How you communicate your brand goes beyond your logo, the products you sell, and how beautiful your website is. A brand’s voice and tone is the foundation for creating lasting relationships with users. Unfortunately, companies often do not spend enough time or do enough research to get it right. In this blog post we’ll dive into why voice and tone are so important, and how to communicate to your users by more effectively utilizing A/B testing.

What is Voice and Tone?

Voice is at the core of your brand’s personality and character. It can be human, familiar, formal, casual, or any number of combinations of these attributes. Tone is how you express that character in any given situation. To illustrate this, let’s consider a few scenarios. How would your brand welcome new users to a digital experience? What about returning users? How would your brand’s character engage with users when there’s an error or outage? MailChimp provides an excellent resource that identifies various touchpoints of its brand, the emotional state of the user, and appropriate branded responses to key situations. The MailChimp team does an excellent job of standardizing their voice and identifying how to adapt their tone based on users’ feelings.

success message example

Example 1: MailChimp does an excellent job of outlining the situation the user is in, and what emotions they’re feeling, in order to create a response that addresses the user’s concerns while also retaining the unique personality of MailChimp.

Why is voice and tone so important?

While it’s important to cultivate a voice and tone that’s engaging, it’s equally important to consider how much personality and flair to use in a given situation. Consider when and where you’re applying your brand voice and whether or not the voice is adding value or is maybe creating confusion. Let’s take error messaging in a checkout flow as an example. Here are two examples of error states a user may encounter with differing amounts of personality.

General vs specific error handling

In this scenario you can see that the first option, while infused with personality, is weighing style over substance. As a result, the user might not have any idea what the correct solution is, whereas the second option clearly communicates the correct requirements devoid of any personality .

If a brand can instill a sense of confidence while also creating a dialogue that is positive and memorable, it will be the brand that customers return to. Build trust with users by talking to them like people and by listening and responding to them while keeping their emotions in mind.

OK, so how does it all work?

Alright, so hopefully you’ve read this far and we’ve convinced you that voice and tone are important to creating a positive, memorable brand experience. Now what? How do you start developing your voice? Well, here are some tips on how you can start developing your own voice.

Identify your audiences

Start by figuring out who it is you’re talking to. Are you talking directly to end-consumers or are you speaking to businesses? Clues can be found by consulting analytics data to figure out who’s visiting your site. Once you identify your audience, you can conduct more detailed research into who they are, where they come from, and what their needs and concerns are. You can build these attributes into a customer persona and measure your marketing against that target audience model. By creating a single message that speaks to everyone, it often comes across as vague and inauthentic. Talking directly to the diverse needs of your audience segments provides a more personalized and familiar experience that will ultimately improve engagement and conversions.

example of using results of nomenclature testing to determine voice and tone

Example 2: Here’s an example of test we ran recently for Wacom. We were tasked with creating variations on their product category nomenclature. We tested 3 variations: More descriptive category names, categories based on use-case, and using the most popular products from each category. You can see that the “Use-Case” variation dominates the rest because it’s something familiar that resonates with them and how they use Wacom products.

Test, test, and then test some more

If you’re unsure how users will respond to your voice and tone, or you are stuck between a couple options, A/B testing is a perfect resource. You can test different headlines for emails with variations on plain copy versus directive “You” copy and compare the difference in open rates. For example “New Summer Sale” vs. “You’re going to love these Summer discounts.” You can even test the nomenclature of your site navigation to see if users understand the jargon your company uses internally versus something more descriptive. For more info on A/B testing, check out Part III in our Optimization Deconstructed Series.

Once you start to see results you can confidently make changes holistically, knowing that you’re speaking to your users in ways they understand. Ultimately, putting the effort into establishing a genuine voice and tone that strikes a balance between helpfulness and character will put your business ahead of the game by building trusting relationships with your users. So, as you can see, voice and tone play a critical role in defining and maintaining your brand and creating effective digital experiences. Be authentic and have fun with it. Spend time to test options to see what works – It’s worth it. Get it right and your time will pay off in higher sales, conversions and engagement.

Written by Lacie Webb.