It can be alarming when your well-educated aunt suddenly begins speaking in the voice of a hungry man with poor grammar. Before checking for signs of a stroke, see if her dog is nearby – she’s probably speaking for him.
We’ve all heard people speak for their pets. If you visit a dog park on a sunny afternoon, you’ll hear dozens of strangers speaking with lisps or slow drawls, expressing the inner monologues of dogs who are proud of their tennis balls and ashamed of their breath. And it’s no surprise that owners do this – we relate to our pets best when we give them human qualities. It allows us to figure out what they’re like and how they behave – it gives them personality.
Whether your dog is a diva with a ponytail who’s just living her angsty life, or a bowlegged bruiser named Marvin, the voice you give your dog is consistent. Lonely, hungry, guilty or excited, a dog’s voice, like a human’s, is always the same. That’s because it’s a combination of inherent traits that don’t change. Personality (embodied by voice) is a reflection of behavior, environment and attributes like size, demeanor and style.
The same can be said for brands. Just as your small fluffy dog speaks in a high-pitched voice, or your curly-haired Cocker Spaniel speaks with a British accent, so too does your brand speak according to its qualities. Take some of the most popular brands for example. Axe is masculine, Jeep is rugged, Coca-Cola is approachable and Cotton® is the fabric of our lives (also ®-ed). The products’ personalities are expressed through advertising and PR.
So how do you get customers to associate your brand with a specific quality?
a. Sincerity – is your brand genuine and wholesome, like Volvo?
b. Excitement – is your brand playful and imaginative like Red Bull?
c. Competence – is your brand intelligent and reliable, like Allstate?
d. Sophistication – is your brand elegant and charming, like Dos Equis?
e. Ruggedness – is your brand tough and powerful, like Brawny?
2. Develop a voice that expresses your brand’s personality. Whatever qualities your brand has, express them in all of your messaging. From the product packaging to the customer service to the advertising campaign, your voice should remain consistent. Tell customers who you are, what you sell and why you sell it. And take an angle that will differentiate your brand from competition, like Apple has done by aligning themselves with youth. Are you witty? Geeky? Inspirational? Then show it! In everything from your relationships with customers to your mission statement, your tone should express your values.
3. Use your voice to tell your story. It’s not just the colors and typography that relay your voice – the message you deliver is key. If your brand is sincere, maybe your brochure uses rounded edges instead of square corners; if it’s sophisticated, ads could use negative space instead of clutter. Remember, users of your brand will perceive you differently than non-users, so think about whom you’re speaking to and how they interact with your product.
Your brand’s personality is inherent, but left undeveloped, it will become stagnant. Think back to the dogs. The Bradford Group is volunteering at the Nashville Humane Association this quarter, where hundreds of dogs without owners are cared for until they can be adopted. The dogs have fundamental qualities, but they have limited interaction with people and have no one to consistently express and anthropomorphize their personalities. As a result, they’re difficult to get to know and even more difficult to remember and distinguish from one another. Brands are the same. Without cultivating a brand personality, your company will be difficult to relate to and hard to be top-of-mind.