Brand Tone of Voice: The New Frontier
They say a picture's worth a thousand words, but we can say a word in a thousand ways, and each of them can transmit a different feeling and emotion. The intensity, volume, speed, frequency, tone, and more all help spoken words carry different meanings. With that said, it's essential to reflect on the use of tone of voice in branding. There's been little discussion about the need to start thinking about what should be a brand's sound identity in those environments where sound plays a critical role.
As time changes, needs change. From a creative and branding perspective, the time where brands had control over their identity manuals, Pantone colors, or closed formats is over. Today is now more fluid, and brands need to adapt to it. The next frontier is the tone of voice.
What's the brand tone of voice?
In a branding process, the tone of voice is a critical component for maintaining consistency in its values over time. It helps to fit or mold different activation campaigns or other materials and transmit this essence in a unified, compelling way.
A great example of a company that turned its brand tone and personality into one of its communicative pillars was beverage brand Innocent. They created messaging with their relaxed tone that broke with everything that was out on the market when they emerged in the mid-'90s. They even had their music festival, Fruitstock, that was a smashing success. Coca-Cola acquired them soon after them but never changed even a small part of their brand voice.
Now, more than ever, it's critical to work in this area to give brands a sound identity and give their voices a personality. A rhythm, tone, way of speaking, sounds to guide it, etc.
Because what happens when you close your eyes and think about a brand? What comes to your mind first? Few branding projects today have their sounds, (spoken) voice, and the music that identifies them in environments where there are no visual aids to support their message.
We're talking about VUI (Voice User Interface), or VUX (Voice User Experience) applied to virtual assistants, podcasts, ringtones, in-app sounds, music in a customer service call, robot tone of voices, sounds or own music to play in stores, fairs, or exhibits, etc.
Virtual assistants are one of the markets driving VUX most. People are talking with their phones, speakers, tablets, or TVs, more. A Gartner study projects that 30% of all Internet searches will be voice. In these interactions where brands will be increasingly more present, we must search for differentiating voices and sounds.
Examples of differentiating tones of voice
Nonetheless, this isn’t anything new. The market that best understands this is videogames where all brands have their audio logo or signature sounds that have as a goal to seize a space in the hearts and minds of gamers everywhere. I’m sure many of you remember the Xbox sound and it automatically takes people to long afternoons of games:
We also find brands that have spent years working on their sound identity, such as the UEFA work the famous Champions League hymn that plays before every match. The song creates an atmosphere and excites the fans. Whether you're a soccer fan or not, you'll surely recognize it:
We also have the case of Spain's LaLiga soccer league, following the UEFA's steps with a piece from famous composer Lucas Vidal. It mixes the beat of 90 babies, the applause from fans, and a melody played by oboes, trumpets, and voices.
What cases will we see in the future? We'll surely see more brands follow this path and start to take the tone of voice and sound identity into consideration in their branding strategy. Images won't always accompany voice, and we need to be able to create a recognizable style capable of connecting to users that create renown. Now's the moment to start working on it. Let's talk?