What’s the point of tone of voice? With tight marketing budgets, can it really make any measurable impact on your business goals? Find out why defining your tone of voice and adapting it for local markets can make or break your international strategy.
It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. From Monzo’s clear, inclusive voice, to Apple’s casual self-assuredness and Nike’s bold motivational messaging, tone of voice has an impact. It makes global brands memorable and distinct.
A well-defined, consistent tone of voice builds authenticity and creates trust between your brand and your customers. 64% of consumers say that having shared values helps them build a trusted relationship with a brand. When customers trust you, they’ll buy from you too.
Tone of voice guides are often relegated to the end of a brand guidelines document, or ignored altogether. Some brands settle for a safer (but forgettable) tone, which has little impact on key business goals.
ChatGPT and similar platforms appear to be an easy fix – a speedy, low-effort way to create copy that fits your marketing needs. Some platforms, like CopyAI, even allow you to set up tone of voice parameters. These AI platforms crawl the internet to learn and gather information to write copy.
However, relying on AI content creation tools could risk losing a distinctive tone of voice. If a machine is writing your content for you, where’s the human touch?
To rely on the bare minimum, AI tools, or to ignore tone of voice altogether is to miss a great marketing opportunity. As budgets tighten, here’s the business case for an international tone of voice that will engage your global audiences – and keep your brand front of mind.
WHY A GLOBAL TONE OF VOICE?
An effective global tone of voice reflects your core brand identity and values. It’s one unified tone of voice, localized for maximum effectiveness and local cultural nuance in each of your international markets.
As with any element of an international marketing strategy, it’s not about taking a one-size-fits-all approach. Wittiness sounds different all over the world. For one of our clients, it was an essential part of their brand tone of voice. But they weren’t sure how it would resonate with their international audiences.
Insights from our team of local experts helped define what would work in each market so the brand could maintain a global tone with local appeal.
We identified the type of wittiness their various target audiences appreciated. Then, we reworked the brand’s global English tone of voice guidelines with market-specific advice and examples. The result: clear guidelines and a witty tone in every language.
Here’s why international brands need a global tone of voice:
1. IT’S PROFITABLE
Tone of voice can help you reach your international objectives, whether you’re launching in a new market, or expanding your brand within a certain region. To 88% of global consumers, trust in a brand is the third most important thing – and it’s more important than loving the brand itself. This is particularly relevant for younger consumers, 68% of whom consider brand trust to be more important now than it was in the past.
A consistent and unique tone of voice will improve a customer’s first impression of your brand and build trust. And it’ll help make your business instantly recognizable to your target audience.
Consistent and clear communications – in all areas of your business – also maintain this positive impression. When you’re scaling your activities in different markets, a reliable brand experience will make your expansion more efficient.
A global tone of voice is an important part of this. Knowing how you should sound in every market with clear guidelines and examples makes creating and localizing content easier for your local teams. And when it comes to customer comms and service, it’s reassuring to have a single, unified tone.
Importantly, a consistent tone of voice increases your performance as a brand – and can increase revenue by as much as 23%. When your customers trust you, clicks and purchases will follow.
2. IT MAKES AN IMPACT
An inconsistent tone of voice not only shakes customer confidence in your brand, it can detract from your overall brand experience and purpose. If you misjudge the tone you could become bland and forgettable, or miss the mark when communicating with your global audiences.
Here’s how to make sure your tone of voice stays impactful.
- Keep your tone of voice up-to-date with any changes to your company direction, brand values and vision.
- Make sure the guidelines are specific and easily actionable, especially for colleagues who aren’t natural writers. Include before and after examples to show your tone of voice in action across a variety of channels.
- Use training workshops (for all stakeholders) to embed the tone of voice as part of your company culture, with regular refresher sessions.
- Work with local markets to adapt the guidelines for their audience so your brand resonates with your international customers.
If you’re at the beginning of your international tone of voice journey, click here to find out where and how to start.
To be worthwhile, your tone of voice needs to be a living, breathing part of your brand’s DNA. And it needs to be adapted for relevance in your local markets.
3. IT’S PERFORMANCE-DRIVEN
The only way to find out if your tone of voice is having an impact is to measure its performance. There are two ways to do this:
INTERNAL USE OF TONE OF VOICE
First, carry out an internal audit on your tone of voice. Monitor content such as emails, presentations, social media, website updates and brochures to check for consistency. How are they measuring up against your tone of voice checklist?
Check that local learnings have been taken on board and implemented by your regional teams. If you identify any weaknesses, run a refresher workshop to provide further support.
IMPACT ON BUSINESS GOALS
Once your global tone of voice is in good shape across your company and markets, you should measure its impact on your business goals.
It can seem challenging to connect your tone of voice directly to sales, but there are metrics you can look at to identify its impact:
- Increased engagement on social media, e.g. likes, shares, comments and click-throughs.
- Stronger website performance, e.g. longer time on page, lower bounce rate, more conversions.
- Improved scorecards for call centre customer service.
- Qualitative data in website surveys.
- A/B testing old content against the new tone of voice in paid media copy.
- Improved engagement with customers in international markets.
Set KPIs for your tone of voice. If it’s not meeting those targets, keep tweaking it until it does. Regularly survey internal stakeholders and external customers in all your markets. Once you’ve got your tone right, your customers will value how you communicate with them, and you’ll start seeing the impact on your business goals.
When it comes to your global tone of voice, you get out what you put in. It may seem tempting to stick to basic, low-effort guidelines, or simply to use your domestic tone of voice in all your markets. But you’re in danger of ending up with a bland, or even confused brand.
AI copywriting tools can be useful, but will only take you so far. To rely completely on them could risk losing personality and individuality in a brand’s tone of voice.
Instead, an upfront investment in your tone of voice – combined with ongoing training, local adaptation and measurement – will add value and help achieve your international marketing goals.
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