3 Rules for an Authentic Brand Voice Through Content
Most marketers, entrepreneurs, and business owners agree that having a clear, consistent brand voice across communications is important. But little is said when it comes to putting a plan in place to achieve that voice. The process doesn't have to be a complicated one, as long as you follow these three rules:
First, know the difference between voice and tone.
The two, though similar, aren't as interchangeable as you would think. Your brand's voice is the "who," its personality and attributes. Its tone is the "what", the mood and orientation it wants to express. Think of tone as a subset of voice, and the word choice you'll use to connect with consumers. Your voice should stay consistent over time while tone evolves according to when and where you use it. So if your brand voice is a trustworthy, experienced and steadfast Morgan Freeman, you can be gentle or firm, playful or dramatic, but you can never go full William Shatner.
Next, think about how you can bring your key messages in to your brand voice.
Now that your personality is in place, you have to consider the other two Ps: perspective and purpose. That's where your message comes in to play. Messaging isn't just about coming up with a positioning statement and saying it five hundred different (albeit clever) ways. You have to go beyond your unique value proposition to create messaging around what you believe in and what you know can spark a sense of passion in your audience. The fact is, when it comes to content, it's not really about you. Think about Nike's recent win with its Risk Everything video for the World Cup. Of course, at first glance, Risk Everything is a direct translation of "Just do it." But Nike is almost completely absent from the viral video, with a pair of fine Italian dress shoes getting more screen time than the brand's iconic swoosh. The video is all about anticipation, excitement, the drama of the game, which, without talking explicitly about the Nike brand, captures its very essence.
Then, know when and where you can switch things up a bit.
The best examples of brand voice are complex and varied, showing a range of emotions, thoughts and ideas. Let's take some current wins by Oscar Mayer as an example. While their new website is concise, matter-of-fact and all about the food, their content is decidedly different. Unsung Bacon gets chest-poundy in a clever, tongue-in-cheek manner, asking audiences to recognize the underappreciated greatness of turkey bacon by putting Kevin Bacon's lesser-known brother in the spotlight. A two minute video, shot with Wes Anderson-esque cinematography, strengthens the argument. The brand's video for a phone dongle that wakes users up with the delicious smell of bacon, however, satirizes the overwrought sensuality of beauty/ perfume commercials, relying heavily upon dramatic orchestral music and fairy tale imagery. Different still is the brand's commercial for adult hot dogs, showcasing the comic plights of the modern parent. But throughout all of these pieces of content, Oscar Mayer's voice is consistent: addressing the sensibilities of a thirty-to-fortysomething parent who prides equally in their individuality and humor, relishing in the opportunity to make every day memorable through fuss-free food and laughter.
Steve Sachs is CEO of OneSpot. Previously, he was EVP, consumer marketing and sales at the Time Inc. division of Time Warner.