When it comes to web content, what you say and how you say it are both essential to brand identity.
Just like us, all of your current and potential customers, clients, partners, and website visitors are humans, and it’s plain old human nature to personify the brands we interact with. Consider this: Each time we encounter a business online, we’re forming an impression of who they are, what they do, and whether or not they’re a good match for our own wants, needs, and goals. Thinking about this process in terms of personification can help make the process of establishing your brand voice and tone much easier.
Meet your new friend Cindy.
Interacting with a new brand is just like meeting someone for the first time. After being introduced to Cindy—by recommendation from a friend, on social media, or in a random search—we start to form a first impression about who she is as a person. We do this without thinking too much about the process, taking our cues from what she says, how she speaks and behaves, and what we have in common.
Like Cindy, a brand can influence the impression they make on someone by paying careful attention to the way they express themselves to new friends and prospective customers.
Brand voice is your brand’s personality and character.
Just from the Wyoming CAT homepage headlines in the example below, we can get a feel for the brand's personality: rugged, trustworthy, service-oriented, and dependable.
See this messaging and design on WyomingCAT.com.
Brand tone is the feeling and spirit of your messaging.
Here, we delivered the core messaging Cancer Research Organization wanted to communicate, but adjusted our brand tone to fit the audience to which it was directed (potential fundraisers/donors).
See this messaging and design on cancerresearch.org.
We encourage visitors to donate, but we share that message by speaking in a way that is sincere, motivational, and urgent, without being pushy or raising alarm. This brand tone is achieved through careful word choice tailored to how we want the audience to feel: avoiding complex terminology, adding 'high-impact' and 'critical' to stress the importance of a fundraising and donor involvement.
Consistency is essential to making brand voice and tone work.
Thinking back on our new friend Cindy illustrates the importance of a consistent brand voice and tone. If Cindy acts cool and calm on first meeting, impassioned and enthusiastic during the second encounter, and stoic and serious the next, we’re bound to have a hard time forming a solid opinion about her. Namely, we won’t feel as though we really know or trust her—and that’s the biggest problem of all.
That’s why establishing consistency in brand voice and tone is so crucial to creating effective content. The delivery of core brand messaging sets expectations about what a website visitor can expect when doing business with you. Consistency of voice and tone satisfies user expectations, and communications that stray from that original identity can detract from the trustworthiness of your brand.
Don't create another webpage, ad, or post without setting (or revisiting) your brand's content guidelines. Establish clear, consistent voice and tone to take control of the way your brand is perceived.