How Establishing Voice & Tone Can Power Brand Loyalty

Building Brands Ep 33 - Tess Felton - How Establishing Voice & Tone Can Power Brand Loyalty

Tess Felton, Associate Creative Director at Luminus talks about how building a brand persona and injecting a specific personality, voice, and tone into a company’s marketing communications strategy can help establish trust, lead to sales, and build customer loyalty.

Episode Links
Read Tess’ Luminus Bio
Find Tess on LinkedIn

Episode Transcript
Tim
Welcome Building Brands listeners. For Episode 33, I’m joined by Luminus’ very own Tess Felton, our team’s Associate Creative Director. As you all may be aware, now Luminus is a creative agency focused on digital that delivers strategic creative marketing executions for building materials and product companies, as well as any other brands that believe in our strategic approach. In this episode Tess talks about how building a brand’s persona and injecting a specific personality, voice and tone into a company’s marketing communication strategy can help establish trust, lead to sales, and build customer loyalty over time. Enjoy the episode.

Tim
If you’re an owner or marketer in the building materials, manufacturing, distribution, or contracting spaces, looking to set up your brand for success now and in the future, this is the podcast for you. on this show, we talked about brand and market strategies used in the real world that grow companies and truly connect with consumer audiences. So sit back, listen in, and let’s get to it.

Tim
Okay, welcome Tess Felton, Associate Creative Director here at Luminus who I’ve had the pleasure of working with for nearly three years now. So thanks for joining me on this episode.

Tess
Hey, Tim, I’m excited to chat with you.

Tim
Yeah, it’s like we don’t talk every single day. So I’m having Tess on, because we’re going to get into talking about voice and tone and brand and how that factors into what people can do as part of their brand strategy. But first Tess, why don’t you give the listeners a little bit more information about your professional background, and then also, we could talk about what you do for Luminus and how that contributes to what we do for clients.

Tess
Yeah, I’ve been working in marketing for I guess, just under 10 years now. I got a degree in English from UB. And then I started working as a copywriter, maybe eight or nine years ago, a rare case of someone actually using an English degree for English. So I worked at, I worked at a different small agency for a little while as a copywriter, and then made my move over to Luminus about four years ago, just under four worked as a copywriter at Luminus and then about six months ago transitioned over into my role as Associate Creative Director.

Tim
Yeah, why don’t you explain to people what the ACD does on the team.

Tess
So the Associate Creative Director kind of oversees all of the creative processes production processes, make sure that all the objectives are being met, made sure all the artwork looks great all the copy reads well, that everything kind of comes together to achieve the goals we’re trying to achieve, creatively with an eye on the strategy as well to make sure that every project that we deliver every initiative that we deliver, runs the full spectrum of objectives for the clients for Luminus and can get the results that we’re looking for

Tim
So you’re essentially the creative and strategies Czar,

Tess
Yes.

Tim
And that’s your new title. We’ll just update your business cards with that,

Tess
Yes, my Ukrainian heritage would be thrilled to have Azhar in the family.

Tim
Why don’t you talk about a little bit about what Luminus does for our clients, I haven’t talked about this in a couple episodes. So we can bring people back up to speed with that, and what type of companies we work with. And that could transition a little bit into how we work with building materials companies before we dive into the voice and tone stuff.

Tess
Okay. At Luminus we do creative marketing. So that runs a pretty broad spectrum, we tend to focus on brand strategy more than some other agencies do. So we always feel like it’s really important to figure out who you are as a company, what message you want to put out there, what image you want to put out there and make sure that everything’s really thought through and runs, top to bottom, bottom to top at your company that you know who you are. And we can communicate that to your customers the most effective way possible, which usually requires digging pretty deep into your operations, your goals, what you’ve done in the past, what you’re hoping to do in the future. And kind of challenging all of the assumptions that you have about who your audience is, what they’re shopping for, how they shop, what information they need, how they want to get that information, and we work with you then to come up with a plan to be able to deliver all of that as effectively as possible. From now into the future. Creative for creative sec just isn’t worth putting money into and putting out there, it could completely miss the mark. So that’s why that stuff is so important. I say that pretty frequently in creative for creative sake is not it’s just not worth your time or your money. Yeah,

Tim
I completely stole that from you. So the types of companies we work with, I mean, you’re involved with all of them, but we have a few groupings of companies that we work with. And then of course, we can dig into some of the building materials and building products side of what we do as well.

Tess
We do a lot of work with building materials come buddies, which is great, because a lot of these companies have been around for a very long time. And what worked marketing wise, one generation ago two generations ago is very different than what works today. So kind of as these companies are seeing transitions and leadership, you know, if they’re family owned, it’s the next generation coming in and taking over, they’re kind of realizing that a lot is being left out in the cold with their current strategy or lack of strategy. And they need more than they’ve needed in the past. They need to pivot, they need to redefine some things that have served them well over the years, but it’s time for an evolution. And so there’s a lot of opportunity for, you know, building materials companies, for these generations old family owned companies to really rethink what they’re doing and breathe some new life into the industries that they work in.

Tim
Yeah. And also, not only this, the strategy sort of like visuals lag. And then with everything becoming more digital the last year, especially pointing that out to a lot of technological communication tools aren’t quite up to date in both the information they have and the ability for people to reach out and communicate with companies in different ways that are more internet driven than stopping by in person or being visited or whatever.

Tess
So the companies that are kind of taking that leap to invest a little bit more in marketing than they have in the past their, you know, the results that we try to get for them, the results that they usually see are that there’s a lot of customers out there that maybe haven’t been engaging with them, who now we can attract their attention. And they’re engaging with them in a new way. So we can kind of modernize everything, make those interactions a lot cleaner, give customers brand new opportunities for more digital engagements to kind of reach out to companies through interactive websites and get more of the information that they need, the way that they want to get it instead of having to rely on phone systems. And you know, a huge sales team fielding all kinds of calls, spending too much time on outreach, we can kind of help them build these networks of communication that really streamline everything and create a very loyal customer base, who will continue coming back because that overall experience is a lot better for them than it has been in the past.

Tim
And not to mention how tractable it is to because a lot of those interactions are digital now. So you know, one of the things you mentioned was building the customer experience. And a lot of that goes into what the topic is that we’re about to jump into, which is the brand persona and the voice and the tone of a brand. So you know, what’s the what’s the scenario that someone encounters where they realize that oh, this might actually be something important that we should start to define and actually solidify across our company as part of our brand strategy.

Tess
Yeah, one thing that I’ve seen a lot and that’s, that’s kind of one of the reasons that I tend to champion this brand persona process is companies who have not kind of taking the time to define or redefine depending on where they are in the lifecycle of the company, who they are, who their customers are, and how they want to engage with them and interact with them, they end up with a lot of random communication streams throughout the company. So you have ownership, we’ll talk about the company one way, here’s what we want to be, here’s who we want to be, that isn’t necessarily getting translated down the chain to management when they’re communicating with the rest of their staff to the salespeople, when they’re communicating with potential customers. And then customer service when they’re communicating with actual customers. What you get is a bunch of people who are all delivering a similar message in a very different way, or a completely random way. And it creates a lot of inconsistency and a lot of kind of micro confusion for customers or potential customers who can’t quite figure out who you are, what am I getting myself into? Who am I creating this relationship with? Is it what the salespeople are telling me on the phone? Is it what the website is telling me when I go there, there’s all different interactions that you might not even realize your customers are having long before they sign on with you or long before they pick up the phone and talk to someone at your company. So if you can’t kind of streamline that message, then right off the bat, you are losing a lot of opportunity for customer loyalty that could very easily be picked up and creates for a much better customer experience.

Tim
And if you don’t define that at the company level, you’re allowing basically all of these players within the company to define it through their own personal voice and tone, which not to say that everyone’s a jerk or anything, but there’s some level of ways that you want to interact with the customers. You have to help coach people into that. And to do that you have to have some level of a framework to put in front of them.

Tess
Exactly.

Tim
And so yeah, you’re talking about how it like you’re trying to get across the sense of who the company is and what’s the end result of trying to unify this and bring all the messages through all those players together.

Tess
At the end of the day, I think for most consumers, it comes down to trust. And that looks different in different industries and the areas that they need to have that trust and confidence can change depending on who you’re you know, who you’re working with, and what you’re trying to sell to them. But at the end of the day, customers have a set of things that they need to feel competent in before they’ll make their decision for who they’re going to buy from or work with. And by creating that consistent sense of who you are, as a company, you are greatly improving the chances that the people who are looking for the same things that you offer will find you and latch on and stay with you for the long term.

Tim
Yeah, you mentioned the brand persona, we’ve actually just talked a lot about voice and tone. So I think it might be worth taking a step back and talking about the brand persona and why it’s so important, and maybe how voice and tone is important to the persona, and then talk about what the persona actually does in this scenario.

Tess
Yeah, at Luminus. When we talk about a brand persona, we do like to think about it the same way that you would think about a human persona, you as a person have a set of traits that make you who you are. And there’s certain things about yourself that you can change and certain things about yourself that you can’t change, and that those things that you can’t change or don’t want to change. That’s what makes up your brand persona. So we for companies and for our clients, we like to figure out who that brand persona is, what do you sound like? What do you like to do? What are your interests? How do you interact with people? How do you want other people to feel when they’re interacting with you, all of those things that make you a human, we try to inject all of those into your brand. And that’s kind of what we call your brand persona is identifying all of those traits, writing them out, making sure that we work through them together. So everyone can kind of look at a bio, we joke that it ends up kind of reading like a dating profile, if you were to just pick out the very best stuff about yourself.

Tim
Yes, sometimes when Kelly does it, she’ll ask the client, like, would you date and then the joke falls flat. And we’re like, oh, Kelly.

Tess
So yeah, we we like to really think about a brand persona, the same way that you think about yourself or your friends or your parents. And along with that, it means that you can have two, two people delivering exactly the same words, and they’re going to, you know, come across very differently. So even if you think about watching movies, or watching TV, if you imagine the way that a certain actor would read a line and the way that an actor in a different genre would read the line, they’re going to come across very differently, because they’re different people, you know, so you have great comedic actors, like Will Ferrell is going to read a line and it’s going to crack you up. And then if you had jack nicholson read the same line, it’s probably gonna scare you, because it’s less about the words and more about who they are and how they’re delivering that message.

Tim
And that has to go a lot into that’s where voice and tone comes into play to write like the message itself. And the person, the message itself exists. The personality is the like foundation of where it’s coming from. And the voice and tone is like that delivery endpoint.

Tess
Exactly.

Tim
We’ve mentioned voice and tone, like maybe 50 times so far, I don’t think we’ve actually said what voices and what tone is. So why don’t you bring us up to speed on on those, how we define them anyways, and then we can talk a little bit more about how we apply them.

Tess
Yeah, I’ve over the last 10 ish years, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to explain the difference between voice and tone to non writers. And I think that’s, that’s a challenge because they’re somewhat abstract concepts. The best analogy that I found, and I wish I could take credit for making this up. But sadly, I found it on the internet somewhere is, do you think about voice and tone, voice is like the climate and tone is like the weather. So in wherever you happen to live, the climate never really changes, you know, it stays pretty consistent. But on any given day, the weather might look a little bit different. So when you think about voice and tone, your voice is this is who you are, this is who you’re always going to be. These are traits that are never going to change, they are inherent to your company and your brand persona. Tone can be kind of altered and shifted to make sure that you’re speaking to that particular audience in exactly the way that you think is going to reach them best. So the way that you speak to your best friend and the way that you speak to your boss are probably very different because the audience’s are different, but you are the same person throughout both of those interactions.

Tim
You can see that applied to like creative campaigns to it allows you the tone allows you the flexibility to have the same voice but flex to a slightly more casual and humorous campaign or slightly more informative and direct appeal, and still not lose who you are from a brand persona perspective.

Tess
Yeah, and we see that a lot in clients and clients ask about that all the time. And this kind of provides a little bit of framework and give some language to that where people know that that’s how communication works. And there are things that you can do to define that and to build it into your brand, so that you are matching the tone that you need. For any given audience. If you have a lot of different types of people that are shopping with you, you want to be able to speak to all of them in the way that’s going to resonate with them, not necessarily just cramming your own personality down your throat, we all know that doesn’t work. No one likes to be talked at voice defines who you are. And the tone gives you that flexibility that you need to make sure that you’re reaching your audience.

Tim
So since it was so fun the first time Do you have any other examples of people that have different tone that could be characterized is like, you know, if there was one way to deliver something, and these two people were doing a completely different? What’s you mentioned actors before is there like another set that you want to? I think that’s super entertaining. So let’s do it again.

Tess
I feel like you could apply it to singers too. So you could have like the way that Johnny Cash would sing a line and the way that Celine Dion would sing a line would be very different. I feel like you can make that comparison back to tone.

Tim
Nice. We obviously Luminus on our team, and we work with our clients, we think this is really important. You and I mentioned Kelly, the two of you often are the ones that are running clients through this, how do you get people to understand what their voice is and what their tone should be, or the options for what their tones could be depending on the the surroundings and scenario they’re used in?

Tess
Yeah, we have a couple of different exercises that we use, and they can be tailored a little bit to the client. But the truth is, they can also be fairly standard. When you’re thinking about how you want to want to come across as a person, one of the exercises we do is kind of just imagine your brand as a person tell us more about them? What do they like to do when they’re not at work? What are they doing? What are their interests? What are their dislikes? when they walk into a room? What does someone what’s the first impression that you want them to make? What are the things that you hope people would never say about them? and kind of just same way you think about people? What are those traits? If you think about your best friend, what do you like about them? You know, you like that they’re very friendly, you like that they’re generous, you like that they have a great sense of humor, what would you never say about them? Well, my best friend is never a jerk. They’re never arrogant. They’re always very humble. So all of those different personality traits that you can attribute to people, you can also attribute to brands. So we try to bring a little bit of that out through conversation. And then the another exercise that we do is we just kind of give sliding scales. So on one, one end of the scale might be you are extremely humble. And on the other end, you might be overwhelmingly arrogant, that’s the dominant trait in your voice. Where do you want to fall on that scale? You don’t have to be one or the other. There’s a lot of middle ground. But where do you want to fall in that middle ground?

Tim
Yeah, and you guys aren’t just telling people what they should be. Either you’re doing a lot of poking and bringing that out from the client side to their crafting it, you’re just helping organize it.

Tess
Yeah, we never want to define who you are, as a company. That’s not our role as marketers, we can help shape that. But at the end of the day, it’s the people within the company, it’s the leaders, it’s you know, anyone else who’s working there, anyone who’s interacting with customers, you define who you are, as a company, we just help you document it and figure out how to use that to your advantage.

Tim
Yeah, cuz everyone’s going to have to believe in it. So if it’s, it’s like anything else in life, if you don’t get to participate, it’s going to people are going to resist wanting to actually enact it. And if you do that, you’re right back in the scenario where people are using their own voice and their own tone, and you have similar messaging delivered in mixed ways.

Tess
Right. And it also providing those guidelines, you can still there’s always going to be some variety within your company, people are always going to be who they are. And that’s, you know, one of the reasons that you hire them, especially if you’re talking customer facing positions. But setting those guidelines where you can say, we want to be more modest than arrogant, then people have those guidelines to say, Okay, I can’t say this because this is going to tip the scale beyond what we’ve already defined. As you know, our brand comfort zone. People can do that. People can kind of self regulate that as long as they know what they’re regulating for. If they don’t know then people are gonna say whatever feels right in the moment. And that’s when you can really start to build Those in consistencies that will slowly turn customers off or definitely won’t build up their brand loyalty.

Tim
Yeah, you mentioned I think in passing a few times, you’ve you talked about some of the reasons why someone Ron do this, what they get out of it. But just so that we actually make sure we address it. Can you talk about some of the benefits of establishing this stuff and what it does, not only for the company, but for the people that are engaging with the company from the customer side?

Tess
Yeah. So we’ve talked a little bit about just kind of that consistency within the company. And that really helps to build trust among the people that you’re interacting with. I think I said it before, but I’ll say it again, people don’t like being talked at. That’s if everything that you know about marketing, you learned from watching that men, you will have a very antiquated idea of how marketing really works these days,

Tim
And you’ll have a big hangover.

Tess
We’re not telling people what to think anymore, when when advertising first started to blow up, you know, back in the 60s, that was the model is we can influence people by telling them what they should think that’s not true anymore. Consumers are a lot smarter, there’s a lot more information out there. So what we do is we try to communicate with people the way that they want to be communicated with and give them all the information they need to make their decisions. So instead of talking at people, we’re trying to create brands that can communicate with consumers kind of on a two way street. So we know what consumers are looking for, we can help them get that. And then we can create tools, both communication tools that your staff can use, and things like digital tools, chat systems, responsive websites, that can help deliver the message that people are looking for, and communicate back with them, make sure they’re getting what they need. So building, building that trust through authentic communication is really key. And the only way you can do that is if you know who you are as a company so that you can define what authenticity looks like for you.

Tim
Well think about the channels that these people are participating in to, especially with social media, there’s professional channels, like LinkedIn, their social channels, like Twitter, and Instagram, and Facebook, there’s even search channels like Google My Business and all the business listings, Bing, if someone actually uses that they could do it there. But you have all of these instant feedback, pure communication tools, where if you are inconsistent, or you don’t deliver on something that you promise, guess what’s going to happen, they’re going to come to your front door and drop the note on the front door that says, Don’t believe them, you start to lose trust, right grades after that,

Tess
Yeah, you better have killer social media management, if you’re going to take that approach, because people are not shy about expressing when they’ve had a bad interaction with the company. I’ve done it.

Tim
Yeah. And if you’re trying to develop brand loyalty, you can’t have a poor or inconsistent brand experience get in the way of someone else’s journey to brand loyalty and trust. Yeah, voice and tone is one part of brands, we sort of talked about that, but just from, from your experience, both in working with our building materials, clients, and of course, being sort of the caretaker of the creative and strategy that’s going out for those clients through our team. What do you think is the one critical thing that everyone should be doing for their brand right now?

Tess
I would say when it comes to communication, look, really take a critical eye at what that communication looks like within your company. How is everyone within your company communicating? What would they say? Are the key traits about your company that every customer should be gathering from every interaction? And then beyond that look to see what is your website say? How does that sound? What impression is that giving people? What is your social media say? How does that sound? What impression is it giving people? If someone just picks up the phone and calls you? What’s that interaction? Like? how consistent is that experience going to be for customers or for potential customers? What are they going to think about your company after any single interaction with you. And then if they start piling on those interactions, because we know in most cases, sales don’t happen from a single interaction, unless it’s something very commodity based. So your customers are going to have multiple interactions with your company. And the important thing to remember is, if those interactions don’t start when someone picks up the phone and calls you, those interactions start the very first time they hear about your company. So whatever that first message looks like, through, you have their money the sale is made. What is that experience like for them? And is it consistent? And can they can they give you a good sense of who you are as a company and what you represent at the end of all of those interactions? Or is it going to look very scattered.

Tim
And that’s why we do that we don’t take the creative for creative sake approach because that’s We would just be feeding into the problem,

Tess
Right. Yeah, if you pick any one channel and decide, let’s make this look really cool for people, that can be a great start, but you’ve got to make sure the interactions on both sides of that very cool one are going to support whatever it is that you’re trying to achieve, or else, chances are, you’re not going to make a very big impact on, you know, your company image and the likelihood that people are going to buy from you and then be so excited about the experience that they want to tell other people about you. And you know, if someone says, Hey, I’m looking for a recommendation for this type of company, are you going to come up? Because they’re so excited? Or are you just going to be one in a list of, you know, 15 to 20 options that they might choose from? Because someone had an okay experience with you?

Tim
Well, think about that from a building material standpoint, too, if there is an industry that is set up, to have peer referrals from people that have installed a product, or put it in their home that other people can see when they’re there and be like, oh, have you seen my new countertops, like you better have a brand that they’re like, Oh, you weren’t, they have, this is the best company, if you’re gonna get something, you have to talk to them first. They’re a little pricier, but you’re going to get exactly like that is what you want someone to say. And this industry is completely set up for that experience.

Tess
Yeah. The other thing about the building materials industry that can make this it can make it very complicated, especially to try to work through by yourself is there’s different levels of customers here and very different, very different personas among your customer types. So you’re talking about architects, you’re talking about contractors and builders, you’re talking about, you know, end use homeowners, they all shop very differently, they all value different things. So they need to be marketed to slightly differently, but not at the expense of your kind of company persona, and who you are and what you represent. And those nuances are those are things that we really get to the bottom of in our brand strategy, exercises and the analysis that we do, and then the plans that we help you put together at the end, we really focus on all of your different personas. And in the building materials industry, there’s a lot of them, and they’re very different. And they do need to be marketed to differently, but you can still achieve that while maintaining a really high degree of brand integrity. And that’s kind of that’s what our what our end goal success stories look like.

Tim
And that’s what makes for good investment in the right strategic creative put into the right channels to the right people. Trust consistency, and awesomeness, I guess. Is there anything that through our little q&a in this conversation that I haven’t asked that has popped in your head that you want to bring up before we wrap up,

Tess
I guess the The only other point that is very important to me as a former copywriter, and now as as an ACD, and kind of a strategy oversight person is, there is a difference between messaging, and voice and tone, and positioning. And they all need to work together, that triangle kind of has to come together to create the perfect client communication. But all three of those things are very different. So feeling like you really understand your market position does not necessarily mean that you’re going to be able to deliver a really strong message to anyone in your target audience. Because you need to figure out who you are as a company, you need to figure out the angle that you can take into the market, what sets you apart. And then you need to craft a messaging that takes both of those things into consideration along with who your audience is. And that’s how you get really successful messaging, the messaging on its own, should be crafted from strategy, not just I think this sounds nice, let’s just say this.

Tim
Yeah, that’s, that’s a really good wrap up point. I like that you brought in the other aspects too, because it’s really, it’s just one smaller piece of a bigger pie and you can have a really good voice, you can have really good tone. But if you missed the mark on the message, and you’re trying to attack the market the wrong way, you’re just going to sound really good the wrong way.

Tess
Right. So yeah, yeah, it is. It’s, uh, you know, the old chain, chain link analogy, one weak link, the whole thing’s gonna fall apart. So you got to make sure every link in your brand strategy is strong and well defined. And that that can take some time and it can take some digging. And it can get a little bit uncomfortable when you’re coming to realizations about the company that you run and the audience that you’re selling to. But when you can reconcile all of those things and put them together, you can find the most effective way to run the company that you want to run and sell what you sell to the right people and get everyone really excited about it. It’s not always what you think it’s going to be at first glance. But when you find that perfect mix, that’s where the magic happens, as they say,

Tim
just like they said, in the 60s when they pitched every single thing, right. Before we wrap up, where can people find more about you? And then of course, since this is luminess, is building brands podcast, I think they know where to find out about us. So why don’t you just tell people where they can find out about you?

Tess
Sure, I would say if you want to find out more about me, the Luminus website, probably the best, the best place to look. So that’s Luminus dot agency. And if you want to learn more about me, you can check out my LinkedIn profile at your own risk.

Tim
Awesome. Well, thanks for carving some time out of your day to do an episode with me. This was really awesome.

Tess
Yeah, I enjoy talking about this stuff. It’s very important to me, I’ve seen a lot of success over the last 10 years employing some of these strategies. So it’s something I very much believe in, I will continue to champion for our clients. For anyone really, who asks me about it, it’s, for me, it’s something very important that I’ve kind of dedicated my career to up until now. So always happy to to get it out there to more people.

Tim
And now you can say you’ve been on the Building Brands podcast.

Tess
Now. I can say that.

Tim
Alright, thanks Tess.

Tess
All right. By Tim.

Tim
If you’re interested in hearing more stories and strategic insights from industry experts, please subscribe to the Building Brands podcast on Apple, Spotify, or Google. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please post a review and share with others who may be interested as well. Thanks for listening.