The Importance of Brand Voice

Brands are strong and memorable when they have a distinctive, consistent, relevant brand voice. The cultivation, management and protection of that voice requires a deep understanding of what the brand stands for and what it does not.

Mobile megaphoneBrands are strong and memorable when they have a distinctive, consistent, relevant brand voice. It is embedded in their ad executions across channels, in their public actions and PR, in the engagement with their fans and followers on social media, and everywhere they have a visible presence. It is expressed in their choice of language, of images, of topics, of media and of partnerships, among other things. Brands are strong and memorable when they have a distinctive, consistent, relevant brand voice. The cultivation, management and protection of that voice requires a deep understanding of what the brand stands for and what it does not.

It also needs an organizational commitment and a strong directive to be consistent. Brand voice should flow from a series of strategic, internal decisions that map back to the mission and vision of the organization. And yet, under the strain of distributed marketing functions and real time responses, all too often we see that voice falter.

Commonly, the voice wavers when some rogue agent forgets or neglects the brand DNA or is missioned to attract a certain demographic. Misguided attempts to speak in the voice of the audience or to directly address a disrupting competitor can lead a brand astray. It is painful to watch, and can make recovery difficult.

Consider the immense investment in a brand like CNN over decades, across different media channels around the globe. The CNN I watch every morning on cable TV is filled with political commentary, national and world news, and is the go-to resource for many people for real-time updates when catastrophe strikes around the world. It’s not always in-depth reporting, but it is timely and accurate, and I trust CNN as an information source.

The CNN I know online is dedicated to the news, but incorporates a fair amount of fluff and human interest in the form of sponsored content, celebrity news, and various pandering polls. But still, the news remains primary and the online experience puts the consumer in charge of their content mix so they can choose fluff when they want it. Importantly, the fluff remains segregated from the news to a large degree.

Recently, I signed up for a CNN daily email. It’s delivered with a cheery “Good Morning” from CNN and purports to deliver the five things I need to know to get up and out the door each morning. But the voice is jarringly off for a journalistic news source.

CNN's Five Things for Your New DayThe cutesy, sarcastic tone and intentional use of slang and misspellings to discuss serious world issues doesn’t fit the CNN brand as it has come to mean and this direction erodes trust. To their credit, in the aftermath of recent terror attacks when the news was particularly somber, they consciously adjusted that tone for a day or two.

Knock It Off With the April Fools’ Emails

Look, I’m normally not this cranky, but as of 11 a.m. on April 1, I’ve already received at least 12 April Fools’ Day emails. And while I enjoy humor as much as any other warm-blooded mammal, what I don’t enjoy is my inbox being clogged up with garbage. That’s right. I said garbage.

Look, I’m normally not this cranky, but as of 11 a.m. on April 1, I’ve already received at least 12 April Fools’ Day emails. And while I enjoy humor as much as any other warm-blooded mammal, what I don’t enjoy is my inbox being clogged up with garbage.

That’s right. I said garbage.

Liz Lemon Nerd RageJust because April 1 is some kind of unofficial-official holiday of pranks, jokes and general ridiculousness does not mean every marketer with access to an email subscriber list should use the day to test out their sad-excuse attempts at humor.

Nine times out of 10 it falls flat, latches onto a cheap joke and is as disastrous as that guy at open mic night with big-time dreams of doing stand-up for Comedy Central. Knock. It. Off.

“Whoa, Melissa,” you’re saying. “That’s some serious vitriol you’re spewing. It can’t be all that bad.”

Well, let’s take a look.

April Fools Day email from Third Love
Just … no. I’m sorry, this email is ridiculous, and honestly kind of gross. I don’t care if it does include a dog, it’s not cute. When you click through on the “Shop Now” button, you’re taken to a landing page for “Pawfect Fitting Dog Bras.”

Here’s the thing: Third Love makes slightly higher-end bras that are made of high-quality materials and designed to fit a variety of shapes and sizes. Nothing about this brand is cheesy, or funny at all. Yet, they decided to spend time and energy not only creating an April Fools’ Day email featuring dog bras, but a landing page and product pages.

I’d love to know what marketing manager signed off on this gem. Because it’s an off-brand, off-putting joke campaign that has actually lowered my interest in trying out Third Love products in the future.

April Fools Day Email from PlatedPlated thought it would be cute to spoof dating apps … but there already are foodie dating apps. So again, it’s a lame idea with a somewhat okay execution. The landing page even includes a video for the dating service. Eye-roll. Again, time could have been better spent elsewhere.

April Fool's Day email from King Arthur FlourAll my crankiness aside, I must tip my hat to King Arthur Flour for the email it sent on this most foolhardy of days. Every year, KAF features its annual baking blunders blog post in an email sent to subscribers. As a baker, it can be nice to see that you’re not the only one who mis-measures the flour or burns the pizza crust from time to time (misery loves company, right?).

So King Arthur Flour stayed on-brand with its email, and offered me relevant content that honestly made me laugh. Nicely done.

But, truly, if we want to talk about the experts at April Fools’ Day emails, you’d be remiss to not mention ThinkGeek.