B2B Creativity

September 15, 2013

I’m not sure I like the tone of your voice…

By Simon No comments

As a copywriter I’m regularly bumping into Tone of Voice guidelines. Every client has a set and the problem I have with them is that they’re all the same. Pick a set at random and I bet all the familiar words and phrases will be there – adult to adult, professional, human, conversational, no jargon, no business speak.

So, I ask a question. Is it possible for today’s B2B brands to differentiate themselves through tone of voice? Logos, colours, look and feel, images, they’re all relatively easy to “own”, but how can you “own” a tone of voice when everyone is, prudently, in the same territory?

In Yes, Prime Minister (if you’ve never watched it, do so now) amidst a discussion about cutting the defence budget, an advisor suggests amalgamating all the armed forces music schools, on the grounds that there can’t possibly be a “Royal Naval method of playing bassoon”. The same is true of B2B brands. Surely there’s only one sensible way to describe products and services? Do it clearly in language everyone can understand. Make your headlines intriguing and challenging, make your copy engaging and interesting to read. State what you’re offering and explain why it should help. Most important of all, make it read as though it was written by a human being. With apologies to Abraham Lincoln, we want copy by the people, for the people. Surely this is how any sane, competent writer would do it? And do we need guidelines to do it, probably not.

Now if a brand comes along with the express intention of sounding pompous, patronising and smug, I’d love to read their tone of voice guidelines. I’m sure I wouldn’t agree with them, but at least they’d be different to everyone else’s and guaranteed to set the brand apart.

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