In an increasingly competitive global landscape, your brand needs to stand out from the crowd. To do this it needs to have a clear personality that customers can identify and which is embodied through its tone of voice. Your tone of voice helps convey your brand’s mission, encapsulating your values and reinforce your market position through every encounter with the customer. It’s the sum total not only of what you say but how you say it and through which channels.
The reason you should invest into your tone of voice is simply that many other companies don’t. It gives your brand an advantage by helping differentiate it from the competition. Having a clearly defined tone of voice helps you scale and grow because it helps introduce your business and its values to new audiences. A good tone of voice can help you stake out your territory in a new market by showing how you’re different from the crowd.
Finding your tone of voice
Define your tone of voice by exploring what’s unique about the way you do business in any market. You might like to start with the deeper brand values, such as what basic human value your brand offers, whether it’s a social or spiritual need. A motorbike brand might offer freedom, a smoothie company might put sustainability at its core. You must then consider your brand’s personality. Is it formal or informal, pushy or relaxed, factual and concise or chatty? How will you use humour?
To assess whether you’ve succeeded at creating the right TOV, try covering up your logo. Do your brand values still shine out from your content? It’s a good way to gauge whether you’ve managed to express that personality through your communication style alone.
A well-researched tone of voice can help you meet the needs and expectations of audiences around the world. Your tone of voice will probably need to be adapted for different markets to serve specific local cultural expectations. A highly informal tone of voice may succeed in casual Australia but you may need to adjust your approach for the Japanese market where even brands are expected to speak respectfully. If you want your brand to come across as friendly you’ll need to adapt your tone of voice for these two markets to ensure it’s always received as you intend.
Bringing British quirkiness to the US
Boden is one brand that’s used its tone of voice to power it to success overseas. At home, this UK catalogue clothing company uses its tone of voice guidelines to bring consistency to its presence across print and online channels. Overseas, it has helped the brand differentiate itself in the crowded clothing market by helping customers recognise its strong British identity and unique values. Boden does this by consistently using a playful, chipper and highly personal tone across all of its communications.
The brand also has a strong visual element to its tone of voice. Location shoots are often in rainy London locations and the company doesn’t change these visuals for overseas markets. The company remains visually British wherever it goes. It’s an approach that’s worked well in the US. Here the company has enjoyed strong growth particularly on the west coast and areas including California. In marketing terms, Boden has cultivated a strong British ‘accent’
in the US in order to retain its identity. This won’t be the right choice for all brands – some find it more effective to tone down their foreign identity in overseas markets – but it’s clearly worked well for Boden.
Adapting your tone of voice for overseas markets
When you bring your brand to a new market, you don’t need to change its personality. What you do need to do is consider how best to express that personality so that it is received as you intend it to be received. If you want your brand to come across as friendly or direct, gritty or individualistic that may mean very different things to different audiences. You may need to adapt your tone of voice to create the desired effect based on local cultural values.
Once you’ve pinned down your brand personality, your next challenge is creating useable tone of voice guidelines to ensure this personality is used consistently across all areas of your business. In foreign language markets you’ll need to produce guidelines so local marketing teams or translation partners can convey your brand personality as you intend to any language audience. A useable set of guidelines will really help convey your brand’s personality to new audiences and help it grow.
It’s also of the utmost importance that you work with an agency with local market and retail expertise that can provide you with localisation and transcreation – services that are best suited to adapting your brand’s tone of voice across markets and languages.
If you can get it right, your tone of voice is what gives you brand its wings in international markets. Find a way to express your personality so that audiences can get to know your brand and what it stands for wherever they are in the world.
Contributed by: TranslateMedia