You know when you’re with your friend at a dinner party (back when this was allowed!) and they’re acting a little weird…
They’ve brought a new partner who they’re trying to impress, so they’re using big words and telling strange jokes… this really throws you off, right?
You lean over to them and quietly whisper “mate, are you alright, you’re being a bit strange?”
You know what we’re talking about, we’ve all been there. Now think about when there’s a crisis in the world or a movement that gains momentum… think of all the brands that come creeping out of the woodwork to throw in their two-pence, to pledge allegiance or to show their support. Now, this is amazing if those brands are genuine and if they’re purpose-driven, but chances are lots of them are going to be just like your love-struck mate at the dinner party…
…they’re trying to be something they are not.
We’ve seen it time and time again, most recently with the Black Lives Matter movement. We saw clothing brands who have flourished off exploitation shouting their support on social media and we saw brands who have never made any effort to learn suddenly showcasing compassion. So what’s going on here?
With a rise in ethical consumerism and awareness, consumers are demanding more. In fact, 71% of consumers prefer buying from brands that align with their values (The 2020 Consumer Culture Report) so it’s no wonder these brands are trying to reinvent themselves into something they are not.
We’re not saying for one minute that brands can’t change. The world is a very different place from where it was a year ago, and we need to give businesses the opportunity to learn and evolve. In the era of cancel culture, this can be easier said than done, but it is possible, and it all comes down to one main thing…
Tone of voice.
A brand’s tone of voice is the way you communicate with your customers. It’s how you showcase your personality, your values and it’s what separates you from your competitors. Over the years we’ve seen a huge rise in brands adopting a more casual, friendly tone of voice as they look to communicate with customers on a different level – as a community. No one wants to feel like they’re being sold to, which is why this casual, helpful voice is on the rise, especially with purpose-driven brands. People want to feel like they’re part of something bigger, after all, it’s this coming together through communities where real change happens.
The nature of being purpose-driven is that you truly care, so this humble, compassionate voice lends itself perfectly. This also means when faced with a crisis, these brands are usually able to communicate their way out of them – they’re personal, they’re transparent and they’re open to change. Just look at Oatly, Innocent, Yorkshire Tea… just a handful of brands that have faced challenges and overcome them through words. They’ll charm you, humour you and playfully turn a situation on its head. Yet, they will also be bold, they’ll stand for something and they’ll use their voice for good.
When brands with an identifiable tone stand up for something relevant, people stop and listen. It cuts through the noise. It also helps to build up trust, and the more this builds, the more people look to these brands as teachers. Take Ben & Jerry’s. Over the years they’ve used their voice to add weight to climate justice, using their platform to raise awareness of the crisis that faces our planet. The reason this makes such an impact is because it’s genuine.
If your brand has no voice, this is a much harder sell.
Now we’re not saying every brand has to be playful, there’s obviously a time and a place. If you’re a bank, playfully communicating with someone who’s having money troubles is clearly a no-go. But having a consistent tone has never been more important. In a world where everything is a little wonky, consumers are looking to brands to lead the way.
Over the last year, we’ve helped the brands we work with communicate a little differently. Every piece of messaging is checked and rechecked to ensure it’s landing properly, tones have been tweaked and language has been changed. We’ve had the pandemic, we’re in a climate crisis and we’ve seen enough bumps in the road to last us a lifetime.
So what’s the one thing we’ve taken away… transparency.
If we had a pound for every time we say this at Enviral we’d be rolling in it, but it’s never been more important. Whether you’re an Oatly or a corporate bank, being transparent with your messaging is the only way you’ll come out of a crisis unscathed. Don’t greenwash, don’t sweep issues under the rug, tackle them head-on with clear, open messaging and you’ll come out the other end.
And when it comes to trending hashtags or movements, it sounds obvious but if you don’t genuinely care about something and you’ve made no steps to address the issues within your business, then please don’t get involved. The time for tone-deaf marketing fails is over.
As the climate crisis worsens and as people begin to look to businesses to lead the way in climate justice, we’re expecting to see a serious shift in the ways brands communicate. It’s time for purpose-driven brands to shine.
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