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How to sound as luxury as you look

How to sound as luxury as you look


It’s no good getting ‘all dressed up’ if you ruin it the moment you speak. For luxury brands, getting your tone of voice right cultivates an impression of exclusivity and mystique. Get it wrong and you can easily devalue your brand.

Luxury has 1000 voices

As everyone knows, the right tone of voice helps you connect to your audience and make you stand out from the crowd. But finding an authentic tone of voice for a luxury brand is more complex than simply appearing ‘posh’ or exclusive. The way you speak to your target audience needs to be finely nuanced. Ideally, your tone of voice should convey that you understand them and their lifestyle – making your audience feel they’ve found a soulmate.

Formal vs Informal

Trends in tone of voice just now are veering strongly towards the informal, together with simple language. That means the complicated and Latinate style which luxury brands have traditionally cultivated can sound too formal or even clunky. General trends matter because they’ll affect the general mind-set with which your reader approaches your copy. That said, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be more formal, providing it’s authentic for your brand, and your copy is carefully crafted to engage them.

There’s a simple philosophy in branding, that a good brand is just like a trustworthy person. The way it speaks is completely harmonious with the way it looks – you develop a holistic and entirely consistent personality that the target market will relate to, believe in and, most importantly, desire.

“If you think about ten people you know, they all talk completely differently: not just the sound of their voices, but the words they use, the little nuances of expression and so on.”

How to find your luxury brand tone of voice

Finding your true voice

– an authentic tone that resonates with your target audience – involves detective work. It’s already there, but you have to discover it. Ask yourself the following questions…

  • Who is your audience? What are their personality traits and values?
  • What are they looking for e.g. reassurance, status, a little flattery, exclusivity…? What do they read?
  • How do they speak to one another? How would you speak to them face-to-face?
  • Ask them how they’d describe you – and investigate further. So if they say your brand is ‘elegant’, do they mean chic, graceful or sophisticated?
  • What kind of luxury are you? Modern? Traditional? Heritage? Boutique? Premium? Prestige? Mass Luxury (‘Masstige’)?
  • Who are you and where have you come from? Many luxury brands have an enviable history of success or great brand stories. Remembering these will tell you a lot about how you should sound.
  • What are your brand values?
  • How do you speak to each other inside the company? Your tone of voice has to stay true to this or you’ll come off like someone ‘putting on a posh voice’.

Once you’ve come up with three or four adjectives which define your brand, hone your definitions further. Work out what you mean by each of them AND more importantly, what you don’t. So for instance with a luxury brand, ‘funny’ might mean ‘witty’ but preclude ‘coarse humour’. Or you might sound ‘young’ – meaning ‘fresh’ but not ‘immature’.

Copy for Bath Kitchen Company brochure
Copy from Bath Kitchen brochure

“Tone of voice is an identifier almost as unique as a fingerprint, which is why discovering that unique brand tone of voice is a vital tool to achieve differentiation.”

Brochure copy for Bath Kitchen company
Copy from Bath Kitchen brochure

The biggest luxury brand tone of voice pitfalls

Unfortunately luxury brand tone of voice pitfalls abound, and if you simply aim to sound grand it’s all too easy to fall foul of them:

  • Relying on clichés – We all think we know how a luxury brand ‘should’ sound and it’s easy to get lazy. Work harder at making your reader actually feel what you’re talking about, rather than simply telling them. And avoid overused words such as ‘stunning’, ‘breath-taking’ or ‘world-class’. Find a new way to get the message across
  • Passive voice – This does make you sound grander but unfortunately it doesn’t engage the reader. In fact if you use it regularly, it gives the impression that you think you’re better than they are, or that you’re resting on your laurels.
  • Being old fashioned – An old brand doesn’t have to sound old. If it’s boutique for instance, it could sound quirky or charmingly eccentric.
Brochure text for Bath Kitchen Company
Detail Copy from Bath Kitchen brochure

Giving Bath Kitchen Company its own voice

That’s why, in any brand development, it’s vital to understand, not just the how the brand will ‘dress’ (the entire look and feel of it), but also how it will talk. In the case of the Bath Kitchen Company, we had to understand how a family business – that cares as passionately about designing kitchens around people’s lives, as the actual building of them – would speak. It’s too easy just to say, ‘Oh they’re upmarket, let’s make them talk posh.’ That’s not unique, and it’s not who they really are. You have to understand who they really are.

Taking the time to find your unique tone of voice pays dividends. It can invest your brand with a ‘rightness’ and customer loyalty that nobody can take from you.

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