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 have a memorable tone of voice is to be funny. However, there aren’t many brands who can consistently pull off humour without coming off as cringey or try-hard.
Humour is subjective, too, of course, meaning what makes one person ‘LOL’ will make another facepalm. Overall, though, the brands that do it well tend to be confident, consistent, and entirely unapologetic. Here are just four examples to appreciate.
Selling a range of baby and pregnancy-related products, Fridababy describes itself as a “solution-based brand. The 411 of parenting. The who-do-I-call-in-the-middle-of-the-night-cause-my-baby-won’t-stop-screaming brand.”
This pretty much sums up its direct and darkly humorous tone of voice, which is essentially the opposite of most baby brands (which tend to be overly cutesy and sentimental).
Image via Fridababy.com
With products like ‘the buttwasher’ and ‘the gasspasser’, Fridababy’s tone of voice is unmistakeable, promoting the reality of parenting and pregnancy throughout its website and its marketing.
Indeed, even though CEO and president Chelsea Hirschhorn has described Fridababy as the “non-Instagram-worthy part of parenthood”, its social media is awash with relatable humour, appealing to new parents with its witty and sarcastic tone.
Bakery chain Greggs has perfected its tone of voice in recent years, delighting social media followers with its decidedly British sense of humour.
Greggs tackles snobbery by championing its products and the people who love them, as well as chatting about everyday British culture. This contributes to a Twitter feed that is consistently funny and engaging.
Some classic Greggs:
The road trip Greggs
The morning after the night before Greggs
The waiting for my train Greggs
The Friday office lunch Greggs
The I’m running late but never mind Greggs
The post-gym Greggs
The just because Greggs
— Greggs (@GreggsOfficial) February 21, 2020
Greggs also generates engagement on social media by bantering with other public figures – particularly with those who dare to diss the brand. The most notable example of this has been Piers Morgan, of course, who ironically helped the brand to create further awareness about its now-legendary vegan sausage roll.
Oh hello Piers, we've been expecting you
— Greggs (@GreggsOfficial) January 2, 2019
Interestingly, Greggs takes a different approach on Facebook, creating effective visual gags that are designed to catch the attention as people scroll through their feed.
Effective tone of voice requires the brand to completely understand its target audience. Paddy Power is definitely aware of this. 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).
Fair play to Arsenal, who are doing their best to make sure fans won't be disappointed if the UK Govt decides people shouldn't attend football matches anymore.#ARSWHU
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) March 7, 2020
Paddy Power is also known for pushing the boundaries in its marketing campaigns, which are typically based around topical and often divisive topics. In 2019, for example, Paddy Power erected billboards in Dublin poking fun at Brexit ahead of Ireland’s Six Nations rugby clash with England.
The brand also transformed its Baggot Street retail store into ‘Paddy Power’s Passport Office’, on the back of the supposed surge in applications from UK citizens eligible for Irish passports due to Brexit.
It also does some pretty amusing stuff on Twitter, using its wry humour to poke fun at well-known sportsmen and industry figures.
Once again Pep Guardiola gets his tactics wrong in a big game.
A scarf when it’s pissing it down? That’s just going to soak up the moisture; be dead heavy now.
Overthinking it once again. pic.twitter.com/su13HBGmBp
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) March 8, 2020
Netflix has become one of those brands that you can rely on for a bit of a chuckle on social media. Its tone of voice is not particularly outlandish or controversial; instead it uses smart, subtle, and relatable humour to engage its target audience.
It is also particularly clever in how it uses its own content (i.e. TV and film) as the basis for most of its jokes, which means it is always able to highlight what is currently streaming. However, its conversational style (particularly on Twitter) means that it never feels overly promotional.
haven't checked, but going to assume Netflix's official line on whether the moon landing actually happened is: yep
— Netflix UK & Ireland (@NetflixUK) March 4, 2020
Finally, Netflix also cleverly weaves its fun and humorous tone of voice into its creative GIFS and memes, which tend to be among its most popular style of content.