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Tone of voice (ToV) is extremely important when you’re trying to build a distinctive brand. It’s the personality of your business. The thing people will remember you by.
One way to to have a memorable ToV is to be funny, but there aren’t many brands who can consistently pull it off without subsequent cringing on the audience's part.
In this post I’m going to cover four that can.
Innocent is arguably the global benchmark for consistent ToV.
Its strapline, ‘We make natural, delicious drinks that help people live well and die old’, pretty much sums things up.
When you enter the homepage you’re immediately hit with Innocent’s informal, easy-going way of talking.
The navigation menu is a perfect example of this, using words and phrases such as ‘things we make’, ‘us’ and ‘bored?’.
Sometimes it can go wrong for brands when they try to deviate from the bog-standard menu labels.
You tend to think, ‘What the hell am I actually clicking on here?’ But in this case, notwithstanding ‘Bored?’, it’s still obvious what they lead to.
If you scroll down to the bottom of the page you can see the ToV again in the contact information, a section of a site that is not generally associated with entertainment value.
Aside from the fact that Innocent’s office is called ‘Fruit Towers’, it refers to the ‘bananaphone’ under the contact us section and uses colloquial language such as ‘useful stuff’.
Under the ‘things we make’ section of the site, not only is there some stunning product imagery, there are also further examples of playful language (‘no funny business’).
This is the Innocent Drinks timeline/history. As you can see it doesn’t take itself too seriously...
Finally, it’s worth mentioning the blog content. It’s ridiculous. In a good way.
The most recent post teaches you what a penguin is. This has nothing to do with the Innocent product but everything to do with its brand.
Some of my favourite examples of Innocent’s ToV actually appear on its packaging.
Thankfully it has a gallery of its best past packaging efforts on its site, so I didn’t have to try too hard to find examples.
You can’t talk about Innocent’s ToV without mentioning its Twitter account. Hats off to whoever runs it because it’s genuinely hilarious.
That photo from our newsletter led us to search for more stock images of people at water coolers. It's a goldmine. pic.twitter.com/G8c3YZQfyF— innocent drinks (@innocent) January 8, 2016
Monty calls his agent. "An old man sitting on a bench? I could have nailed that, Jeff. It's well within my range." The line goes dead.— innocent drinks (@innocent) November 6, 2015
And Innocent uses the same ToV to influence plenty of visually creative stuff, too.
Monopoly rage over time. pic.twitter.com/3awxTUgP6f— innocent drinks (@innocent) December 26, 2015
Turns out, raspberries make grape beards. pic.twitter.com/1oXXxrGzl2— innocent drinks (@innocent) December 18, 2015
Effective ToV requires the brand to completely understand its target audience. Paddy Power is definitely aware of this.
Only by categorically knowing it would go down well could you have the confidence to write ‘Last one to sign up for a Paddy Power account is a twat’ on a banner ad.
The general tone is laddish, colloquial, the way you would talk to your mates in the pub while drinking a big manly beer and watching big manly sport (which you’ve put a bet on, obviously).
It also does some pretty amusing stuff on Twitter, such as the time a guy called Steve texted its social media manager by mistake and the whole thing became a very public prank.
Right, I've blocked out Steve's number because I'm sound that way. Help me out Twitter, what do I reply? pic.twitter.com/dysztl8Utf— Paddy Power (@paddypower) August 9, 2014
Paddy Power regularly rips the piss out of famous sportspeople.
Fabian Delph is not exactly sure how Snapchat works...https://t.co/MBxCXfmT4C— Paddy Power (@paddypower) January 20, 2016
This one genuinely made me laugh, despite not knowing who any of the players are and never having watched an entire game of football outside the World Cup.
Underpinned by the slogan ‘The man your man could smell like’, Old Spice’s mascots come in the form of ‘Old Spice guys’ Terry Crews and Isaiah Mustafa, the former being stereotypically masculine and the latter being comically charming.
But it’s not just the iconic Old Spice guys who gets to have all the fun, as this mock infomercial video clip shows:
As you can see there is an element of bizarreness to the content along with the humour.
You can see further evidence of this through Old Spice's Instagram video content.
The Old Spice Twitter feed is full of more satirical swipes at overt masculinity, again reflecting the general ToV across all of its marketing channels.
Ward off burglars by putting Old Spice in your stockings. Upon searching, they’ll see a man lives there and be scared away.— Old Spice (@OldSpice) December 22, 2015
I’ve included Firebox mainly for its product descriptions, which are excellent.
Below is the product copy for its London Underground Tube Tent:
The product copy for its stuffed blobfish is another example of Firebox's informal and very British ToV.
This ToV is present in other parts of the site, too, such as the FAQs section.
I like the example below, asking people who’ve changed their mind about a product, ‘How could you?!’
Or this one where Firebox empathises with the fact that waiting for ordered items can leave you ‘sweaty, breathless, and wanting more’.
If you want to create and/or sharpen your own brand's tone of voice…
Check out these posts: