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Setting the right tone

Setting the right tone
September 25, 2018 esther

How many times growing up did you hear the phrase, “don’t take that tone with me”? The tone in our voice is a fundamental tool in our communication lexicon, it’s why text messages are so dangerous because their meaning can often be missed as they have no vocal inflection or tone.

Without a tone of voice messages lack emotion, which has an impact on intention, meaning and inevitably interpretation. Tone of voice can be used to manipulate and steer meaning too, there is a reason why whispering is regarded as alluring, illicit and sensual because it requires physical closeness and intimacy. “Calvin Klein. Eternity.” As a message it’s descriptive at best and meaningless at worst, but the whispered delivery and soothing tones helped to create a global phenomenon in advertising.

A couple of weeks ago, in the middle of The Great British Bake Off, Channel 4 proudly introduced an advertising premier. What followed was a highly produced film; set in a dark primary school hall, anxious parents awaited their children’s school performance in which a slightly clunky production transforms into creative reimagining of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. The viewer is taken on a rousing and emotional journey of the hope for success, seen on the eager and over ambitious teacher’s face and the children trying to surpass parental expectations. No brand, no product and no service are presented. It was emotionally charged, family-centred, aspirational and uplifting. It’s September, too early for the John Lewis Christmas ad, but it bore all the hallmarks of their tone of voice that gently teeters on the edge of over-sentimental. It was John Lewis, who have just gone through a rebranding exercise with Harry Pearce’s team at Pentagram. The inclusion of “and partners” to their logo mark is indicative of the tone that John Lewis are setting, in that the employees who are referred to as partners have a stake in the business.

As graphic designers we are trained to understand tone of voice and how to use it in visual language. A tone of voice is a powerful and often subliminal method of communicating to an audience and is used to set the tone of your brand position, the values that you operate under and the behaviour you want to be recognised for. John Lewis have developed a brand strategy that is so intelligent that their advertising “feels” like a John Lewis advert, before it is, or even before it needs to be identified as one.

Do you still think you can create and manage your own brand identity? By working with an educated and experienced graphic designer who will be able to visualise your brand values into a meaningful logomark and appropriate brand extensions, you will see an upturn in your customer confidence which inevitably leads to greater sales. Successful brand identities are intelligent and considered responses to market conditions and a visualisation of the intentions of an organisation. A designer will utilise the key components of type, colour and image into an assimilated, coherent, albeit implicit, tone of voice. This creates a confident identity that is as far removed from the generic, templated online stationery printers that are so often regarded by company owners as “good enough to get me started”, see my earlier blog post on the perils of templated design.

If you would like to have a discussion about the effectiveness of your brand’s personality, then talk to us. We can have an honest conversation about how and what your identity is communicating. From there, we can look at the best way forward; from making minor adjustments (often referred to as brand refresh or evolution), or taking a more radical approach and rethinking the current brand strategy.

Read about the rebranding of the John Lewis Partnership


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