Different Tones For Different Times: 4 Different Tones of Voice And How To Use Them Effectively

Finding your perfect tone of voice is contingent on many factors. Everything from the industry your brand occupies to your target audience to your company’s mission and branding choices will help inform which tone is right for your business. Think of your business as a character or person. You want to make that character/person come alive through all of your copy, content and design decisions. 

Humor Me 

In a 2021 article by PPC Protect, the estimate of how many marketing messages the average American sees is between 6,000 to 10,000 per day. A wonderful way to cut through that clutter and engage your audience is through humor. Humor serves to create something memorable that will rise above and stay top of mind. 

It also provides a sense of escapism regardless of the times. But it doesn’t come easy; it’s a tightrope to walk. Here our some ways to incorporate humor in your marketing materials and signage: 

Misdirection: A clever play on words or double entendres can help make your signs more memorable (home decor site Neon Earth used a clever headline for creating your own fun decor: Get Out from Under the Influencer).  

Stating the Obvious: This can have a humorous effect and differentiate your banners from the rest (think of the Captain Obvious campaign).

Adding Humor to the Dull: This can be accomplished with interesting visual design or a subtle break from traditional language. 

Fine Print: Utilizing the fine print provides an opportunity for a more comical message, and entices consumers to do a double-take. 

Poking fun at a shared experience: Old Spice, Budweiser, and Snickers Ads served as some light-hearted comic relief during the pandemic that helped make us laugh at the situation. 

Engage Through Empathy

According to the DMA (Designated Market Area), 68% of their respondents said they had shifted their tone to an empathetic one during the pandemic. This tone can be utilized on window lettering to warmly welcome customers into your business. Phrases like “Now More Than Ever” and “Together While Farther Apart” became part of our vernacular last year and made us feel more united, connected, and positive for the future. The important part is that it can’t just be a message: your company must deliver on that message.

On the flipside, 2020 Chicago Tribune article created backlash for Grubhub when the article unwrapped the truth about their delivery service industry. Grubhub and many others were found to have high commission fees that ultimately hurt restaurant owners, especially smaller restaurants.

An Accenture Strategy study found that 66-percent of consumers believe transparency is one of the most desirable qualities in a brand. Grubhub’s operating protocols were definitely anathema to the spirit of helping local restaurants survive – and they hid it behind a marketing strategy that was blatantly false. Nothing could hurt your business more than being caught in a predicament like this.

An Intellectually Ironic Approach

The Economist is a prime example of this approach. Their advertisements are renowned for their highbrow, intelligently ironic copywriting. While it’s intellectual, it’s broken down into straightforward, unpretentious language, making it easy to understand.

Often you’ll read one of their headlines twice and leave feeling inspired to purchase a subscription. Making your signs interesting enough to make your consumers look twice should be the overall goal of your marketing. The Economist’s tone is often emulated and rarely duplicated. Here are some of their most famous headlines: 

“I never read the Economist.”  – Management Trainee. Aged 42.

“Lose the ability to slip out of meetings unnoticed.”

“A poster should contain no more than eight words, which is the maximum the average reader can take in at a single glance. This, however, is a poster for Economist readers.” 

“Enocomsit rdeeras avhe lradaye wrkode ti uot.” (Spoiler: Economist readers already worked it out.) 

A Topical Tone: Being In the Know – Now 

The advent of social media has led to some amazing opportunities to comment on what’s happening in the world in real-time. These comments can help keep brands in the spotlight and provide organic opportunities to engage their customer base. This topical approach isn’t limited to just social media, it can be appliedto marketing materials as well. 

A recent Salesforce study found that 62% of consumers expect companies to send them tailored offers and discounts based on their previous purchase. Consider combining a topical tone with a personalized message. If you write your brochures, flyers, and postcards in a way that is both personally engaging and relevant to what your customers are currently experiencing you’ll find great success. 

Tone Check

These are all outstanding examples of tones being used everyday by some of the most talented brands and writers in the marketing industry. Each tone comes with a caveat, but this serves as a guideline towards creating your own. 

Once you’ve practiced and perfected your tone of voice you can apply it to all your marketing materials and watch as your sales increase. 


17 Times The Economist stopped us dead in our tracks



How Many Ads Do We See A Day? 

PPC Protect


Grubhub not worth the trouble, some Chicago restaurants say

Chicago Tribune


Marketers Effectively Connect With Consumers Through Humorous Campaigns 

DMS Solutions


Has COVID-19 created more compassion in brands? 



10 Branding Statistics You Need To Know in 2021 



Why personalized marketing is so important- and how to use it



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