by Lulu Trask – Jan 18, 2021
When a brand gets its tone of voice right, it can be a game changer. Take Wendy’s, the American fast food chain. It’s become popular for its informal – verging on rude – social media presence, with repeated requests from Twitter followers to be ‘roasted’. The brand made this bold change to better resonate with its target audience. In other words, its tone of voice is the customer – it’s human.
Calling out your competitors or roasting your customers might not be your aim, but that’s really just the (fast food) packaging. What’s inside is a highly accurate understanding of an audience. But in 2021 that’s a whole new challenge…
We think tone of voice is going to change this year – pretty drastically. In fact, it’s already happening. Almost 12 months into a global pandemic, we’re living in a completely different world. We’re working remotely, with pixelated colleagues who by their background appear to be in space (translation: we need human interaction). We’re no longer commuting surrounded by ties and briefcases – the sense of the corporate world has been turned on its head (translation: no more jargon – we need to be able to relate). We’ve been living in loungewear and pyjamas for the best part of the year (translation: goodbye formal, hello informal). And we’ve been shouldering the emotional weight of almost apocalyptic headlines from all around the world (translation: we need empathy and compassion – desperately). And let’s not forget that come 20th January, the inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden, one of the world’s superpowers will be leading global conversations with more empathy and relatability, on topics like inclusion and climate change which were, some would say, ignored over the past four years. This in turn is likely to have a trickle-down effect on all sorts of businesses and how they choose to communicate.
But what we’re marketing hasn’t changed, nor have the core principles of content marketing. It’s the way we’re marketing that’s evolving. 2020 threw the deck of cards in the air, and 2021’s about rebuilding the tower – differently. There are so many more conversations to have this year. We saw a boom in new projects in just the first week of January; in a world where human engagement is more important than ever, it’s clear that clients are realising that this interaction needs to happen through content.
As an agency, part of our job is helping clients at the start of their content journey to identify their tone of voice, but rarely have we had such an event that’s required a complete rethink of how an audience wants to be spoken to. ‘The new normal’ might be a phrase that you’re sick of hearing by now, but it applies to content marketing as much as to anything else. The world has changed, so it’s only natural that the voices clients use to market themselves change too. Some brands figured this out pretty quickly, and we’re already seeing a more human, empathetic voice across all sorts of sectors – but those brands that haven’t will soon realise that the 2019/20 tone of voice is no longer fit for purpose. It’s for a world left behind.
But we don’t think that’s anything to be sad about. We see it as an opportunity, for clients to reinvent themselves not only as a brand, but as a voice.
Published Jan 18, 2021