Journal of Applied Linguistics, Vol 2, No 1 (2005)

Brand Tone of Voice

Judy Delin
Issued Date: 17 Feb 2007


This paper examines material from two companies, HSBC and Orange, to reveal how far the ‘Tone of Voice’ of these brands expresses their different brand positions. Four linguistic techniques are applied: (i) analysis of chains of reference; (ii) analysis of transitivity and participant roles within clauses; (iii) analysis of presupposition and assumption; and (iv) the analysis of features of tenor such as ‘conversationalisation’ and informal grammar. It is suggested that these approaches are useful in describing the links between language and brand position. Four research hypotheses are proposed: (i) brand strength, i.e. the strength of the reader’s impression of the brand varies depending on the number and nature of referring expressions that relate to the brand; (ii) participant roles, i.e. the reader is influenced by the types of processes ascribed to the brand and its related concepts; (iii) assumption, i.e. presuppositions about reader lifestyles, beliefs and values affects engagement with a brand; and (iv) conversationalisation, i.e. greater frequencies of ‘conversational’ linguistic features influence readers’ affinity with the brand and a willingness to associate the brand with ‘human’ qualities such as ‘approachable’. The paper investigates linguistic markers that relate to these hypotheses in detail, but also proposes two further, as yet untested, hypotheses: (v) explicit evaluation, i.e. the impression of a brand is influenced by the linguistic markers of ‘point of view’ such as those identified within Appraisal Theory, and (vi) unusualness, i.e. there may be a correlation between low-frequency vocabulary items and collocations and readers’ tendencies to associate with the brand qualities such as ‘quirky’ or ‘fun’. The paper also presents a discussion of the use of linguistic techniques for commercial aims, which is a departure from the critical tradition in applied linguistics.

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DOI: 10.1558/japl.v2i1.1

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