On a recent trip across the country, I piece-mealed my travel between a few airlines and I was struck by how different brands use tone across their content. Tone gives products or brands a personality that people can relate to while simultaneously communicating the brand itself.
For example, T-Mobile’s irreverent tone enforces a rebellious brand and the company’s marketing further communicates through its copy, promotions, and graphics. All align to say, “T-Mobile is not like big cell phone carriers. We’re different. We’re rebels. Choose T-Mobile and say no to big mobile. Be a rebel like us.”
Southwest Airlines is another example of effective tone; from the billboards on the way to the airport, to the wheelchairs in the terminal, the king of the low-cost carriers has a clear tone that personifies an accessible brand takes care of traveler’s simplest needs. And if you fly with them often, you come to expect their cheeky statements and clever puns.
In a terminal in Atlanta, I looked out the window to see something that looked like a golf cart, carrying a few small trailers of luggage between planes. On one side of the trailer a sign read, “Bags are our passion.” It reminded me of one of the reasons I chose Southwest. Then I recalled seeing a billboard on the way to the airport. The one with a gigantic face, smiling and a message saying something about bags flying free. But why do bags fly free? The sign on the luggage trailer at the airport seemed to answer that question; because “Bags are our passion.”
As I considered this, I saw a big container on a lift, loading something onto another plane, “The snacks are on me.” Another said, “Everyone loves free snacks”. The flight I took on another airline also had free snacks, but they didn’t advertise it. So why would Southwest? Doesn’t it go along with the brand that takes care of traveler’s simplest needs? And doesn’t it go with the idea of “free bags”? In this case free bags of snacks, rather than free luggage.
I didn’t realize it until that moment, but Southwest was having a conversation with me using simple outdoor advertising, not fancy behavioral-driven digital marketing. Southwest simply aligned its clear brand, consistent messaging and personified tone. That’s great marketing!
But how can content marketers like me learn from this experience?
The first thing I learned, or really reinforced, was that tone brings a brand to life. Too many content marketers don’t even consider tone and instead push out dry pieces of content that sound more like a Ph.D. dissertation than marketing.
While some of us may be afraid to add that personality that makes our content marketing noticeable (we’ve all seen that go terribly wrong), I often see it’s a deeper problem of not having a clear brand that tone can then be used to reinforce. And using tone effectively starts with a clear brand.