Is it time to look at your company ‘Tone Of Voice’?

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

It’s part of almost every strategy job I do these days, looking at the company Tone Of Voice. What a company says and how it says it. Whilst it’s easy to admire great examples like Frank Body, a company that nails a unique language and way of talking about their brand, that alone inspires consumers to purchase their products, the truth is we can’t all be quite so ‘edgy’.

What I normally tell clients is, if you want to uncover the authentic Tone Of Voice in your company, stick a microphone on top of the water cooler. That’s your companies’ real Tone Of Voice, not the raw content but the attitude, values, buzzwords and personality within the conversations, that’s where the insights should come from when developing your brand vernacular.

This week we saw Samsung embrace a whole new Tone Of Voice and it needed to. As a brand it still has very little equity compared to Apple. Beyond their central narrative, “We are very good at engineering” there is little else that stands out about them. Whilst Apple have been nailing their keynotes with personality and buzzwords like “retina display” “i” “lightning connector” “magsafe” not to mention all the other theatrics “oh and one more thing….” Samsung has been better known for men in suits and ties and formality.

That was until Injong Rhee took the stage this week at SDC2016 in San Francisco, with a whole new Tone Of Voice and something completely new, a sense of humour. He cracked jokes and displayed graphs showing the inverse relationship between the pace of Samsung software development and the length of his hair, no doubt inspired by ‘water cooler’ conversations in his office. The audience loved it.


Facing a flood of competition from China, all declaring excellent engineering as part of their brand story, Samsung has to differentiate and knows this. Bringing in experts from the outside to help the keynote speakers seem more relevant to developers is just part of the transformation. You can also see it in the company’s TV ads, which are (arguably) funny, using celebrity personalities and never taking their products too seriously. A new Tone Of Voice is emerging at Samsung.

Most companies out there are lost in a sea of sameness, with high-level conference speeches usually doctored to death by marketing people, then scrubbed clean by attorneys before seeing the light of day. They lazily drop in marketing jargon, clichés and superlatives to fluff out the content. You have to risk it to get the biscuit, you have to gamble, you have to risk offending a few people and even putting off the odd consumer if you are going to stand out and get noticed. Just as an artist exposes some of himself in his work, brands that want to be noticed shouldn’t be afraid to crack jokes and talk about their personal lives and experiences.

Having said all that I am aware that “Just be yourself” is the worst possible advice you can give some people. 🙂

Photo and excerpts from; A very different Samsung showed up in San Francisco this week. Fast Company