The end of 'tone of voice'?

Or, one implication of GOV.UK picking up a Black Pencil

Mike has blogged eloquently here about GOV.UK's more than deserved triumph at the D&AD Awards last night. What I'm intrigued by, however, is what happens next, for copywriting in general, and more specifically, what we could loosely call advertising, marketing or informational copy.

For ages now, it's been accepted as received wisdom that a brand, as much as it does visually, needs to verbally communicate in a 'distinctive' way - whether that's achieved through a vibrant expression of an equally vibrant brand, an agressive, confrontational stance with its audience, or even the staccato, faux-chummy invitations that are the stock-in-trade of most social media.

But one route to distinction that most brands have studiously avoided is the one that you can argued has been most championed by GOV.UK - that is to say, a rigorously simple and clear approach, predicated on use of 'plain English' (in of itself not an uncontroversial term), which eschews a desire to entertain and instead has its creative route a desire to inform (for it is as much as it is anything a creative decision to take such an informational approach to an aesthetic).

Why it's been avoided by most brands as a creative approach is easy to understand - it just doesn't feel particularly creative, after all - and what writer doesn't want to take an approach where they can entertain as much as they can inform.

But part of me thinks that last night's victory means that we might start to see more of it as an approach taken by more and more brands. At one level, considering the relative lack of success for copy disciplines in various awards ceremonies recently, you could argue that taking a low/no-frills approach to brand writing is exactly the sort of discipline that needs to happen for the next few years - the crisp sorbet to refresh the palette jaded by social media, he says throwing metaphors that might not been seen in this new world.

Moreover, knowing the mismatch that is becomming apparent between the amount that we as brand creators think or expect customers to engage with what we produce and,  following Martin Weigal passim, the amount they actually do... well, it suggests to me that smart thinking, smart writing for brands in the next few years, will start to evolve away from something that's called 'tone of voice', an attention-grabbing prima donna that demands love, towards something that's far more 'transactional': quick, efficient, and recognising that a customer really doesn't want to be with your brand that much.

In the same way that Muji is the 'no-brand' brand, I suspect GOV.UK is the first flowering we're seeing of the 'no tone of voice' tone of voice.