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We've all been there. Someone's upset you, but you can't figure out why. When you think about it, they didn't say anything awful. So what could it be? Well, it's probably the way they said it.
Tone counts for so much. Go on any social media platform for say, around 20 seconds, and you’ll see a fight break out over what someone’s said. A sentence that could be said in a sarcastic, teasing or frivolous manner in real life, suddenly turns into Bullying 101 online.
Our tone defines us and gives people a way to understand what we say when we say it. Look around your office, and you’ll have the grumpy one. The dopey one. The happy one. The sleepy one. The intellectual one. So, if the grumpy one has a moan at you, you’re unlikely to take it personally. But if the kindest person you know is a bit miffed about something, you act fast.
So, it’s no surprise that the most successful and memorable brands put so much effort into crafting their tone of voice. It defines their personality, their vision, and the relationships they want with their customers.
Now you’re forgiven if you think I’m about to mention that smoothie-selling, smooth-talking drinks brand. Let’s face it, when people talk about tone of voice, it’s the first one that springs to mind. And yes, while it’s nothing but genius, there are many other brands having brilliant conversations.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of weeks, you’ll know all about the Legendary KFC Chicken Shortage. From 999 calls to newspaper headlines, us Brits know how to react to a bargain bucket-less week.
Courtesy of its agency, Mother, and its UK CMO, Meghan Farren, KFC delivered an apology that won over the nation. Its tone of voice is fresh, honest and pithy, and the subtle tweak to its logo is bold, brave and altogether relatable. It put a spin on the whole event that’ll have people remembering it for so much more than the week they had to settle for Tesco-own chicken nuggets. Why? Because it sounds like the sort of apology people want to hear when a business messes up. None of this condescending fluff. It’s real speak that really gets to the heart of what went wrong.
A bank? In an article about tone of voice? Really?
Well, yeah. First Direct are absolutely rocking their tone and branding. With Instagram stories that people watch and OOH ads that use refreshingly simple copy, First Direct has earnt its placed in the ToV hall of fame.
As to why it works so well, the clue’s in the name. The tone is direct. It’s charming in its simplicity. And in a sector that isn’t known for its transparency, it’s a welcome relief for brains frazzled by financial jargon.
The reason First Direct shines is its consistency. It’s not one tone of voice for the fun advertising stuff, then back to buzzwords for letters and contracts. From web copy to official banking documents, First Direct maintains its tone of voice.
Netflix. Source of the term binge-watching. Origin of shows that shape pop culture. Place of brilliant social media exchanges.
When Stranger Things first hit our screens, we all got a bit obsessed. And when a pop-up bar in the US used a Stranger Things theme without seeking permission first, Netflix didn’t go in all guns blazing. Instead, its legal team sent a cease and desist letter that’ll go down in history.
It’s a wonderful example of using tone of voice in every situation and not just when it’s easy. Netflix came out brilliantly in the exchange, and the guys running the bar could finish what they started, without fearing for their life-savings.
We’ve got a number of surprises that we can’t wait to reveal. And one of them includes a brand spanking new tone of voice. So, watch out for an upcoming article about how we did it and why we did it.
And, as ever, if you want a refresh on your tone or think it could be applied across your marketing more consistently – you know where we are.
(* – and as the song goes, that’s what get results. And with a tone of voice that works for your business – it really does.)