Why your brand needs an influential voice
What you’ll learn: In this chapter, you’ll learn why language is one of the most powerful tools your business has and how JFK can help your brand become an influential communicator that makes prospects and customers buy.
Let’s travel back to your high school days. In your hand, you hold a piece of paper ripped from a Mead notebook. You grip it tightly because your crush’s phone number is scrawled on that college-ruled scrap.
Remember? That guy or gal who looks so cool with their short/long/purple/missing hair (you’ll have to fill in these blanks for me). Anyway, picture them, picture the number, and remember that nervous feeling in your stomach. When you get home, you pull out your phone, stare at the blank screen, and think.
This is your first text to them...ever! It’s the start of your texting relationship! It could lead to a happy life with a white picket fence and a dog named Bruno, or it could toss you into a gutter of despair. Obviously, this text is important. How long are you going to spend writing it?
You’ll spend a good while brainstorming and editing. What will your crush want to talk about? How many characters should your message be? What will spark a conversation? You don’t want them to just reply with an “lol.” So, you craft a message that gives your conversation direction, because you want to talk for a while.
|Hey,how are you doing? This is Billiam. I sit behind you in geometry class. Well, not right behind you, more like back and to the left (stage left). Anyway did you see how Mr. Banner turned all green when everyone saw his purple shorts? That was crazy. Anyway, nice talking to you.||Didn’t Mr. Banner look like the Hulk today? This is Billiam BTW.|
You take the time because this message matters. Because you know it will have consequences. You might end up looking like a complete weirdo, you might end up in the friend-zone, or you might be somebody that they’re truly interested in. In any case, you’ll have to send your message to find out.
How You Communicate Is How You’re Perceived
“The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.”
– Anthony Robbins
To succeed in life and in business, you need to communicate effectively. Because the way you communicate affects how others view you. After all, a text message can make or break a relationship.
Perception matters even more in the realm of business. If your brand is perceived as low quality, unreliable, or overpriced, it will suffer. So, brands strive to use communication to forge a good reputation, capture consumers’ attention, and build loyalty.
If you downloaded this book then you must care about brands. Maybe you own a brand, work for one, or are a freelance marketer. Do your brand goals include engaging with your ideal customers, building a loyal following, and simplifying your content production?
There are lots of ways to achieve these goals. But, the easy way...the holistic way...is creating a brand voice.
You may think that having the perfect product is all that matters, or that you can just flood the market with advertising, or get a celebrity endorsement from Shaq, and then you’ll succeed. But, those things won’t matter if you can’t communicate value in a way that appeals to your prospects.
Let’s use the famous dystopia from the book 1984 as an example. You may remember reading it in high school. When I read it, the section that struck me most was the dictionary project.
Big Brother didn’t want anyone to smack talk the government, so it decided to reshape the people’s language. This project removed “dangerous” concepts and made it grammatically incorrect to say anything bad about the government. The idea was, if people can’t find a way to express the idea, then they’ll never be able to have the idea in the first place.
Obviously, this is super evil and controlling. But, it illustrates how language can shape the way that we think, act, and feel. It also shows that the words, tone, and style you use to communicate with consumers can shape how they think, act, and feel.
To illustrate this point, let’s compare two pieces of ad copy. Look at how each communication style, or voice, shapes your perception of these companies. Which one would you be most likely to buy from?
|Company 1||Company 2|
|The X1 is the latest mid-size sedan released by Company 1. To purchase an X1 or take it for a test drive, visit your nearest dealer.||We believe that simplicity and efficiency are the basis of a beautiful product. With a clean design that eliminates waste, the X2 is the culmination of a meaningful lifestyle. Get yours today.|
What will it be? The X1 or the X2? If you made your choice based on the ad copy alone, I’m fairly certain you’d buy the X2. Why? Because they know how to communicate the value of their product in a way that’s appealing and is based on values you care about.
A study by market research firm Motista found that only 1 in 5 consumers feel an emotional connection with major US retailers. This isn’t surprising, after all how many people feel a connection with a store? The surprising thing is that customers who did feel an emotional connection were 4 times more likely to buy from that brand.
Harnessing emotions is by far the most powerful way to gain loyal customers.
Brands that appeal to emotions and have a genuine voice don’t have to compete on price, quality, or service alone. When you create an emotional connection with consumers, you add a fourth comparison point that’s far more powerful than the other three. This is a comparison point that you can easily win. But, your brand needs a personality to do it.
What Is a Brand Voice?
To put it very simply, a brand voice is the style that your brand uses to communicate with words. Or, as Ann Handley puts it in her book Everybody Writes, “your brand voice is simply an expression of your company’s personality and point of view.”
Personality comes naturally to people. But, a brand’s personality must be cultivated, curated, and refined over time. This gives your content authenticity and emotional appeal.
This isn’t as simple as saying that your brand is fun or playful. You need guidelines and rules to create a deep, realistic personality for your brand. This will push it from being a good communicator to being an influential communicator. Why is achieving an influential voice so important?
Your Brand as an Influential Communicator
Good communicators get their point across in a way that’s very easy to understand, but they don’t always motivate their listeners. On the other hand, influential communicators get their point across and motivate their listeners to do something about it.
When communicating with a group of people, having an influential style matters. You need to build trust quickly with genuine words and by showing an interest in your listeners. Your brand communicates with large groups all the time. How can it become an influential communicator?
In his 1962 speech We Choose to Go to the Moon, John F. Kennedy rallied an entire country behind an idea. A whole freaking country! How did he do it?
He didn’t just present the facts about going to the moon or list the benefits. He focused on innate human emotions, such as pride, a desire for achievement, and reaching out for the unknown. He got the whole country to support a single goal that was achieved relatively quickly, most likely in a Hollywood studio (just kidding). JFK wasn’t just a good communicator, he was an influential communicator.
"We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people."
- John F. Kennedy
To get consumers to rally behind a product, service, or initiative, your brand can’t be a good communicator. It has to be influential. Let’s look at the common traits of influential communicators.
- Address listeners directly. They avoid wimpy sentences like “one could...” or “this allows users to…”, instead they say “you can…”. What they’re saying is about you and that makes you listen. Avoiding generalities shows that they believe in what they’re saying 100% and want you to believe it too.
- Say things bluntly. They aren’t afraid of the truth or the consequences of their words. This honesty is appealing to their listeners. There’s no guessing, doubt, or deception, just a clear message. Obviously, we can’t be so blunt that our listener is offended, instead we need to use our bluntness to earn their attention.
- Use simple, vibrant concepts. They don’t bury ideas under big words or complex comparisons. They speak in a way that’s so simple even a child could understand it. To make it stick, they use memorable imagery and comparisons. This allows them to be understood quickly.
- Speak with certainty. When you proofread your emails, you may notice that you use phrases like “I think,” “I believe we should,” or “it could be.” These phrases weaken your writing and water down your ideas. Influential communicators avoid them for that very reason. They instead express their ideas with certainty.
- Focus on the listener. True story: as I edit this I’m staying at a hotel that gives guests free cookies every night. I asked the guy at the front-desk if the cookies were worth the walk downstairs. He said, “Yes, there are cookies from 8-10. Hey, I like your shirt.” He complimented me, but he wasn’t listening to me...he wasn’t focused on me. Influential communicators do the exact opposite. They make eye contact, they listen, they ask well-thought-out questions, and they make you feel important. Brands that want to be influential need to show this same focus when they talk to consumers. Because if brands show that they care about their consumers, then consumers will care about them.
No matter what voice your brand has, it needs to base its communication on these traits. Otherwise, your content won’t motivate consumers to do anything.
Relationships Are Everything
“To be successful, you have to be able to relate to people; they have to be satisfied with your personality to be able to do business with you and to build a relationship with mutual trust.”
- George Ross
Being influential when speaking to a crowd of strangers is useful. But, turning that crowd of strangers into loyal customers is essential to a sustainable business.
Good relationships get employees to do their work, suppliers to deliver on time, and customers to buy and come back for more. Without relationships, everything you do will be more difficult.
For thousands of years, we’ve used communication and an interest in others to build relationships. Sadly, most businesses don’t take advantage of these tried-and-true methods. Their marketing is sporadic, inconsistent, and, in many cases, self-serving, and when you actually have to deal with them they’re even worse.
From a consumer’s perspective, building a relationship with a company is like having a friend with multiple personalities. You never know who you’ll get or how they’ll treat you. I call this two-faced company syndrome.
For example, you might buy a new X2 car because their ad was so clear, well-written, and meaningful. After a few weeks, your shiny sedan breaks down. When you contact customer service they don’t live up to their promises and don’t care about your needs. You end up feeling disappointed and deceived.
Customers go through these experiences on a daily basis. This leaves them feeling burned and makes them an enemy of your brand instead of a loyal friend.
The Cure for Two-Faced Company Syndrome
“70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated.”
Relationships are formed when two people consistently treat each other well and build trust. A brand voice gives your company a consistent personality from marketing straight through to customer service.
Companies with lots of friends (or customers with an emotional attachment to them) receive the support they need to survive and grow. But, this circle of friends will only exist if you build a relationship with your customers. And you can only build that relationship if you communicate with them. And your communication will only be meaningful if it’s consistent and focused on your ideal customer. See what I’m driving at?
What’s Up Next?
This book isn’t a glossy high-level look at modern marketing. It’s a step-by-step guide designed to help you create a brand voice. Over the next few chapters you’ll learn how to:
- Identify your brand’s core values
- Cut through the competition with your unique value proposition
- Reverse engineer your brand voice with minimal difficulties
- Create a brand avatar
- Write a style guide for your brand
- Implement your brand voice across your company’s content
- Sit back and enjoy having truly loyal customers who love your brand
It’s time to bring your brand to life. Read on to learn how.
The Phantom Enzo
Enzo is our case study for this book. At the end of each chapter we’ll share his story to help you remember what you learned. It might also give you some good ideas for your own brand voice. We’ll keep his business small because I want to show that any business, even small ones, can benefit from a brand voice.
Enzo owns an accounting firm in Minneapolis. His business does good work and he even has a few employees (15). The problem is that the only exciting thing about his company is his name.
He knows that he has to do something to stand out from the competition and increase customer loyalty. After doing some research into his competitors, he realizes that his service and company look just like everyone else’s. There’s nothing to make him stand out.
When he thinks about companies that he loves like Google, Field Notes, and Ideabox, he realizes that they all have a unique way of communicating. He looks up why and learns about brand voices. He decides that to succeed like those companies, he’ll need a brand voice too.
Want to find out what happens next? We’ll be taking a look at Enzo’s story at the end of each chapter to help you remember the information and show its practical application.
Header image: Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash
1st image: Photo by Álvaro Serrano on Unsplash
2nd image: Photo by Rhendi Rukmana on Unsplash
3rd image: Photo by Jörg Buntrock on Unsplash
4th image: Photo by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash