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Tone of voice

I was hunting round for a good definition of tone of voice today when I remembered this great post from W+K London:

We don’t know who you are. So I guess that there is the first example of tone of voice, or lack of one. We have to guess from your email. So, assuming we’ve met on the street and you’re going to buy us a beer, forgive us for hesitating. We don’t know the first thing about you, except that you’re willing to invite strangers off the street for a drink. Why should we go with you? Your tone of voice might have convinced us. Without telling us who you are, we’re imagining, slightly scary, veering between demanding yet generous, maybe even on deadline for an advertising assignment. And you made a smiley face out of punctuation so Ben Everitt’s just left the room in disgust. Hmm.

Second thing we’ve learnt, these different types? Well, it's endless really. We’re here to communicate. And there are as many ways of saying things as there are things to say. Let's start with you. Imagine you’re a brand. Who are you? You’re speaking but no one's going to listen if they don’t know who you are. So in answer to your question, you can’t define the term ‘tone of voice’, you have to define yours. That means defining you- who are you, where have you come from, what are you about, what do you stand for? Then, you can say anything. Because it will be honest. If brands are companies and companies are humans, it's about speaking like one. This is basically why tone of voice is so important. It’s like an ad going, “Hey, kids, buy this, it's really cool” Kids are encouraged not to take things from strange adults. And rightly so. Or, a car salesman saying, “Buy my car!” Well he would, wouldn’t he? But if your best friend told you something he liked about the car that you didn’t know, you might get interested. So who is the car company, a bunch of guys like your friend or bunch of phoney car salesmen? Those people in the company surely work there because they like cars a little bit, maybe even a lot. That’s what you would tap into. And I guess that also means, when you ask about lots of different tones of voice, you can’t try them on like hats. If you’re an established bank it will sound strange if you start talking like a vodka brand. It's like those clear plastic bra straps…weirdly noticeable only because they’re trying so hard not to be.

That’s what we’ve seen here, sitting in on pitch meetings. These guys will spend the longest amount of time working out who the brand is before they try and say anything. It's pinned up on the wall, as soon as something feels right. If it doesn’t, it quickly gets pulled down. By the time it comes to writing ads they are all very clear on the tone of voice. And they also work very hard at making sure that tone of voice is unique. Inspiration comes from everywhere - a book, a song, an object, a quote. So while we’re enjoying the second round of these virtual beers (no offence, don’t think they’re going to catch on), there must be a million things you could tell us about you that we could relate to, or not, or at least persuade us to let you buy us another round. We like to laugh. Are you funny? Are you interesting? What do you do? Why are you interested in tone of voice? Can we have real beer?