It’s an old marketing truth that every copywriter needs to know: people buy on emotion, but use facts to justify it to their spouses.
It works. On everyone. Including me… although those new carbon fiber mountain bike wheels were actually a need, for real.
So where does a company tap into emotional power? In their branding. If done right, a company’s branding will invoke feelings in the consumer about why a company exists, what they believe in, and how the consumer can take part in it. This is achieved in countless, subtle ways, especially in their copy.
Some companies do a legendary job of this. Others, though, are as phony as a Ronex wrist watch when it comes to branding, thus costing them precious sales and customer loyalty.
So how do you do it? How can you consistently convey who you are and what you’re all about to your customer? One way is by making sure your copy’s tone and style match.
Tone & Style: What It All Means
Almost every single sentence has style. Is it punchy, concise, and to the point? Or, is the sentence long and flowing, conveying a certain sophisticated elegance in both word choice and structure? Regardless of how it’s composed, each word of each sentence will create an impression on the reader. That impression is the style of the writing.
Underneath this style you’ll find tone: the attitude or mood the writer reveals regarding what they’re writing about. A tone may be less technical, but a reader will unmistakably feel its impact. It subtly tells the reader how to feel about what they’re reading–including the advertising copy that’s in front of them.
This is why the style between two writers can almost perfectly match, and yet their tone can be completely different. A style can create part of the atmosphere that contributes to a tone, yet a tone creates an emotional impact that style fails to fully convey.
Put them together in the right way and you get a distinctive voice. That’s where a major part of the copy’s power lies. Let’s see how to do it.
Why Style and Tone Need to Match
People’s feelings cause them to do more than just buy things. How we feel directs our goals, aspirations, and even our innermost beliefs. In other words, they’re personal. So don’t try and mess with them with phony branding.
Yet, it’s not uncommon for companies to have a phony tone and style–or a tone and style that don’t match one another. It can feel insincere, contrived, and confusing.
But contrast that with a brand who has gone through the painstaking work of creating a consistent, complimentary tone and style, and you have branding that just feels right. That’s because these two components came together to not only say the same message but with a voice that seems honest and believable.
It doesn’t stop there, however. Along with matching each other, tone and style also need to properly embody what a brand is all about. Afterall, do you want to buy baby formula from a company with an edgy, punchy brand? Sure, the tone and style technically go together well, but it just doesn’t make sense for the brand’s identity.
How To Do It
Just like any great copy, it’s all about the right mix of tone and style to both invoke emotion and show that you believe what you say, thus making the reader believe you as well.
A company needs to first of all know themselves: what do they actually value? What is their real mission or beliefs?
Seriously. This is crucial.
If the company doesn’t truly embody their values, mission, or beliefs, they’re already on borrowed time. Again: don’t mess with emotions. People will pick up on falsehoods and hypocrisy, and they’ll be soon turning to that company’s competition–the ones who truly believe in what they say they do.
That’s why these beliefs need to be conveyed in a brand’s tone of voice via messaging that matches who they really are (style) while setting the right mood for the reader (tone).
An Example of Harmonious Tone and Style:
Caddis Eye Appliances
I was looking at Caddis glasses the other day, and it happened: I fully identified with a brand, so much so that my first pair of Caddis glasses are in the mail. But how? It was mostly due to their harmonious tone and style in their messaging that clicked with me almost immediately.
Their style is punchy, concise, and clever. Their tone is honest, confident, unapologetic, and inclusive. The result? A brand that wants people like me (a person who’s coming to terms with getting older) to accept that my life is, in fact, awesome–so why fight it? Why not embrace it? And why not start now, with glasses that help me be a part of this revolution against age-shaming?
This harmony of style and tone continued throughout their website: in their descriptions, with their brand ambassadors–everywhere. From beginning to end, it felt like the same person was talking to me and telling me about who they really are and what they’re all about. And most importantly, the style and tone in their messaging made me not only believe them, but join them as well.
In other words, their tone and style made their brand feel right to me. And isn’t that what we all want with our copy?