New Study by The Writer Says “Tone of Voice” Overlooked and Underused by Most U.S. Companies

Data suggests first movers who embrace a brand language culture enjoy competitive business advantage

NEW YORK--()--The Writer consultancy released key findings today from a new study of Fortune 1000 companies in the U.S. revealing that more than 80% of the businesses surveyed have no formal tone of voice (or what some call “verbal identity”), and 94% of these have no intention of creating one. And yet, 80% of early adopters of tone of voice say it’s just as – or more – important than their brand’s visual identity.

Commissioned at the end of 2015 by The Writer through Illuma Research, the study suggests that U.S. companies are just now waking up to the benefits of tone of voice. “Tone of voice is still a new concept in the U.S., but our research shows there’s a group of trailblazers out there who have a tone of voice and are getting huge value from it,” said Anelia Varela, The Writer’s U.S. director.

Technology and financial services are tone of voice pioneers

Tone of voice is being taken most seriously by technology and financial services companies, who top the list of those most likely to have one. “Businesses that offer complex products and services often find themselves drowning in jargon that just doesn’t connect with customers. As competition becomes fiercer than ever, they’re turning to tone of voice to help them communicate more clearly and stand out in the market.”

Other top reasons for having a tone of voice included being more relevant to customers and creating a consistent brand, according to the study. “Language is how customers get to know you. If what you’re saying as a brand strikes the wrong tone, is inconsistent or difficult to understand, it’s going to affect how they feel about you. Worst case scenario, they might just give up and go elsewhere,” said Varela.

Data suggests businesses that have embraced tone of voice see it as an effective marketing tool and brand identifier

According to the study:

  • Only one in five U.S. businesses interviewed had a tone of voice. 70% of them claimed it was just as or more important than their visual identity and 96% said they would invest in it again
  • 84% of companies with a tone of voice said that senior management recognized its value and business benefit
  • Average time since adopting a new tone of voice in business communications is four years, usually for the first time – making it a relatively new business tool
  • Only 14% of all respondents dismissed tone of voice as unimportant
  • Companies with a tone of voice said the top three “triggers” for its adoption were: (1) The need for fresh corporate identity or rebranding; (2) Repositioning the brand; and (3) Initiative from a new CEO

Hi-tech category leader Cisco is early adopter of tone of voice

Varela refers to the positive impact of tone of voice on global technology giant Cisco. A little over three years ago, its brand experience team realized that people internally and externally didn’t understand what the company was talking about a lot of the time. So they launched a company-wide initiative to develop and roll out a tone of voice that both simplified its language and made it more distinctive. “Language is everywhere and too critical to leave it to your old style guide," said Michael Lenz, Cisco’s Global Director of Brand Experience. “Intentionally governing your brand’s voice pays dividends across your customer’s entire journey. The emotional feedback and data have proven it repeatedly. It’s the real foundation of your brand experience.”

Most businesses are missing out

The study shows that those with a tone of voice are using it nearly everywhere, with eight out of ten businesses saying it’s reached most or all functions in their organization. But according to Varela, most U.S. companies are missing out by ignoring the impact their language has on their business – and their bottom line. “For some companies, we’ve seen the ROI reach 10:1, but most U.S. companies don’t even know that a tool like this exists. They’re just not thinking about their language and the impression it creates.”

Notes to editors

The Writer is the world’s largest brand language consultancy, based in New York and London. Clients include global brands Cisco, Unilever and Electronic Arts.

Their mission: to prove that language can help solve big business problems for clients in different disciplines: brand and marketing; customer experience; learning and development; and HR.

They help brands define their tone of voice; write everything from speeches to apps; train people to become more effective writers at work; and name products and businesses.


The Writer
Emelie Rodriguez, +1-646-568-3181

Release Summary

New Study by the Writer Says "Tone of Voice" Overlooked and Underused by Most US Companies


The Writer
Emelie Rodriguez, +1-646-568-3181