What is tone of voice in marketing?

May 19, 2023


John Thomas

The style and, specifically, the tone of voice you use in your communications and marketing play a role in how customers and prospects perceive your brand—and whether or not they open their wallets for you.

Take these two examples:

  • Our biggest sale ever: buy one, get one on all designer t-shirts. 

  • Biggest. Sale. EVER! It’s raining tees.

They convey the same message but with differing tones of voice that likely resonate with different audiences. 

This post will explore what tone of voice is, how you can use it to improve your marketing content, and offer some tips for defining your own tone of voice across all your channels.

What is a tone of voice in marketing?

Your tone (or tone of voice) in marketing is the personality and character that your brand conveys through its written communications. 

Your tone of voice is made up of word choice, sentence structure, and even punctuation, all of which ultimately impact how your audiences feel when interacting with your brand touch points and how they perceive your brand, products, and services.

Since most brands today use multiple platforms, formats, and channels to reach their audience (e.g., website, blog, email marketing, social media, etc.), a brand voice should be flexible enough to work across all of them but consistent and distinct enough that your audience can quickly identify it as coming from you.

Think of your tone of voice as part of your brand’s personality. It’s not just about what you say but how you say it. And just like with spoken language, the tone of your writing can vary depending on the situation. For example, you might use a more formal style when writing a press release than when composing a tweet.

Why is the tone of voice important?

Just like a public speaker who can use their voice to convey different emotions, a brand writer can use a tone of voice to make their words more relatable, persuasive, or memorable. The right tone can also help you:

Build trust with your audience 

A tone of voice that conveys professionalism, credibility, and expertise can help you build trust with your audience. It shows that you’re not just a faceless corporation, but an honest company made up of real people. And when your audience knows that they can trust your brand, they’re more likely to do business with you.

Differentiate your brand 

In a world where there are countless brands competing for attention, it’s crucial to find ways to stand out from the crowd. A strong tone of voice can help you do just that by making your brand more recognizable and memorable.

It can also make your content more engaging, allowing you to add personality and flair that would otherwise be absent. 

Connect with your audience 

People buy from brands they like, not just brands they need. A tone of voice that’s relatable, friendly, and down-to-earth will make it easier for your audience to connect with you on an emotional level that goes beyond the logical benefits of your product or service.

When readers develop this emotional connection to your brand, they’re more likely to become brand advocates and promote your business to their friends and family.

Make complex concepts more relatable

If you’re writing about complex concepts or ideas, a conversational tone can make them more relatable and easier to understand. Using a conversational tone, you can take what might otherwise be dry, jargon-filled content and make it more approachable. 

Nowadays, many people prefer social media for customer service because it feels more personal than going through a website or call center. Your content creation should reflect that same philosophy.

Simplify your content creation

Finally, tone can save you time in the long run by making it easier to produce consistent, high-quality content. If your team knows what to strive for in terms of tone, they can spend less time agonizing over each individual word and more time focusing on the overall message you’re trying to communicate.

In short, a strong tone of voice can make your marketing more effective, efficient, and engaging. 

Tone of voice examples

Setting the tone in marketing material is quite different from other writing types, such as novels or short stories. In those cases, authors have more freedom to be creative with their language and can use literary devices to convey a certain tone. 

A horror story might use dark and foreboding language to create a sense of dread, whereas a romance novel might use flowery language or metaphors to convey the passion between the two protagonists. 

In marketing, however, the goal is usually to be clear and concise rather than literary. That’s not to say that you can’t be creative with your language, but in general, you’ll want to avoid any language that could be confusing or off-putting to your audience.

Most content creation on the web adopts a tone that fits somewhere on the spectrum between casual and formal. Your specific tone will depend on your audience and the type of content you’re creating. Here are a few examples:

Friendly and conversational tones of voice

This type of tone is common in social media posts, blog articles, and email newsletters. It’s designed to sound like you’re talking to a friend, which makes it relatable and easy to understand. Think of a real-life conversation. You wouldn’t use overly formal language or jargon, so why would you do that in your content?

To achieve this tone, you can:

  • Use contractions (I’m, don’t, can’t)

  • Use short, simple sentences

  • Use an active voice

  • Use first or second-person point of view

Here’s an example of a friendly/conversational tone in action:

“Hey, thanks for subscribing to our newsletter! We know you’re busy, so we’ll only send you the most important news and updates. Promise.”

Informative tone of voice

An informative tone is akin to that of a news article. It’s designed to be clear and concise, without fluff or filler. This type of writing is common in how-to guides, product descriptions, and blog posts.

To achieve this tone, you can:

  • Use short, simple sentences

  • Avoid superfluous adjectives

  • Use an active voice

  • Use a third-person point of view

Here’s an example of an informative/factual tone in action:

“This product is made with 100% organic cotton and is free from toxic chemicals. It’s also Fair Trade certified, meaning it was made in accordance with strict international labor standards.”

Authoritative tone of voice

An authoritative tone is designed to make your audience trust and respect you. It’s common in whitepapers, ebooks, and blog posts. This type of tone is often used to position yourself as an expert on a particular topic.

Generally used in more “serious” industries like finance, law, or healthcare, an authoritative tone can come across as stuffy or boring if not used carefully. The key is to find a balance between sounding confident and approachable.

To achieve this tone, you can:

  • Use industry-specific jargon

  • Remain formal throughout

  • Keep a serious tone

  • Use a third-person point of view

Here’s an example of an authoritative/persuasive tone in action:

“Our law firm has successfully represented Fortune 500 companies in complex litigation matters for over 25 years. We have the experience and resources to handle any legal challenge, no matter how big or small.”

Humorous tone of voice

A humorous or sarcastic tone is, well, funny. It’s designed to make your audience laugh or at least smile. This tone is typically reserved for social media posts, ads, and email newsletters. However, some brands use humor in all of their content, regardless of the channel.

The key to effectively using a humorous tone is to ensure that your jokes are funny. What’s funny to you might not be funny to everyone else, so it’s essential to test out your jokes on a variety of people before hitting “publish.”

Consider doing the following to inject some humor into your content:

  • Use puns or play on words

  • Use pop culture references

  • Be self-deprecating

  • Use irony

An example of a humorous tone in action:

“We know you probably don’t have time to read this email because you’re too busy binge-watching the latest season of Stranger Things. So we’ll just get straight to the point: we’re having a sale!”

Enthusiastic or inspirational tones of voice

If you want your audience to get pumped up, an enthusiastic tone is a way to go. Whether you’re talking about eco-friendliness, the latest gadgets, or social justice, an enthusiastic tone will make your audience feel like they can make a difference.

To sound enthusiastic in your content, try to:

  • Use strong verbs (e.g., “save,” “help,” “change,” “improve”)

  • Use positive language

  • Be passionate about your topic

  • Use first or second-person point of view

Here’s an example of an enthusiastic/inspirational tone in action:

“Join our movement to save the bees! We need your help to raise awareness and funds for research. Together, we can make a difference.”

How to establish your tone of voice

Now that you understand what tone of voice is and how to use it in marketing content, it’s time to start thinking about establishing your company’s tone of voice. Remember, your tone of voice should be reflective of your brand’s overall personality.

As such, the first step in establishing your company’s tone of voice is to define your brand’s personality. To do this, answer the following questions:

  • What are your company’s core values?

  • What is your company’s mission statement?

  • Who is your target audience?

  • How do you want your target audience to feel after interacting with your brand?

Once you understand your brand’s personality well, you can start to think about which tone of voice would be the best fit. If you have writers on your team, it’s a good idea to have them experiment with different tones until you find one that feels right.

Finally, it’s important to be consistent in its use across all channels. That means if you typically use a formal, authoritative tone on your blog and social media, it might be off-putting to start telling jokes in your newsletter. However, there might be instances where the situation calls for a different tone.

For example, a typically-funny brand might want to use a more serious tone in the wake of a natural disaster or other tragedy. As long as you’re being consistent within the context, there’s nothing wrong with mixing things up once in a while. If your audience generally knows what to expect from you, you’re on the right track.

How to write in someone else’s voice?

In some cases, such as ghostwriting or copywriting, you might be asked to write in someone else’s voice. This can be a challenge, but it’s important to be able to capture the essence of a company’s tone while still maintaining your own writing style.

Here are a few tips for writing in someone else’s voice:

Do your research

You can learn a lot about a brand by reading their previous writing, listening to them speak, or even just observing their social media presence. Look for tell-tale linguistic quirks, such as the way they structure their sentences or the words they tend to use. The more you know about the person’s style, the easier it will be to capture their voice.

Put yourself in their shoes

When you’re writing, it’s important to think about the company’s goals and objectives. What are they trying to achieve with their content? How can you help them reach their target audience? By understanding the “why” behind the content, you’ll be able to better capture the voice.

Get feedback

Before you publish anything, it’s important to get feedback from the company. They need to make sure that the final product sounds like them. If they’re happy with it, then you know you’ve done your job.

Outsource your content writing for consistency

If you’re struggling to maintain a consistent tone of voice across all your channels, it might be time to outsource your content writing. At Draft, we scour the web for the best content writers so you don’t have to. Our skilled writers can help you capture your brand’s personality and communicate effectively with your target audience.

They’ll get to know your brand’s voice and produce high-quality, engaging content that meets your specific needs. 

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