IXD103 Week 1- Brand Ideals and Tone of Voice

I found our session on brand ideals and tone of voice to be really interesting as I haven’t looked at branding in such a structured way before. Generally, I will find out what the clients business is and what services/products they are offering as well as who their target audience is and use that information to make a decision around the tone of voice myself.

Sean Adams- Brand Research Thumbnail

As Sean Adams talks about in his LinkedIn learning video on branding research I have the tendency to jump into sketches and doodles of what the logo might look like almost immediately. However, as stated by Adams before the design begins research needs to take place into the current brand strategy, competition, audience, goals and strengths and weaknesses. Adam’s advises getting this information verbally from a variety of people working for the company that requires feedback from the CEO to the delivery driver. In my case, I’ve only worked with sole traders and small startups so conversations have generally only taken place between me and the company owner however this is definitely something to be considered when working with larger companies especially those with a well-established brand. While employee feedback won’t be used to direct design decisions it will demonstrate the employees understanding of a brand and whether this aligns with how the brand is intended to be understood. An interesting point made here and discussed in our session was on tone of voice and the importance of consistency across all mediums and through each department of a company (e.g. communicated by all employees). The importance of this really jumps out at me as if there are vast differences between the sales and customer services tone of voice it is understandable that this may confuse and annoy customers and lead to their dissatisfaction with the service they are being provided.

Another important consideration is looking at the competition their process and unique selling points in order to have a clear understanding of industry standards of communication in a variety of areas and where they might be improved. This along with identifying the target audience and always reverting back to the core information on values, goals and promised provided by the CEO will work together in helping me achieve a clear and effective tone of voice that will hopefully be maintained throughout the company.

Linguistic Register

I think a great start to identifying a tone of voice is by placing it on the linguistic register e.g. Frozen, Formal, Consultative, Casual or Intimate. For the most part, it will be fair to assume that the linguistic register of any company will fall under Formal or Consultative. In the case of my brand, I want to be primarily based within the consultative register as I feel maintaining a slightly more informal yet respectful tone will be helpful in building long terms positive relationships with clients and encourage them to promote my design services to others and return to me if the required. It is also interesting to note that humour can play an important role and companies may tap into casual and even intimate linguistic registers as a means of adding humour and personality to a brand as seen in the example below:

Image of soap packaging

I think this can be a really effective approach to branding and tone of voice when done properly and personally love to see humour in branding.

Brand Dictionary

Another helpful tool in approaching branding and generating a clear tone of voice is creating a brand dictionary. A brand dictionary is simply a list of words that help to define the brand. In the case of my personal brand words, I would like to include in my brand dictionary are creative, interesting, fun, clear, strong and dependable.


Cover of Think like a Copywriter

Think Like a Copywriter

In Alastaire Allday’s Think Like a Copywriter he runs through several exercises that help to improve writing skills by teaching readers to unlearn the bad habits they’ve picked up. I have included a couple of exercises that I found particularly helpful below.

Never close a pitch with a question particularly why not it immediately gives the customer the opportunity to reject you also never use just before a price

Exercise 1

Write down 3 pieces of your favourite copy along with what you don’t like about it.

1.Carlsberg “Probably the best beer in the word”

It could be considered silly and lacking confidence

2. McDonald’s “I’m lovin’ it”

 The phrase lovin’ rather than loving could be considered annoying. It might prompt the reader to disagree.

3. Spoof Ikea “We through in extra parts just to mess with you”

Might not be taken as humorous.

4. Nike “Just do it”

Could be considered as demanding or pushy

5. Tesco “Every little helps”

It may be considered cliched particularly if competitors are offering better savings. 

If found this exercise to be a very interesting approach to critiquing writing as it’s easy to critique writing you don’t like but not just as easy to critique something you do. By completing this exercise I now feel more confident about critiquing my own writing.


Exercise 2

My ideal customer: sole trader/ startup owner that is very enthusiastic about their brand and see the importance of having good branding. (As sole traders and startups are a little open-ended I selected copy from leading star up websites. However, most of these examples are B2B and which might not fit with sole traders.)

1. Go all in on messaging- Cue the confetti—Zendesk messaging is here to help deliver rich conversational experiences connected across your web, mobile and social apps. It’s easy to automate and fast to scale for every customer need—and it’s all part of our new Zendesk Suite.

Might be considered as overselling e.g. cue the confetti, every customer need- seems unlikely

2. Before Basecamp: You’re wondering how you’ll quickly transition your team to remote work. People are stressed, work feels scattered, projects are slipping, and it’s tough to see + manage everything. After Basecamp: Soon you’ll be feeling like ”hey, we got this”. Everything will be organized in one place, your team will be working together (even though they’re apart), you’ll be on top of things, and a sense of calm will set in.

Might be considered as talking down to the customer and doesn’t actually highlight what makes their service better than competitors

3. We’re A Digital Marketing Agency in Singapore That Drives Piping Hot Leads & Fresh Sales To Your Business 24/7

Piping-hot leads- could again be considered as overstating e.g. do they have a qualifying process of what makes a lead a hot lead and fresh sales could be considered as an unnecessary way of stating sales.

This writing exercise has encouraged me to really consider my target audience and the type of writing styles that appeals to them. It’s also helped me to think critically when trying to appeal to my target audience which I think will be helpful in future with allowing me to distinguish a “salesy”/cheesy feel when it’s creeping into my own writing so that I can cut it out.


Helpful Tips

Other helpful pointers provided by Allday were; think critically, take inspiration from others but establish your own style, use a unique and honest tone of voice and stand out from the crowd by offering something new.

What I have taken from this and hope to incorporate into the copy of my own brand is, to look for something good to say about my services and strive for a simple, honest and direct message.

Another suggestion was to draw inspiration from the slogan “Does what it says on the tin” For me, this might be something like a design student that can create a beautiful website for a reasonable price.

Allday also labours the point of not following the crowd quoting Grod0n Gekko “People are sheep, and sheep get slaughtered” and therefore it’s important that once I have established the groundwork of my brand and mastered the fundamentals of copywriting to try to add a unique feel to my approach.

Other helpful tips included: Never close a pitch with a question particularly why not it immediately gives the customer the opportunity to reject you,  never use just before a price, figure out who you’re writing for and be distinctive.


What have I learnt?

  • Always conduct thorough research into the brand, competitors and consistency of messaging at the beginning of every branding project.
  • Identify the linguistic register at the beginning of a branding exercise/ before writing copy
  • Always try to be straight forward and honest when writing copy and make an effort to critique myself as I go taking into consideration the target audience.
  • It’s important to be distinctive when writing copy

How can I apply this to my work in future?

  • Before creating a logo and jumping write into the visual side of branding I now know to first complete research into the brand more broadly and understand the tone of voice that is trying to be achieved
  • When beginning a branding project in the future I now know to also identify the linguistic register and create a word bank if possible.
  • When writing copy I now know to first priorities creating simple direct and honest copy directed towards and specific target audience from there I can add a unique element (potentially by drawing from my work bank).
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