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What Doggos & Puppers Tell Us About Tone of Voice

28 March 2017
A dog next to a laptop | What Doggos & Puppers Tell Us About Tone of Voice | Neon

Who’s a good boy?! You are. Yes, you are. And you. And you. And you and you and you and you and you.

Truth is, they’re all good dogs, Brent, and for the last year and a half, wildly successful Twitter feed WeRateDogs™ has been telling the world just how good dogs are with a tongue-in-cheek brilliance that’s made it one of the most consistently engaging, and now money-spinning, social accounts online. As brands continue to strive for new ways to express themselves, they should look beyond best-in-class examples in their own industry and towards accounts like We Rate Dogs for inspiration, because it’s here that tone of voice is truly being reshaped.

How much is that doggo in the browser window?

For those not in the know, WeRateDogs™ is a Twitter feed that’s risen to prominence over the last few years thanks to its unique approach to that well-worn internet staple: the cute animal. The account posts a picture of an adorable pupper (or doggo, depending on your preference), writes a little message about the what the dog’s called and what he or she tends to get up to when not being entirely adorable, and rates he or she out of ten.

So far so standard, but the masterstroke here is that the message is written in a playful tone of voice and the ranking the pupper earns is always greater than ten.

Here are some of WeRateDogs™’s greatest hits…

Animal-based Twitter feeds are nothing new; in fact, you can hardly move on Twitter without seeing a cat scowling, a dog looking amusingly bewildered, or a spider lurking with terrifying intent. There are so many of these feeds now that they’ve become noise, and when content becomes noise, it’s pointless at best and spam at worst. Brands looking to gain traction in an overcrowded marketplace will know the feeling well.

The only way to cut through the noise is both incredibly simple and infuriatingly difficult: if you can’t find something new to say, find a new way to say it. In other words, find a unique tone of voice. This is pretty basic copywriting: freshness attracts people, it draws people into your writing and gives them something new to engage with. WeRateDogs™ has done just that: reinventing the cute animal feed by reinventing language.

Pupper talk

WeRateDogs™ speaks in its own tone of voice unlike any other animal feed online. Blending modern online slang with puns and puppy talk, it even completely reinvents (and mocks) the ‘out of 10’ ranking system by giving each and every dog a score greater than 10 (“Meet Jarvis. The snow pupsets him. Officially ready for summer. 12/10 would perform a chilly boop”). This is more than a simple gimmick. It’s funny, unique, and speaks clearly to WeRateDogs™’s core ‘brand value’: that all dogs are good dogs.

What’s more, it paints a vivid picture in the reader’s mind of who the tweeter is. It might be a human who’s particularly keen on dogs or, as I think, it could be some kind of Grand High Doggo who’s somehow evolved opposable thumbs, learned to tweet and is now spreading the good word about his fellow puppers. That’s nonsense, I know, but the tone of voice generates that kind of image: it’s vivid enough to build a sense of storytelling through writing alone.

The feed has become wildly popular, but not everyone is convinced by their exuberance. Last year, a hapless Tweeter called Brant replied to one of We Rate Dogs’ posts with the following:

It’s something brands see every day: a message from a follower that criticises their core message. But WeRateDogs™ turned it round by taking advantage of their tone of voice. Rather than ignoring Brant or calling him out for being way too serious for a guy who follows a dog account on Twitter, they responded with their core message (“They’re good dogs…”) and made light of the situation by mistyping his name. Suddenly Brant became Bront, then Brent, and finally Brint. Others joined in, the exchange hit the headlines and now Brant/Bront/Brent/Brint is verified on Twitter and a bonā fidē meme.

The dogs who got the bones

This is all well and good, of course, but We Rate Dogs is just a Twitter feed, so it can get away with certain things that brands and businesses can’t. That’s true (brands would be ill-advised to start mocking their followers), but it doesn’t invalidate what they do. It shows that even the most worn-out cliché can be reinvented with the right tone of voice, and most crucially that the rewards for doing so are immense. Because now WeRateDogs™ is more than just a Twitter feed: it’s a whole brand, complete with a website, mainstream exposure and an online shop.

Go to the WeRateDogs™ store, and you can indulge your love of dogs with a wide range of mugs, shirts, and caps featuring a variety of slogans, including the iconic: ‘They’re good dogs, Brent’. Like the Twitter feed, the merchandise has a tongue-in-cheek approach that both feeds off and bolsters their tone of voice. They’re silly, they’re sweet, they’re the perfect representations of what the brand represents, and, most critically of all, allow fans to feel a part of it as well.

And it’s all because of mastery of tone of voice.

By getting clever with language and truly understanding not just what they want to say but how they want to say it, WeRateDogs™ has developed an engaging and dominant stream of content from the overpopulated cute animal circuit and crafted a saleable product that will only continue to grow with each tweet and share. Brands can find similar success by being as creative and methodical. So WeRateDogs™, we salute you in the best way we can:

Top Twitter feed. Would RT. 14/10.

What do you think of WeRateDogs™? Does their tone of voice appeal to you, and what other social feeds do you think offer great examples of tone of voice? Let us know over on Twitter @createdbyneon.

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