Unzipping Your Voice

Listen to any podcast on marketing or go to any conference on content creation, and you’ll hear everyone talking about story telling. Storytelling is the oxygen that brands are breathing these days. In fact I am heading out to California to host a conference on this very topic: How story telling can help your brand be top of mind and close to the heart. We are fortunate to have Mark Schaefer, author, educator and successful marketing consultant presenting a keynote. Check out Mark's' work at Grow

But exactly how do you go about telling your story in a compelling way and how can you open up your brand voice to the world? 

Here are six thought starters to help you begin this process:

OBSERVE AND LISTEN: I like to look at the brands I compete with and understand what type of story they are telling? Are they talking about their features (faster, smaller, thinner or low in carbs?). Understand the competitive landscape so you can see how your story might resonate. Keep in mind you don’t just compete within your category but within your high usage occasion. So wine marketers compete with craft beer for that at home consumption or what gets consumed at dinner. And listen to your competitors voice and the stories they are telling. Whose voice is it you hear when they talk? Is it pushy, empathic or unclear? 

BRAND ESSENCE: What is the most essential aspect of your brand that your customer would describe?  If you drew a few concentric circles to represent the structure of your brand - on the outer circle of your brand would be features. But as you get to the center – the essence – what do you stand for? What big promise have you made to your consumers that allow them to trust you? Are you committed to making a sustainable and organic product and to manage your brand that way too?  Often one word (or at most a phrase) should exist in the center.

KNOW YOUR VOICE: When your customers close their eyes, whose voice do you want them to hear? Is it the wisdom of your grandmother who started your brand 75 years ago? Is it the sound of an overworked parent in search of peace and calm through technology? Is it the vibrant voice of a loud and brash tween with streaks running through their hair and tats on their arms?  Who speaks for you? If you created a commercial, whose voice would speak?

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE: Who are you speaking to? I use a different voice when I talk to my mother than I do when I talk to a teenager. What is your audience looking for from you when you speak? Ideas, enlightenment, entertainment, calm, excitement, etc? Does your audience learn best when things are more formal or relax? Are they more male or female? Are they overworked and have short-attention spans or looking for more elaborate information, or both at different times? When and where does your audience learn about products and brands in your category? 

TONE: A brand voice exists with a certain tone and temperament. Is it upbeat or sedentary? Is it protective or private? Is it strident or laid back? Tone sets the table for how you want the consumer to feel as they absorb your message and listen to you talk with them. Think of the different tones you heard from various teachers in high school or college. Some were brash and other whispered. They all sent different messages to frame how you learned what they had to say. Pay attention to the tone of your voice. 

ASPIRATION:  A brand voice is like a tour guide taking you somewhere. The airline pilot in their soft and calming voice is telling you not just that you are at 30,000 feet but that you are in the hands of a safe protector who will take care of you. The voice of the personal trainer is pushing you along to get you in shape and a better physical body. The yoga instructor has a voice that helps you work toward a place of peace, tranquility and inner awareness. All of these voices help you transcend where you are towards a moment that is approaching. They are leading you somewhere on a journey. And in most cases, brands are moving you toward something you feel and aspire to achieve.

A Room Full of People 
A wise marketing colleague said to me a few years ago, that in searching for your brand voice, think of a room full of people. As each person speaks, they deliver a message in different ways. Some are outgoing and loud. Some are quiet and soft-spoken. A few are exaggerating the truth while others are meek and timid correcting every last detail of what they say. Some voices are deep and sonorous while a few are high and lilting. As you look around the room, whose voice comes closest to what you want to say to your customers.

Finally, another interesting way to help you find your brand’s voice is to think of famous people like celebrities, politicians and those who are well-known to the public. Is there a person who epitomizes the voice of your brand? Is Tom Hanks the voice of trust and friendliness that you want to emulate? Do you want an experienced, cocky rock star like Mick Jagger to be telling your story? Would a funny successful woman like Tina Fey be the voice of your brand if you could afford to sign her up? Or do you want to be seen as an ironic, witty and in your face brand where Sarah Silverman would be the perfect spokesperson.

The purpose of this exercise isn't to sign a million dollar star to be the voice of your brand, but to use that celebrity as a helpful way of identifying how you want your audience to hear your brand. 

In my snack food business days, we hired Macho Man Randy Savage, a well-known professional wrestler to be the voice of our brand. Literally and figuratively.  Like our product Slim Jim, Randy was engaged in a profession that was bold, brash and not-quite real; just like our actual dried smoked meat stick. He captured the pure irreverence of the brand and helped us stand apart from boring, wimpy snacks.  When we closed our eyes, we wanted Randy telling our story.

So if you are in search of how to tell your story, start with the question, who should be the voice and persona who represents our brand. Let your brand story come from understanding how your audience absorbs and learns information and how you want to world to see you. 

Who is speaking for your brand today? I'd love to hear your examples in the comment section below. 

Need a little excitement? Snap into a conversation with me through Clarity, a site that allows you to set up appointments with experts by the minute. I'm happy to coach and advise if I can be of help on marketing and start ups. Last week I helped coach someone who was struggling with issues related to focus of his time and energy to grow a baking business. How can I help you? 

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