FRIDAY 21 DEC 2018 3:35 PM


In our autumn roundup, we examine events, interviews and news that took place in the last quarter of 2018. Dragon Rouge’s new head of voice, Bee Pahnke, spoke with Communicate magazine and at a Dragon Rouge event about the use of verbal identity in corporate communications

Libresse has recently released a taboo-breaking advert encouraging straight talk about menstruation. Its positioning over the last few years has been a no-nonsense approach to periods, their impact on women and the role the brand can play in alleviating that. It’s one of many examples of brands crafting a strong tone of voice and putting that at the heart of its communications.

But, it’s still a difficult thing for companies to do, so research shows, despite the 90% ROI that can be derived from an investment in tone of voice. And now that voice assistants are more accessible and prolific, tone of voice is becoming ever more important. “Tone of voice has to do more than ever before,” Pahnke says. It must meet changing needs, it must be built on strong foundations and it must be adaptable. If not, a fractious brand may develop. “That’s how you lose customers and that’s how you miss out on opportunities,” Pahnke adds.

Passionate about giving brands a voice, Pahnke says her dream client would be Mooncup, the menstrual hygiene product that is still poorly understood by many in western countries. One of her ambitions is not just to change the tone around the product, but to revolutionise the ways in which women and companies speak about feminine hygiene products, thereby removing the stigma it often has.

To craft a strong tone of voice strategy, Pahnke says, companies should have writers involved in the brand development from the beginning and ensure they’re working across every touchpoint. One of the recent success stories in this regard is the .gov brand. A to-the-point visual brand is matched by a simple, clear, yet highly informative tone of voice. The change has dramatically altered government communications by imbuing them with a sense of consistency and clarity.

Voice – the most important yet most neglected part of your brand

Bee Pahnke, head of voice, Dragon Rouge

Your voice is powerful. The way your brand speaks can bring people together and unite them behind a common ambition or purpose. It can change cultures – the way a brand speaks directly affects the way their people speak. It can turn heads, grab attention and stand out.

But for some reason, it’s still the part of a brand that gets neglected most often. Tone of voice is lumped onto the end of a brand strategy project or given a cursory and impractical page in a brand guidelines document. Often, it’s not even written by a writer. That’s bananas.

Especially given the ways language can directly affect profits. Southwest Airlines rewrote their in-flight safety announcements to be more engaging, and as a result, they now estimate their customers spend an extra $140m a year.

Your voice isn’t like any other brand asset. Yes, your audience gets a feel from your look. But it’s your words they really connect with for the first time. What you say and how you say it is the first tangible impression they get of who your brand is and what you stand for.

You never know when that first impression will happen. It could be your advertising, or the cookies statement on your website. So the smart brands think about their language at every touchpoint. They curate the story they tell and the messages they reinforce, through every step of their customer’s journey.

So how do you create a strong verbal identity? It’s all about partnerships.

Your tone of voice should be created by a writer – someone who knows the craft and understands how to best manipulate language. Writers think about audiences in a unique way: they empathise and connect with them. So partner them with designers and strategists. Encourage symbiotic relationships, input on each other’s work, challenge and push each other.

That’s how you create a strong tone of voice, and how you build a holistic brand, ready for the future.