Corporate Eye

Dog Food and Corporate Tone of Voice

Do you read the back of cereal packets?

puppiesI read tins and packets all the time, and was struck by a curious ‘tone of voice‘ mismatch I saw on the back of a dry puppy mix packet this morning. (What, you don’t read those?)

See what you think about these two elements on the packaging:

  • Daily Feeding Instructions

    The section describing how much mix to give your dog is very clear, laid out in a table, so it is easy to find the right amount for a dog by age and predicted adult size. Clear, that is, right up to the final item, which said that for really large dogs who are feeding puppies, the frequency of meals should be ‘ad libidum’.

    As I was taught Latin all those years ago in my north-eastern comprehensive, I can have a pretty good stab at the meaning of this, but I suspect that some people might be puzzled.

  • The Legal Stuff

    Below this section was the legal statement, preceded by a very friendly introduction:

    the legal stuff

    OK, so this next bit isn’t very exciting for everyone, but it’s really important.

    … By the way, this product doesn’t really contain ash, that’s just the legal name we have to use for all the minerals we include…

Interesting. I know it’s a cliché, but wouldn’t you usually expect the legal wording to be the one that included Latin? (Even there, though it isn’t a good idea because it isn’t always easy to understand, even if the meaning is precise, because it assumes knowledge of another language).

Instead, ‘the legal stuff’ is written in a very chatty style, with no legalese to be seen. And it matches the friendly and reassuring style of the copy on the rest of the site, right down to the lack of capitalisation on the header.

I think it likely that the section about the puppy mix was written by a subject expert (perhaps even a vet) and the other section by a good copywriter with the corporate brand in mind, but that nobody looked at the two sections as a whole.

You’re probably not selling puppy mix, but are you sure that the language and tone of voice on your site is consistent throughout? It doesn’t need to be identical – after all, your site has a range of audiences – but it should be consistent. And, even more importantly, it should be written in language that your audience will understand.

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