March 08

Why Your Brand Needs A Unique Voice (and How to Create One)

Cody Lee

Why Your Brand Needs A Unique Voice

and how to create one...

With so much content out there, marketers and business owners can feel an intense pressure to say all the right things or catch a trend. But this often means your voice will be caught up in the noise and puts your brand at risk of fading into obscurity.


Finding your voice

Rather than a quick fix, we advocate for finding and establish an authentic voice. This relieves the pressure of trying to find the right thing to say and allows you to maintain your vision instead of chasing the mercurial shifts in business.

By nature, authenticity cannot be manufactured which makes it difficult to drum up at will. But the brands that have harnessed it, and are unashamedly themselves in their voice, are testament to its staying power.

Take for instance brands as disparate (and different in voice styles) as The Economist, The New Yorker, Ford Motors, and Progressive Insurance. The first two are unapologetically cerebral, or as we say in the south “highfalutin,” but in entirely different ways. The Economist sounds like a college professor, The New Yorker sounds like an educated socialite given to whimsy. Ford encapsulates the everyman archetype but in a way that is distinctly American, hard working, unassuming, and reliable. Progressive is humorous, zany, and instantly memorable despite the fact the product they sell—insurance—is often the butt of jokes for how boring and forgettable it is as a product.

Yet each of these brands is a major player in their category, if not the leader, and much of this success is because of their brand voice. And while competitors may imitate these voices, they all have a whiff of inauthenticity.


How can your brand achieve authenticity of voice?

Corporations and brands are not people. However, they are made up of people and they sell to people. The secret to authenticity is to sound human — which is to say, display a bit of contradiction and complication. Not so much that your message becomes convoluted, but so it feels nuanced. Users, customers, clients, etc. need to understand that very real people with very real (and similar lives) exist behind the brand. The easiest way to do this is by creating a voice that captures that feeling of contradiction and complication. Let’s call it “the human spirit.”

A good practice is to take two different/contrasting characters or human figures, and combine their voices to create a new one. Often this results in something that conveys that elusive but-oh-so-effective feeling of familiar but different.

For instance, your brand might be part Andy Griffith with a little bit of Han Solo. How does that make sense? Well Andy is the quintessential everyman and father and also happens to be head of law enforcement of a small town. Han Solo is a leader in a literal rebellion, an outlaw, and a bad boy. How are these two similar? They’re not. But they’re not really opposites either. In fact, they represent two aspects of human life that are equally true—humility and the desire for comfort and restlessness and the desire for independence, respectively. Combining the two of them is unexpected, original, and would appeal to a large audience.


If it’s that easy, why doesn’t every brand do it?

It’s not the least bit easy. Easy is chasing the trend and scrubbing recent success for what’s working right now versus what’s been around for years.

Creating an authentic voice takes a staggering amount of self-reflection and requires a fair bit of courage. It means honestly considering how you want to be perceived versus how you are perceived and finding a way to reconcile the two.

(For instance, I, the writer of this blog post, would love to sound like Han Solo but my co-workers assure me I am more of a cynical C-3P0. I hate to admit it, but they’re definitely right.)

So the process is not as simple as finding two fun characters you like and think would make a good voice. It’s finding the right models for your brand and reconciling those contradictions.

It requires an assessment of strengths, shortcomings, areas for improvement, tendencies, personality, industry, expectations of your audience, lived reality of your audience, etc. etc.

All of this is to say, we recommend seeking help from an agency or consultancy to establish voice. In fact, it is nearly a requirement for business leaders to collaborate with an expert outside of their business to understand what the most authentic and strategic brand voice is. In other words, it’s a whole school of thought. One we’ve been working hard to understand these past few years at Common Giant.

If it’s something you or your brand is interested in, we’d love to help you find your voice. All three of our brand plans include a voice exercise.

What are you waiting for?