5 lessons from Tintin on tone of voice in B2B

Separate yourself from the pack with a distinct tone of voice and evolve into a B2B love brand.

Do you truly want to help your customers or are you just a regular troglodyte? That’s the question your readers are constantly – and often subconsciously – asking themselves.

“Who are you? What do you want from me? Can I trust you?”

The answers are hiding in plain sight. One of them is visual design, which we’ve already discussed, the other is tone of voice.

#1 Be yourself – always and everywhere

Think of your brand as a comic book character. How would you describe it? A ‘good-hearted rascal’ or more of a ‘genius professor with a hearing aid’?

A colorful description of your brand’s comic book personality will help you stay consistent – whoever is holding the pen.

So, write like you (or your character) speaks(s). Free and authentic. That’s how you create a recognizable brand personality that your audience will grow to love. That’s right, the Walhalla of B2B branding.

tone of voice- #1 Be yourself – always and everywhere
© Hergé / Moulinsart – The crab with the golden claws

First off, avoid being a toffee-nose by using:

  • contractions
    That’s obvious. Or do you talk like a newsreader at home too?
  • truncated sentences
    Just because. Not all the time, of course. But truncated sentences can help you create rhythm in your writing. Sweet!
  • interjections
    Small, innocent words that pull your readers through the text. Like this.

#2 Pay (more) attention to translations

Eih bennek, eih blavek. What do you think the Syldavian national motto means?

Wrong! The correct translation is “If you gather thistles, expect prickles!” And you’d know that if you spoke Syldavian.

tone of voice- #2 Pay (more) attention to translations
© Hergé / Moulinsart – King Ottokar’s sceptre

Creative translations are a vital driving force behind Tintin’s global success. The adventures of Belgium’s finest research journalist have been published in uncountable languages – without losing a grain of authenticity or creativity.

But how does it relate to the hyper international world of B2B marketing? Well, even though English is clearly the lingua franca, do not underestimate the power of being addressed in your language.

So take care to brief your translators with nuance – and to give them the freedom to bring your tone of voice to life in countries and cultures across the world. Even Syldavia.

#3 Add the right amount of jargon

tone of voice- #3 Add the right amount of jargon
© Hergé / Moulinsart – Destination moon

Just look at Captain Haddock’s expression. Right. Incomprehension leads to frustration and distrust. You don’t need to be a psychiatrist to figure that out.

Swearing off jargon completely, however, isn’t the solution. A sprinkle here and there will help you connect with your readership and show off your expertise.

So whether you’re talking about compressors, cooling units, or printing presses – always use jargon sparsely, and with a purpose.

#4 Not clear? Not credible!

tone of voice- #4 Not clear? Not credible!
© Hergé / Moulinsart – The blue lotus

Scientific research shows that clear, easily legible messages are considered to be truthful more quickly. So don’t be tempted to bury crucial information under a stream of expensive words or fancy fonts.

Take the poison of madness. Doesn’t need a lot of explaining now, does it?

#5 Allow your words to sing

tone of voice- #5 Allow your words to sing
© Hergé / Moulinsart – The broken ear

Can you hear the opera Carmen playing in your head? Even if you don’t know it? Using images to trigger an imaginary sound is a well-known trick in advertising.

Yet words can evoke music just the same. Listen carefully when reading these names:

  • McDonald’s
  • Coca-Cola
  • Nike

Words catch on faster when there’s music in them. And that goes for your texts as well. Rhythm and rhyme will make your copy sublime. See?

Does your text wiggle like an earworm? Read it aloud –without holding back. You’ll notice long sentences, complex words, or faulty punctuation when they break the flow of your writing.

So, dear B2B marketer, how should you use tone of voice?

The simplest solution? Just say:

“I trust my agency/in-house copywriters and will provide feedback.”

Tried and tested, sure, but you might lose consistency, efficiency, and effectiveness. Your readers will notice first but, ultimately, it will be your bottom line that suffers most.

So, how do you make sure your B2B brand’s tone of voice transcends the norm?

  1. Gather examples
    Did you catch a glimpse of some extra juicy copy? Take a snapshot and share it with your team!
  2. Create a tone of voice guide
    Short, but complete. With good examples and bad.
  3. Add it to your briefings
    So that everyone knows the expectations.
  4. Provide creative freedom
    Don’t be a helicopter parent and let your writers experiment. (You can always drag them back later.)
  5. Use it as a basis for feedback
    No need to be shy and no more discussions about personal preferences.

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