By Izithembisozenkosi Ndlovu

A brand that is not humanised, remains cold and face-less!

‘Humans are predisposed to like someone when they share similar aspirations with them.’ It’s very important to communicate with your clients in a distinctive brand voice that they can easily recognise and connect with. 

Every brand needs a unique tone of voice and personality!

You’ve probably heard the all so popular question ‘if your brand was human, what kind of person would it be?’

Now try to answer this question about your own brand.

If you intend to stand out in today’s over crowded digital space, it’s a must to load your brand with personality. A unique brand with a unique personality that doesn’t blend in or that won’t be drowned in the tonnes of content online is the key to brand visibility.

You will know you’ve nailed it, once your target audience is able to pick out your content without seeing your brand name, brand colours or logo attached to a piece of content.

Two brands instantly come to my mind, take Red Bull and Nando’s for instance. In my personal opinion, these brands amongst many others of course have done a sterling job in creating unique unmistakable brand personalities.

Their content could easily be recognised even in the absence of their logos or brand names in their messaging. The moment you see those cartoon characters and hear the wittiness and the humour, you know it’s got to be Red Bull.

The Nando’ s brand voice on the other hand doesn’t hesitate to follow trendy topics in a controversial manner, their voice is rather daring and bold with a tad-bit of humour. Their voice may even be interpreted as insulting by some. Theirs is a risky approach, which not every brand can get away with.

What is a brand’s voice?

Brand voice and personality have been used interchangeably, however, some authors go further to differentiate between the two as follows:

Brand voice is the language and words that you use to speak with your audience, while brand personality is the human characteristics, qualities and traits you attach to your brand to make it more charismatic and engaging to your target audience.

The traits and characteristics of a brand’s personality serve the purpose of differentiating a brand from the rest, enabling it to connect on a personal or even emotional level with its customers.  It’s all about the visual, verbal and physical attributes of the brand. It’s the set of characteristics attributed to its brand voice.

You may be wondering, amidst all of this, where does brand tone fit in?

A brand’s tone is the way you speak, it’s the attitude with which you convey your brand’s values and beliefs.

A brand’s voice or personality determines what it says, while tone of voice determines how it says it. Brand tone is the emotional chord or the emotion behind the voice. It helps you to connect with your audience or customers, thereby building relationships with them. Tone depends on the situation at hand. It results in empathy.

In determining your brand’s tone, consider how or what you want your brand to sound like as well as the opposite- how you do not want to sound like.

It’s important to pay as much attention to how a brand sounds as much as it how looks!

Bringing everything together:

Brand voice comprises both the tone and personality of your brand. Tone and personality buttress your messaging and the language you use by developing a recognisable and clear-cut voice.

The audience comes before the tone. For example, an individual may talk to different people throughout the day. From a child at home, colleague across their desk, their boss or even a client. Their tone of voice is highly unlikely to be the same across the various audiences, the same applies with brands therefore.

A brand’s voice is determined by its buyer personas and is designed to make the brand feel familiar to them. Your brand voice reflects the values you stand for and your brand’s unique perspective as guided by your mission and value statements.

The objective behind each piece of content being communicated will determine the seriousness of the tone of voice for example. Either way your target audience should almost always be able to pick out your brand voice in any of the given scenarios.

Brands must always strive to have a consistently recognisable tone of voice, however, certain scenarios may require a slight tweak here and there without too much deviation, for example brands with multiple buyer personas may speak to each group in a language that is most suitable for them, for example Gen Z vs. Millennials or a LinkedIn profile vs. a Twitter account for the exact same company.

As you determine your brand’s voice, leave room for slight changes in your tone as your engage with your audiences on various social media platforms or online communication channels. Hence the importance of documenting a brand guideline for uniformity and consistency.

Let’s take a look at an example of brand voice guidelines by MailChimp, a popular brand in the world of marketing automation in digital marketing.

The use of certain words or vocabulary helps to set the ‘tone’ to be adopted by a brand, differentiating it from the next. It also helps to consider how you want your audience to feel when they engage with your content. In choosing a tone of voice, brands have the option of choosing to be serious, casual, playful, funny, formal or quirky just like a normal person would.

The key however, is authenticity and consistency! Bearing in mind that content and brand voice are basically inseparable!


Voice, tone and personality distinguish you from your competition and help you find a unique way to communicate with your audience through your content marketing efforts. Humanising your brand therefore helps to give it the kind of personality that will help it to standout in an over crowed digital space.

Izithembisozenkosi Ndlovu is a lecturer in the department of Marketing at the National University of Science & Technology (NUST). She has over 10 years teaching Sales & Key Account Management.