There's a Story in your Voice

[this appeared first on cubesocial at]


If Twitter is a cocktail party, it’s one where the lights are down low. Like, it’s almost dark.

So now, in this hashtagged room, what we say (our ‘content’) and how we say it (our ‘tone’) become the strongest of our brand-signals.

And these 140 character or less gestures will lead some people (the ones we want to speak to) our way, and they’ll let some others know that we’re not for them.

Just like any real cocktail party (the ones I’ve been to anyway), there will be someone declaring their opinions loudly, forcefully and – if they can – from on top of a step they’ve found. And there will be people listening. There will also be someone speaking in a clear, quiet voice – intriguingly, perhaps conspiratorially – and there will be people listening to them, too.

The point is – we need to know our TOV, or Tone of Voice.  And this – like anything else we do in our businesses, with our brands – should be deliberate. Thought-through.


If we’ve had expert help in creating our brand guidelines, our TOV will already be encoded. If we haven’t – here’s two simple pointers.

Be distinct.

Just as Nicole Kidman would be horrified to step onto the Oscars red carpet in the same dress as Cate Blanchett, even if it is a marvellous little Dolce e Gabbana number – so, our brands’ ability to find a target, and become famous, must begin with distinctiveness. Our differentiation.

At its most sophisticated – this is part of Brand Positioning. Finding a sweet-spot, where we can be something meaningful to our clients, customers and consumers. Certain that this spot on their mental desktop is ours alone. We own it.

In the same way that Pepsi is forced to wear blue, because Coke stepped out first with an entirely red wardrobe, we must – at the very least – listen to the other voices in the room and select an alternative. Otherwise we are just flattering others with our mimicry, or we are white-noise.

The Quick Fix: try examining the Brand Archetypes – here’s one person’s take on these

(These are as crude as the Seven Basic Plots of Storytelling, but we’re being a bit crude here.)

Identify who the others are. Identify who you most naturally are. Maybe because you have an affinity with one of the brands they reference. Go with that one. Now we have a basis for our brand identity. And how we are going to speak.

And to those who say (and they do say) – “a distinctive Tone of Voice can alienate…”, I say “Good.”

Say it once, and say it loud: Brands Remove Choice. Brands are all about removing choice. Products increase choice, brands take it away again and in so doing, they help us to find what is right for us. And because someone has taken the time and effort to make it just right for us, we are prepared to reward them for that. With our loyalty. With more money.



Pick a Step.

We’re all familiar with the idea of ‘being talked-down-to.’ Well, when it comes to our TOV, just like that guy in the cocktail party, we have to decide how high to climb – relative to our audience.

The TOV steps look like this:

Here are three pieces of brand copy:

“It deserves a little respect” [Green & Black’s]                                                     PARENT

“One Day You Will” [Glenfiddich]                                                                             HIGHER AUTHORITY

“Hello. We make lovely natural fruit drinks…” [innocent smoothies]            CHILD

Sometimes, brands choose their step based on the norms – like luxury goods tend towards Higher Authority (“maybe, someday, you too could look like this”). Other times, they are electing to buck the norm. To make this one of their ‘rule-breaking’ points of difference.

Again. Make a choice.

So that your clients and consumers don’t have to.