As brands compete to be the most witty, most hip, numbers spiking with humour-fuelled success… I ask, where has the individuality gone in a brand voice? Is it dead? Can it be revived? Even at the expense of a few 'lols'?
It really seems like many brands are stripping back their quirks to make way for minimalistic logos and sarcastic gestures. In the ‘top best brand voices’ each one sounds motivational, punchy, zesty, modern, Gen z. However, if I picked up any one of these individual brand scripts, in a figurative television production series let's say, I would fail to distinguish more than one character in this plot.
Sarcasm and wit is everywhere now. It’s in your baked-bean-covered cereal, your honest smoothies, and in court fighting copy-caterpillar cases. What I would love to see and hear, instead, is individuality again, genuine creativity, in a world where humour is supposedly the new different. ‘Babe, are you ok?’
‘Just about to tuck in, babes’
Brand voice goes hand in hand with brand identity. It paints the overarching personality of the brand, guiding the team on how to portray it and guiding the consumer on how to perceive it. The energy of the brand also resides inside the identity and with word choice and voice being one of the core platforms to portray that very energy why are we painting the town ‘same’? If we all match each other's ‘successful’ blueprint of becoming a well recognised funny brand then is there really a need for a brand voice or brand tone at all?
As outlined by Daisy Atkinson from The Drum, ‘brand tone of voice is often something that is overlooked focusing instead on the brand colours, fonts and not the actual verbal expression. Often resulting in brands adopting the ‘most simplest, most broadly acceptable style of writing - the one which follows the basic principles of using the active voice, simple terminology and only 8-10 words per sentence - which in the history of iconic rhetoric has never set the world on fire.’
Why wouldn’t you want to set the world on fire hey? A great brand can change the world, pave its own path, connect with people in an entirely unique way. Which is why, I believe, many small businesses do brand voice so well.
Working with small business owners, you find their brands are well moulded around who they are as individuals. Often putting their whole entire being out on the table for all to see, judge, buy from and follow. This gives them an advantage for, often, the copywriter, social media manager, photographer, and maker IS the boss, making it easier to emotionally connect and keep everything succinct. Potentially why larger brands try and bridge that emotional gap via made-up characters or brand mascots. Surely that alone brings more heart into the brand voice? Take Betty Crocker for instance. In her picture she is a curly haired lady from the 1800s/1900s. A made up person may I add. In the Victorian era you would find phrases such as ‘chuckaboo’ to describe a close friend or ‘giggle mug’ to describe a “habitually smiling face” or ‘mad as hops’ to express excitement or 'make a stuffed bird laugh'. All incredibly fun words and phrases that are relevant to the brands heritage, brand mascot and could overall creatively enhance their positioning.
Instead, peering at this Instagram post, I see rhetorical questions and forced excitement. A lack of the very warmth home-baking inhabits. Where is Betty Crocker in this post? Someone tell Betty to get her feet up off the hot stove and put some more heart into her posts. Maybe then we’ll believe the company is getting in the Christmas spirit. Maybe then I’ll believe that brand voice isn’t dead.
To have a pulse, great brands need to have their own voice, their own individual character. A character fuelled by empathy, emotion, a unique story, someone who understands the customer too. A character that rocks up to the corner of Albert Square and the dun dun duns chimes. But, how do we get there?
We knit-pick and question, rebuilding with positive intention.
The more questions we ask, helping to visualise and humanise who our brand really is, the more likely we will be able to build greater brands. Hopefully brands more confident in their unique abilities and individualities, keeping the brand voice as important as it was always meant to be.
SO - IS THE BRAND VOICE DEAD?
My theory is.... that individuality, in a brand voice, has been jabbed at with witty-shaped knives due to a business' insecure need for success. Humour is an easy path to that. We've seen an incredible amount of brands, for example, jumping onto a comedy for a quick win but customers aren't in it for the short term they're in it for the long haul, seeing past the wit and charm and delving deeper to unearth brand snags and brand holes.
So, although humour can work, the authentic, creative and distinctive voice amongst a multitude of noise, in my opinion, will live the longest. But, what are your thoughts?
Thank you for reading. I've had these thoughts about brand voice for a long time now and am thankful I've finally found the words to share. Let me know your thoughts.
Or, if you would like to work together on your own brand identity and voice then feel free to reach out for a virtual cuppa >>> chloe@thecreativestrides