Brand Tone of Voice Example: o2

These days I’m hearing less about “brand image” and more about “brand story”, “business voice” and “tone of voice”.

Brand Story, brand tone and brand voice are all elements that work coherently together with design to build a business identity.

Lets’ take a look at one good working example of how a brand strategy, brand story, brand voice and tone are all used to create a solid brand identity for the telecommunications company o2.

02 telecoms branding, design, story and voice.

The Brand History

In the late nineties, Securicor and the BT Group created a subsidiary telecoms company called Cellnet and after a few years of re-branding and moving homes, the business finally came into its own in 2002 as the o2 brand. 

By 2005 it was purchased by Telefonica who retained the o2 brand name and began to grow the company as one of the UK’s leading mobile telecoms providers.

Since then o2 has always been in the forefront as a telecoms provider in the UK with a unique brand identity.

The Brand

o2 have a focus on quality as opposed to low cost and unlike other telecom brands, it radiated exclusivity and prestige, initially targeting a demographic of business users and through lifestyle branding.

o2 is of course symbolic of oxygen, a natural element that’s dynamic, connects us all worldwide and the lifeline of our human existence through air and water.

The company o2 took this idea of connection, life and fluidity and combined it with sentiments of power and success to create a juxtaposed concept of technology and communication, making an emotional connection with a specific audience of men or businessmen and entreprenuers in a unique way.

The Brand Identity

o2’s logo design is conservative with a clear and modern B2B tone but coupled with elements of nature, water, bubbles and blue gradients the o2 brand identity design was able to ooze sophistication and produce something creative and classy for years to come.

Colour, line, shape, form and type make up that identity as well as the brand voice.

The o2 logo design
The o2 brand identity design

The Brand Voice

o2 personified their brand without the use of a dedicated visual character. They used a tone of voice instead, allowing them to be even more fluid and dynamic with who they targeted and how.

Every advert was voice-overed by actor “Sean bean” with a cool, calm, calculated and slightly serious persona, resembling the demographic of business users and go-getters of that time.

The change in brand voice

The way we use telecoms has changed completely and so has the market. Devices which may have been exclusive to a business user before are now readily used by everyone and the lifestyle that was once exclusive to the business go-getter is more achievable by anyone today.

To adapt to the changes in lifestyle and target a new demographic 02 didn’t re-brand, they tweaked their marketing strategy instead by becoming funnier, more creative and warmer, targeting a new demographic with their advertising.  They even stated it in their adverts.

Losing the male-focused football, power, business and leisure themes, they changed their tone of voice to target everyday casual young females instead with an emphasis on creativity.

With each new advert, Sean Bean’s voice over became less serious gradually turning into a friendlier tone and what was once a business service targeting a majority of male users was now targeting a wider audience with an informal tone.

Todays brand voice

o2 is still a prestigious, quality focused and exclusive telecoms company with a strong link to business users but it’s tone of voice has changed completely.

Long gone is the serious undertone targeting business users and males as their core demographic, and likewise their not targetting young women as much.

Their focus is now on a more mature crowd, an intelligent crowd, those who’re looking for unique experiences with a very friendly tone of voice.

Sean Bean still makes his voice over at the end of adverts but we find a new voice and character to identify with being the man personifying the cat.

It’s not any less classy, just more appealing to a new wider demographic through humour, resonation and projecting modern lifestyle traits.

The brand story

By looking at all of o2’s branding and marketing we can see the focus was never on devices and not even communication but what you the buyer wants out of life.

o2 is a telecoms brand that used story, tone and voice to target modern day consumers and sell them the idea of a desirable lifestyle; a lifestyle with exclusive benefits that you can have with o2.


To tell their story, o2 used a brand voice with a tone that changed every time the target audience changed. Visual cues were used to assist and personify the brand for periods of time and reflect change both internally as a company and externally to mirror the audience in an intelligent way.

What o2 have never done is move away from their core brand values and attributes of:

  • Quality
  • Intelligence
  • Aspirational
  • Experiences
  • Exclusivity

The brand speaks like the intelligent everyday man who provides opportunities to explore and make dreams a reality in turn making you more wise and experienced yoruself.

As you can see from all of the above it takes a holistic effort using, design, language, story and strategy to produce a good brand.

brand Voice is just one part of it but can be a very powerful part indeed.


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