Tone of voice can and will directly impact brand perception and bottom line, argues Marcus Stoll, head of marketing EMEA at NewsCred.
Silly or serious? Funny or deadpan? Finding your tone of voice as a technology brand when producing content is a careful balancing act: one misstep and the whole thing can come tumbling down.
When reading content presented by a technology brand, the UK public feel most comfortable with a ‘serious and honest’ approach (30%) or one that’s ‘knowledgeable and full of facts’ (28%). Surprisingly, if you take an approach that is just a few degrees north of these – ‘academic and intelligent’, those numbers plummet, with just 3% saying that this is their preferred tone of voice for tech content.
What does this mean for tech brands? These findings come from NewsCred’s recent report, ‘From Tech Savvy to Content Savvy’, in which 2,000 UK adults were surveyed to find out how they are currently sourcing and using tech information, as well as what their attitudes around tech brands producing content are.
The results indicate that as a tech brand, how you say it is just as important as what you’re saying when it comes to your overall marketing success.
The fact that ‘academic and intelligent’ was considered unpopular – while in reality not being too dissimilar from the most popular answers – is telling.
Technology brands often discuss complex topics, which require a degree of seriousness. However, it’s easy to become bogged down in the jargon and lose sight of the easy-to-understand language your customers require if your content is to remain helpful and accessible.
The scales tip both ways, though. While audiences do not want cold, impenetrable jargon, they also don’t want silly or stupid. Given that the internet often seems to be populated by more cat videos and memes than anything else, this can sometimes be easy to forget, but only 2% of respondents in our study say that jokes, funny updates, or pictures were of any importance to them when searching for tech content.
Apple is a good example of finding that balance. It’s famous for producing cutting-edge technology, and yet it’s known to cultivate a great deal of warmth and adoration from its fans because of the way it positions itself and its products.
Take a video Apple released for one of its newest products, the Apple Watch. In it, we see people living with the product; the footage shows us how it fits into our everyday lives. Apple forgoes all of the usual technical jargon (battery life, memory, processing power) in favour of a much more relatable and emotional demonstration of the role the product can play in your life (tracking walks with the family dog, guiding you as you cycle to and from work).
Google is another well-known tech brand that excels at content marketing. In a video showcasing Google Earth, the company tells the story of Saroo Munshi Khan, who as a five year old child was parted from his family in Calcutta. Twenty years later and living in Australia, he begins the long search for his family with nothing other than a few hazy memories and Google Earth to aid him.
Once again, the content works precisely because it eschews the usual features and benefits-led approach in favour of telling a very human story. Google doesn’t make vague promises in its video; instead it shows us in a very literal way the wonderful difference the product has made in a person’s life.
“Clearly, there’s a correlation between the quality of content a brand publishes, and the perception of that brand”
This kind of thinking is important not just to technology brands, but to any brand hoping to succeed in content marketing. Tone of voice can and will directly impact brand perception and bottom line, which was clearly demonstrated in our survey results when we asked the public what effect poor content would have on their brand perception.
Three of the most popular responses to this question were: ‘That they aren’t current/up to date with customers’ (27%), ‘They don’t care about reaching customers’ (18%) and ‘If they don’t post decent content, then I wouldn’t expect them to sell good products’ (16%). Clearly, there’s a correlation between the quality of content a brand publishes, and the perception of that brand. Just one mistake, and the faith and value the public put into that brand can erode completely.
The results speak for themselves in terms of lessons for brands. When you’re producing your next content campaign, whether it’s for the latest in smartphone technology or the impact of virtual reality on business, it’s not all about format. Word count, subject matter, and tone of voice need to be absolutely pitch-perfect, too.