Brands consistently underestimate how significant tone of voice can be when it comes to achieving their goals. Deployed successfully, a good tone of voice can promote customer engagement, and make a brand seem more approachable. Customers are more likely to use tone of voice to judge whether a brand is likeable or not and it can certainly make your brand more memorable.
Tone of voice is, all too often, a neglected element of an organisation’s overall marketing strategy. And that’s just for consumer brands. It tends to be even more neglected by B2B brands, which is a huge mistake.
Whether you’re a B2C or B2B brand, you’ll be selling to human beings and human beings respond to signals that convey personality, including pitch, tone and volume. In marketing terms, that means how you’re communicating through all your channels. Getting the tone of voice right for your B2B company can increase buyer confidence that your brand is the right fit for their business and that you really understand them and their specific issues.
A tone of voice needs to speak confidently about what it knows. If your brand is clear and compelling enough you’ll convey confidence in what you’re talking about; an approach guaranteed to resonate with your audience.
When your brand conveys confidence, it amplifies your marketing messages and transmits that confidence to your audience. That’s vital for B2B marketing when you need to give buyers the confidence they’re making the right choice for their business.
Transcreating your tone of voice
Taking your brand overseas requires you to really reconsider your tone of voice. If you’re speaking to a new audience it’s vital to rethink how your brand personality is going to come across. Don’t expect to just translate the language – it’s highly likely the tone of voice approach you take will also need reworking so that it’s successful at reaching a new audience in a different culture.
That’s even true if you aren’t translating content into a new language. Take the difference between the UK and the US. A tone of voice that works well in the US might come across as aggressive in the UK. Despite the shared language, the degree of salesmanship that’s acceptable is very different in the two markets.
If you’re talking about products or services that have any element of sensitivity, you may also need to recalibrate your language to respect cultural differences. The US is in some ways more conservative than the UK and that’ll need to be respected in your prose.
There are some other things to consider if you’re entering a market that’s very different from your home market. Does the local audience have the same reference points as your home audience, and are their expectations the same about how they use your product or service?
Some markets have different expectations for activities such as eating outside the home and put greater consideration into buying certain types of products. Those expectations and levels of investment need to be respected with a tone of voice that answers their specific needs.
Different markets certainly tolerate different degrees of formality or informality. Some audiences are more open to brands being pally with them; others expect greater distance and formality.
How Transcreation Can Help Brands Reach International Audiences
Some audiences tend to be more open to instruction about how to use products than others while some are more inclined to cynicism about product claims. All these factors need to be reflected in your brand’s tone of voice.
Some audiences feel more confident buying products and services in certain categories than others. The degree of consumer experience plays an important role in many of these aspects. In established markets, consumers are likely to be more confident and need less reassurance and instruction. Audiences that are relatively inexperienced consumers may need the opposite approach.
Ultimately your tone of voice needs to answer the question – how do you want your brand to make people feel? Getting to the point of affecting people emotionally is a culturally-specific journey and you need to understand all the cultural nuances of your target market before you try rewriting your tone of voice.
The best and most reliable way to do this is using people that have intimate knowledge of the cultural environment your brand is entering. That’s as true for B2B as it is for B2C – you’ll need to have an understanding of business culture in the new market you’ve entered if you’re to get the tone of voice right.
Managing tone of voice
Your first step to managing your tone of voice is to give it the respect that it deserves. Bring it out from a dusty corner of your marketing strategy and give it a seat at the table. Your tone of voice needs to be expressed in a document that’s written using your tone of voice, covers all instances where it may be expressed and leaves no room for confusion or lack of guidance.
Invest time in working out the global and local approach your tone of voice needs to take to give you a recognisable personality that works well in all of your markets. And make sure the relevant documentation and any supporting materials are available to anyone that needs them within your organisation.
It’s also vital to get the stakeholder buy-in that’s essential to get copy signed off quickly in all your global locations. The best way to do this is by really explaining why you’re taking the approach that you have chosen with your tone of voice.
It’s important that the style is accepted right across your operations – if it isn’t then you may have a bigger – buy-in problem that needs addressing. And then you need to train your teams. It’s particularly important to train teams that are writing consumer-facing content on a regular basis but really everyone working for your organisation needs to understand how to express the brand’s unique voice across all its functions and channels.
Once you’ve identified the tone of voice in each market, it’s time to apply it right across your operations. The right way to do this is to use it on every brand communication.
It’s really common to see brands that have some content in their tone of voice and then anything ‘serious’ in standard dull and legalistic prose.
For example, product pages and labelling will be written in a well-expressed tone of voice style that’s clearly been carefully considered, but scratch below the surface and you’ll find the other content written in standard lawyer’s speak; unintelligible to the average reader and certainly no reflection on your individual brand.
A really effective tone of voice can be applied all over your brand’s content, no matter how serious it might be.
A great example of this is Monzo bank. The online-only bank openly discusses its own tone of voice to its customers and make the effort to clear terms and conditions and privacy policies that aren’t jargon-heavy.
But cultivating and managing a tone of voice that’s unique and relatable, across multiple markets, is no easy feat.
If you’re confident in your B2B brand’s tone of voice and considering entering a new market, the most prudent approach would be to seek counsel with an in-country reviewer or partner with a reputable language service provider who understands the complexities of tone of voice in different markets.