Meet Dash. It houses a multi-cuisine restaurant, club, rooftop hookah lounge and a pastry nook. Dash is a mini-getaway disguised as a four-storeyed building located in Chennai. We had to get the word out that Dash was that kind of a place; the kind where you can leave your worries at the door. We first looked at covering billboards with holiday pictures but then it dawned upon us that getaways needn’t be beach vacations or that Parisian holiday you went on eight years ago and are still talking about it like it was just yesterday.
To us Dash seemed like a fun place, a modern-day getaway. The slate was wiped clean, the coffee was fresh and hot, and the minds began buzzing. It was then that we dug deep and explored the name “Dash”. It may have many meanings but the one that stuck with us was “dashing”, that sudden rush of excitement or energy when you dash across the hall or the finish line or from your worries to nirvana. That intrigued us, and we turned our focus towards “brand voice”.
Brand voice is anything related to the personality and emotion that is leveraged to create effective brand communication.
Any piece of communication, a brand puts out can be analysed to determine the voice and tone that the brand has adopted. Brand voice is created from the company’s traits. Apple is smart and innovative, Nike is energetic and inspiring as its sole purpose is to make you get off the couch and just do it, McDonald’s promises a happy time while Tesla is futuristic and innovative. Traits are the key to understanding your brand’s stance.
So, How Do You Establish Your Brand’s Trait?
Is your company, a multinational? Is it a tech start-up? Is it consumer-facing or business-facing? What industry segment does it belong to?
By answering these questions, you will be able to establish your brand’s personality traits. It is better to examine the traits of your segment peers and leaders so that your company doesn’t stray from the traditionally accepted traits.
For instance, a bank or financial services company must be professional and consumer-friendly while a healthcare provider must be caring and cautious. If a healthcare provider ends up sounding like a fourteen-year-old, that’s a red flag. Therefore, examining the voice and tone used in the messaging deployed by your peers and segment leaders is a good way to ensure that you haven’t gone off-road.
Take a closer look at your brand and write down three-five words that best describe your brand’s current personality. A healthcare provider is often caring and professional with a touch of caution. Apollo Hospitals assures you that you’ll be taken care of. Chola Insurance assures you that you and your family will be covered from sudden financial burden. Uber assures you a safe and convenient commute. Faasos assures you that your hunger goes away. Kasturba Hospitals, Manipal launched a recent campaign where they wanted to break the taboo surrounding gynaecological health, assuring transparency and care. By discovering your brand’s traits, you’ll be able to figure out what your brand assures its customers.
Why Can’t My Tech Start-up Be Fun?
We’re not saying that your tech start-up cannot have a fun personality. Fun can be a secondary or tertiary part of the entire exercise. Your ultimate goal is that clients and customers learn about your product and choose you over other competitors. By remaining professional and convivial, it’ll be easier for you to establish a connection with your end users.
As much as possible exclude jargon from your communication and do not sound like a teenager by using memes and street slang. It may be popular amongst people but no one wants to see an ad for Apollo Hospitals that reads: It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Week. Ask Your Bae To Check Her Jugs.
What About Dash?
As mentioned earlier, Dash houses a restaurant, pub and a hookah lounge, places that are generally meant to bring people together – family, loved ones, friends and co-workers. Hence, we adopted a casual and quirky brand voice with a fun and friendly tone. Dash was point B to the customer’s current state of mind (which would be point A).
With that in mind, we created a series of communicative pieces with the established brand voice in mind.
Dash yearned to be a fun destination and its communications reflects that. Both their messaging and design language are immediate and lively. If your brand is like Dash, you can try a casual and quirky voice. But remember, the “one size fits all formula” does not work in branding.
If yours is an NGO dealing with serious cause and social matters or a multi-national pharmaceutical working tirelessly to improve people’s lifestyles, you’ll need to drop fun from your communications and remain professional. You can instead add authenticity to your communication. Authenticity creates charm, which is usually a byproduct of fun.
Take Stonefield For Instance…
Stonefield is a flavour-manufacturing company with a global clientele. If Dash had a fun trait, Stonefield was completely professional. But, by tapping into the brand’s offerings, we were able to create a design language that was both professional and joyous. This was established by marrying sublime images with convivial copy. A touch of subtlety and elegance was our ally throughout the exercise.
Stonefield did not have a singular trait. The brand was not just professional, it was also passionate. That passion was translated through the use of vivid imagery and captivating copy. Your start-up can be fun as long as you don’t sacrifice your company’s other personality traits. Keep all traits in mind along with your intended target customers and you will find the way. While customers like a fun brand to follow on social media, the serious customers prefer a brand that’s fun to work with.
What’s The Difference Between Brand Voice And Tone?
Voice is your company’s personality. If you’re Apple, you’re smart and innovative. That is not changing for now. Tone, on the other hand, changes based on the messaging. If you’re sending New Year wishes, the Tone for Stonefield would be warm and welcoming, if you’re announcing a product launch, Apple would be futuristic and persuasive (true story: an ad for the iPhone X in a local paper wanted readers to buy the phone as life would be X times better with it). Our own personality traits are fun and professional.
Another famous example was a 9/11 Never Forget piece published a few years back by Fleshlight. Warning: do not google Fleshlight from your work computer or your home computer. Do not.
Tone changes. Voice, while not permanent, is steadier than tone. Voice is the foundation for all of your communications. A good voice can make your brand instantly recognizable. The most famous brands in the world have a good brand voice.
Wait a minute, why is brand voice not permanent?
It’s All Evolution
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” — Charles Darwin
Everything and anything is subject to evolution. Take Coca Cola for instance.
Notice the difference? Coca Cola back in the day marketed itself as a medicine. It was professional and caring. Today, it is all about togetherness. It is casual and quirky. Similarly, it is necessary for a brand to evolve in order to stand out from its competitors and reach a wider marker. And as the brand evolves, so does the messaging.
By using Coca Cola as an example, we don’t mean that evolution is going to happen in sixty or seventy years. It may be the next year or three years from now. The point is, be ready to change. As your brand evolves, your brand begins to exhibit new traits. New traits mean that it’s time to refine your messaging. These new traits also set your brand apart from the rest.
If you sell carbonated beverages, there are more than a dozen competitors in the supermarket aisle and refrigerators. If you sell pasta sauce, there are several other competitors claiming to be “authentically Italian”. If your product is a social media dashboard, your competitors range in hundreds. While you may offer something they don’t, you are still part of the herd but, through your communication you needn’t be.
Your brand may have needed a fun tone in the beginning but when it starts going places, you’ll need to be careful about your messaging.
Even if your product is cheaper or readily available to the customer, how you brand it and how the communication is received, processed and understood by the customer matters the most. While having a distinctive voice can make your brand recognizable, evolution keeps your brand ticking throughout the long run.