How brands found their voices during the pandemic – and what comes next

The coronavirus pandemic has hastened an awareness that brands need to consider their tone of voice across all customer touchpoints. It’s a long overdue development, says Reed Words’ Samuel Pollen

Coronavirus has put tone of voice at the top of the agenda. And it’s changing the way brands approach their communications as a whole. For a long time, tone of voice was like dishwasher salt. Everyone knew it was important, but no one really knew why – and they certainly didn’t want to spend money on it.

When announcing a brand refresh, agencies would talk enthusiastically about the new tone of voice. All too often, it was just talk. The ‘voice’ amounted to a few words – ‘human’, ‘engaging’, ‘down to earth’ – buried on page 347 of the brand book, after the bit about web-safe fonts. That was it. There was no guidance about what this actually meant outside of a campaign, no deeper plan for how the brand could communicate in a compelling and distinctive way.

Meanwhile, the brands that were ‘famous’ for tone of voice – like the omnipresent Innocent – reinforced the notion that the whole thing is a bit silly, and only worth spending time on if you wanted to sound wacky.

Coronavirus, however, has changed this picture.

JUNIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER

Milton Keynes