background with simple white type on it. Here they changed one simple thing and created something much bigger – the advertising equivalent of synergy.

Full of surprises - rather!

Full of surprises – rather!

Tone of voice can seem simple. However it can be hard work to make sure that all your communications speak with the same voice. But it’s always worth doing. Brands that succeed do so in no small part thanks to getting their tone of voice right. But beware, simplicity can be deceptive. With hard work and diligence it’s achievable, and it can lead to great rewards for your brand (and your profit margins).

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