Today, consumers absorb more advertising than any other point in history. As adaptable creatures, this has heightened our sensitivity to messaging tone and helped us to see through poor brand messaging. Most large companies have navigated away from differentiating messaging and resorted to a homogenous brand voice centered on professionalism and openness. Among this sea of similarity, there is an opportunity for smaller companies to rise up by adding variety to the landscape.
What the public deserves is better, more authentic, and interesting messaging. Messaging that comes off as complex and deep, not surface-level. Utilizing a multi-faceted brand voice strategy is the next step in mid-market branding evolution. Positioning your brand voice(s) in a way that allows you to ride the wave of the modern movement as well as differentiate yourself from the competition will drive a significant increase in engagement for your company. In this article, we will cover the eight essential brand voices, and how they can be utilized.
The first thing to consider about brand voices is that they are not isolated. They often work together the way a piano works - different combinations of keys creating a single harmony. While your company may lean more heavily to one voice, it is important to keep a variety in use. This captures the widest audience available without coming off as generic or boring. A company may see its chief quality as integrity. But they must pair that with multiple other qualities in order to not get lost among all the other companies that see themselves the same way. Now let us walk through each brand voice in detail.
The voice of the soldier is direct and organizational. Its chief characteristic is that of being useful and clear. This excels in times of crisis because it is a voice of direction and guidance. Effective both internally and externally, the voice of the soldier exemplifies company values and mission. It focuses on their success in bringing about the best results through their structure.
The benefits of this voice are that it is reliable and consistent. People know what they are getting and are happy when things go according to plan. It is best used for companies that may be in a market that is starting to shift from the highly creative phase to a more consistent phase.
Think of online sales platforms. Initially, the focus was on the wide variety of products that could be sold online. Entering that market with the voice of the soldier during the early stages would have made it difficult to stand out. The central focus was on the variety of products being offered, not their delivery time. But in the last few years, we have seen delivery times and reliability becoming key factors for buyers. It is here where utilizing the power of the voice of the soldier allows a company to show its unique ability to provide clarity and direction with online deliveries where other companies cannot.
Displaying this through brand messaging would manifest largely in advertisements centered around the reliability, security, and timeliness that a company can provide to their customers. Shortening delivery times, providing excellent customer service, and having easy return policies are ways of showing that brand voice to active customers.
The voice of the explorer is differentiated from the soldier as it focuses much more on adaptability and change. This brand voice is less organizational and more creative or exploratory, hence the name. The explorer is the perfect voice to take a company out of the weeds and into new market space. It excels both in times of stagnation and in highly competitive markets with structured offerings.
Benefits of this voice include the ability to come off as adaptive and innovative. It turns an otherwise boring industry into one filled with new possibilities. Again, the focus of any company is differentiation. This voice could very well be drowned out among similar ones if it is placed in the wrong context. For instance, if you are at a company focused on pharmaceutical tech, or artificial intelligence, this voice will not do much to differentiate you from your competitors. But in an industry such as insurance or mortgage lending, adding new ways of doing business and showing a willingness to attempt untried methods catches the attention of your target market.
Think of Quicken. The advent of doing payroll taxes, income taxes, or getting a mortgage entirely online has seriously changed the market and forced competitors to adapt as well. But Quicken’s misstep was the underutilization of the explorer voice and focus on the voice of the soldier. Instead of showing the truly new and innovative ways they were changing the market, they allowed other companies with streamlined, low-cost systems to compete with them on the grounds of reliability, speed, and price, rather than on innovation. While Quicken is certainly a successful company, it still struggles to differentiate itself significantly from its competition.
The voice of the monk is one of integrity and moral dependability. Like the soldier, the brand voice of the monk focuses on its moral character and the unwavering sense of purpose that comes with the clarity of their moral make-up. These companies are most likely to be in fields where there is a lot of customer contact on sensitive matters. Medical offices, over-the-phone, or online medical services, as well as the bourgeoning ethical food industry, all commonly use the voice of the monk in their brand strategy.
These companies provide peace of mind when engaging in business with them. This is because the issues they deal with are serious and emotionally stimulating. Or there is a history of industry-wide misconduct that has left a stain on their reputations. The brand voice of the monk is a beneficial way to separate your company from others that may be able to beat you in terms of price or efficiency, but not in terms of your ethics.
Highlighting why your competitors charge such affordable pricing and justifying your product or service cost or inefficiency on the basis of moral superiority is an effective way to not give up company values for market share. It may even allow a company to gain market share in the long run. Younger generations have a unique focus on morality in business. This makes the voice of the monk something that nearly every company must integrate into their brand strategy.
The brand voice of the journalist is unique and complex. It is often only used during certain chaotic episodes in a company’s life. Utilizing it correctly means walking through potential minefields. This voice focuses primarily on unbiased exposure to the public about potential pitfalls the company may have. Transparency is the first word that comes to mind with journalist and that is what the brand voice exemplifies.
As an ongoing strategy, the voice of the journalist is problematic. To base an entire branding strategy on being transparent is likely to get your company in trouble. After all, no company is perfect. However, when customers are asking for transparency the way in which it is given is unique in every situation. If transparency is being asked of your company from the public it is likely because enough suspicion has grown that there is widespread skepticism about your company’s ethical practices. No company wants to be in that situation and many companies simply sidestep their way into these scenarios. This can lead companies to either recede from the public and incur large losses in revenue due to lack of marketing and public exposure, or to over-apologize and seek large amounts of exposure leading to ungrounded costs on public relations.
Use this voice carefully and rationally in times of crisis. Transparency is an important topic, but also a complex one. Shutting doors and opening floodgates are two dichotomic strategies bound to lose your company money. Hiring professionals to deal with an issue is essential.
The voice of the sage carries some similarities to the voice of the monk. Primarily, the voice of the sage focuses on reliability, experience, and wisdom. The sage's wisdom comes from its long history. Companies that utilize this voice talk about their expertise and long history in the industry and how that has tangible benefits to the customer.
One example of the sage voice in use is within the alcohol industry, notable whiskey and beer. These companies tap into their rich history and use it to showcase how they have perfected their product over the years. This brings with it a certain authority and product quality.
One aspect of the sage that should be immediately noticeable is that there are many companies that are simply disqualified from using it. If your company has less than ten years of experience in the industry, then this strategy may simply not the best fit right now. But there are too many companies that simply fall back on this strategy once a certain amount of time has passed. Think of Geico and how they recently repositioned themselves as experts for being in the industry for 75 years.
What bearing does that have on the decision to purchase insurance? Insurance is not a quality-based product for most people, especially Geico’s current target market. A lot of them simply want to be insured. The attempt to go after a higher-end customer ended up falling flat. It failed to highlight what those customers wanted. Additionally, it was a clear and obvious deviation from the negligibility of insurance that was so obvious with the slogan “15 minutes could save you 15 percent or more on car insurance”, and their humor-based marketing history.
The voice of the farmer is one of the most utilized voices in the market today. Focusing on community, helpfulness, togetherness, and caring, the voice of the farmer is easily the most risk-averse voice in branding strategy. This voice is beneficial in showing a company’s “higher purpose” to serve its customers and community.
You must back up this voice with action. Not backing up words with actions is one of the fastest ways to lose credibility, especially with younger consumers. While younger generations have a heightened focus on ethics in business there is also a focus on philanthropic involvement. Companies today simply cannot sit idle while the entire market shifts toward this community-based model.
The voice of the farmer is one of the most widely used voices. Therefore, it is difficult to stand out in this space without significant investment. One of the best ways to circumvent this large investment is by pairing this voice with the monk. This shows that your involvement in the community is of a higher moral character. Any company can donate. But companies that are being recognized for their service to the community go beyond writing checks and focus on the development of sustainable, long-lasting, and effective programs that address the underlying problems facing a community.
The jester puts a spin on the serious and focuses on humor and absurdity to drive interest. One of the chief benefits of this strategy is notoriety. If you utilize the brand voice of the jester effectively you will have substantially more engagement with the brand. The effectiveness of this strategy to garner interest is what leads many companies to try it. But without proper implementation strategy, many end up with mediocre results. This is not because people were not interested in the company. Instead, they either were not targeted buyers or the product was not affordable enough and easy enough to obtain.
Companies that can utilize this strategy effectively should understand well the absurdity of the atmosphere around the product, or its low barrier to entry. In the case of absurdity, look at the company Roman that sells pills to help alleviate erectile dysfunction. In one of their commercials, they focused on utilizing the voice of the jester to show the absurdity of the embarrassing, "behind closed doors" atmosphere surrounding the problem of erectile dysfunction. They brought it up in a light-hearted way to warm up potential buyers. This can work for products such as energy drinks, soda, candy, etc., that have a lot of competition.
This is often the best way to get the attention of otherwise uninterested consumers. Ease of access to the product is essential with this strategy as the high levels of interest driven by the comedic nature of the advertisements is fleeting.
The outlaw is a complex and unique brand voice that is the ultimate differentiator for a company’s brand strategy. The outlaw’s central focus is that of being entirely different from the competition. This voice utilizes the concepts of hard truths and anti-conformity to drive home the message that what this company is offering is straightforward and raw, not dressed up.
One of the benefits of this voice is that it allows for businesses to talk to their customers like adults. To know the potential side effects of their purchase or the unfortunate realities of the industry garner trust in a way that is truly authentic. Using this voice is most often paired with the criticism of competitors. Outlaws, in the American sense, often have an internal code they live by that we viewers resonate with. Their being outlaws is often the result of their view of the law as being corrupt, naïve, and unclear. Those aspects can be highlighted in your industry if you utilize this voice.
Think of industries that are convoluted or seen as corrupt. Some people would think of industries such as oil, healthcare, and others. As an outlaw, a company would want to pair its position of being ethically superior—the voice of the monk—with a stark comparison of not just competitors, but the industry as a whole. To position your company as diametrically opposed to the entire industry with which it exists is a powerful and effective stance.
These brand voices should work together to build an effective and long-lasting brand strategy. You should not try to only use one and you should certainly not attempt to use them all. Here at Storify, we are experts in understanding your company’s story and leveraging brand voices. Give us a call today!