Ken Clarke TOV Guidelines (leaked excerpt)


NB: This extract from Ken Clarke's revised Tone of Voice Guidelines found its way into my inbox. I pass it on without comment.


Until now, the Kenneth Clarke verbal brand (‘Ken’) has been defined under the strategic banner of Blokeish CharmTM.

This positioning has proved very effective over the years. However, it has recently been noted that this Tone of Voice does not sufficiently ‘flex’ to cover all circumstances, particularly when discussing issues such as serious crimes and prison sentencing.

As a result, we have developed a new positioning that more fully reflects Ken as he is today and aspires to be in future.

Please note this is an evolution rather than a revolution and should be thought of as a subtle shift in the continuing journey of the Ken brand.

We define the new positioning as:

Apologetic Tactful HumilityTM

The new Ken, henceforth referred to more formally as Kenneth Clarke, is characterised by hyper-sensitivity and tact, to an extent that could be construed as 'embarrassing' and 'laughable'.

We have mapped out the new positioning using this illustrative Language LandscapeTM:

Please note this new brand positioning is to be brought forward immediately – and certainly in time for Question Time tonight.

Extreme copywriting


This week's Sunday Times carries an article about (allegedly) 'Europe's dirtiest hotel', as voted by readers of TripAdvisor. It's the Grosvenor Hotel in Blackpool. Recent reviews include the observations that it is "vile", "filthy" and "has blood all over the walls and bathroom." Other customers have noted the presence of "pubic hairs on the bed", "congealed waste around the taps" and "human dirt on the toilet seat".

Naturally, I visited the hotel website to check for availability.

This is where the real fascination lies for me. How do copywriters cope when this is the product they are given to sell? What positive spin can you give? The results are strangely impressive.

A warm welcome awaits you at the Grosvenor Hotel, whether as old friends or new. Nestled in the heart of Blackpool, close to the Tower, Winter Gardens, Beach and is within easy reach of the bus and train stations. For those who wish to explore the vibrant nightlife we have a night porter on duty so there is no need for late keys. Your comfort is our priority, as is the cleanliness and standard of service.

This is marketing language under the severest possible strain (which may explain why the second sentence goes somewhat astray). Nevertheless, "Nestled in the heart of Blackpool" is a brilliantly positive spin for a hotel boasting views like this:


(This was taken by the unfortunate angleseygirl_9 from one of the 'Tower View' bedrooms.)

Within the first few lines of copy, the writer is reduced to listing the presence of a "night porter" as one of the key USPs. A more cynical reader might assume this was down to security concerns and the fear that some of the older and more forgetful residents might lose their keys, but the copywriter bravely repositions this as an inspired customer service initiative.

The claim that cleanliness is a priority is close to overstepping the bounds, but just about reined in by the use of the word 'priority' – cleverly sending out positive signals without committing to anything. (It could mean that their priority is to do something about their appalling cleanliness standards.)

By the time you get to the room descriptions, the writer is boasting of the presence of a 'tray'. Lesser writers would presumably have cracked at this point.

Anyway, it got me thinking that there should be an awards scheme for instances of Extreme Copywriting. We'll be looking out for more examples and feel free to send in your own. Just remember they need to be seriously extreme – writers battling against the odds as the semantic walls cave in.