Tell or yell: tone and manner in marketing writing

We have a client whose default mode for marketing writing is overstatement. He’s very successful, very bright and very LOUD. Sometimes it works – there’s a place to pound your chest and claim kingship over all you see. It can work in our favor too — he calls me the greatest writer on Planet Earth. Which I of course appreciate.

But overstatement isn’t always the answer. Calling yourself a “legend” in your own bio can be quite alienating. For a while there it seemed like every other commercial was for someone who was “redefining” their industry. I seem to recall Buick even running such an ad. Buick, really? How about just being a good car for the buck that supposedly can fit Shaquille O’Neal? We can’t all be redefining our industries all the time, or there would be no definition to displace.

Besides being inaccurate, overstatement is sometimes simply inappropriate. The purpose of marketing content is to create connection through relevance. Tell your target audience something they need to know and you’re on the right track towards creating a conversation. But burying them in platitudes about your own awesomeness may not strike their interest. After all, it’s not your awesomeness they’re really interested in, it’s their own.

No one tone of writing is right all the time anyway. The tone needs to align with the purpose of each piece. Even a serious brand can be playful at times, and playful brands can be serious. Sometimes it’s the tonal shift that adds to the impact of a particular piece. This doesn’t mean that brand standards don’t apply, only that monotone marketing is, well, monotone.

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