The Voice! Not unlike the T.V. show, finding a voice that speaks to a variety of people in an authentic, connective way - that makes them feel something real (nostalgia, passion, a sense of discovery, etc.) - is a cornerstone to effective marketing. Finding a voice for a brand or service is crazy important, but shouldn’t be painful or overly challenging.
Ultimately you want to convey who you are, what you’re about, and what you want people to gain from what you’re offering in a very organic way. If you are engrained in Orange County surf culture and launching a brand new line of organic, all-natural sunscreen, the “voice” is going to come pretty easily. Casual, laid-back, laced with surf terms, but professional and to the point. The fact that surf lingo might make it’s way into the content on the website, in social media, or even on the brand’s packaging will most definitely feel real, not contrived, because it will be language that the team uses everyday, because it is their lifestyle. So, that’s an easy one, right?
It gets a bit more challenging when you’re a major clothing manufacturer producing a number of fast-fashion collections and selling to big box retailers. Just because you have a floral print kimono in your collection, doesn’t mean you can market yourself with the voice of a gypset, boho traveler and have your audience, the consumer, actually buy into the image you’re selling. Sure you make clothes that girls at Coachella will wear - but will they remember you? Will they feel a connection with your brand? Or will they shrug and say, “I’m not sure what brand it is, I just liked the flowers,” when someone compliments them?
In today’s world of ephemeral Snapchats, downloadable mixed tapes, Santee Alley apparel, and food truck gourmet, things move fast. Unless you make a lasting impression and connect with consumers on a deeper level, you’re vanishing just like the rest of it. Brands like Nasty Gal, Tyler the Creator’s Golf Wang, 5.11 Tactical, Oakley, or the iconic Stussy have such intrinsic voices - fans of the brands believe what they sell is something they want. Even things they may have not given a second look under different circumstances or from another vendor, they will feel a connection with and have an interest in because they identify with the brand - and like a cool older brother, sister, or best friend, these brands connect with their customers on a personal level. The brand speaks to who they are, it is representative of how they would like to portray themselves to society - and that is all accomplished through consistent brand messaging - having the voice to back up the product or service.
So, back to the major manufacturer who’s just received their latest kimono shipment in from China. Just like Urban Outfitters, Converse, or J. Crew, it’s imperative for this brand to understand the product enough to hire a team that has the capability to embody the lifestyle of their 18- to 30-year-old female target. From creative direction for photo shoots to brand ambassadors, the team should be an eclectic mix of gypset, boho-loving 20-something girls (or at least appear to be) - and the VOICE of the brand better speak to the lifestyle as well. Referencing weekend getaways in Joshua Tree, matcha lattes, daydreaming of Tulum, what they love about living in Downtown L.A., or what their most excited about for their summer vacation in Portugal, the voice needs to sound like it’s from that girl. From the “About Us” to the latest Instagram post - it should be her talking.
And, ultimately, from my experience, it’s about coming up with that one person. Who is it that embodies the brand? Is it a fictional, composite character? Or is it one of the people who works for the company? I always like to write out a list as though I am about to develop a character for a novel: Where do they live? What do they drink when they get up in the morning? If it’s coffee - what kind? Are they a snob about it - or cool with instant? What do they listen to? NPR or Beyonce? Both? Where do they shop? Where do they travel? What do they drive? A Prius or a rehabbed 80s Bronco? Past times? Hobbies? Kids? Home or apartment? A loft? How is the house decorated? How do they spend their weekends? Anything and everything. As you break it down - the person begins to emerge in your mind and it is easier to figure out what they would be interested in and how they would talk about it.
Having a definitive “ideal” in your mind, helps to figure-out what to weed out of superfluous content. For example, is our boho girl going to want to know that the brand was founded by a 60-something business man, based in New York, who spends most of his time in China, and shops for his suits at Saks? Probably not - it would more than likely be a turnoff. So, having a clear cut character helps in a way censor yourself - and give a clear guide to what you want to say and what you don’t.
This is a long entry. I'll leave it at this. Find a voice through breaking down your ideal consumer, then be authentic or fake it 'til you make it.