Tone of Voice: “Our brand needs to sound human, and our copy should read as if you are having a conversation with someone over coffee”
Brand Values: Approachable, Honest, Humble, and Friendly.
If your dreaded brand guideline booklet does not have any resemblance to the above, I’m sure you have come across many brands that do. As trivial as it may sound it is the sole yet high rising and mighty pillar that holds up marketing managers’ false sense of hope. Everyone wants to have an approachable brand that is friendly and human-like; but is setting strict communication guidelines and adhering to preset values the best way to do it? Do you actually set guidelines, values, and conversation parameters before you go out to have coffee with your friends? Imagine that, human beings with tone of voice guidelines…I believe the closest we can get to imagining that would be a cup of coffee with Robocop.
Nic touched on this point a little with his post on karaoke brands.
In reality conversation is not a science, and therefore advertising cannot be one either. To give justice to the tone of voice statement above (mentioned in most corporate guidelines); a brand should not have preset values and tone of voice guidelines. When one goes out for coffee or to a bar s/he change conversation topics more than 10 times, and as one does s/he changes tonality, facial expressions, and attitudes so how can brands stick to preset characteristics and be human? A person who speaks in the same way all the time is considered monotonous and boring, whereas a brand that does that is praised for its consistency.
I believe that brands should communicate in different ways and have constantly evolving values, from friendly to frustrated, honest to sarcastic, and non-fiction informative to fictional entertaining. Similar to the human stream of consciousness and the constantly evolving conversational topics that pick up on ‘values’ from previous ones, brand communication should narrate a story linking all of their communication together. As with human conversation, there need not be an overarching theme, but there needs to be continuation or a trail. Here’s an example of a human evolving conversation: Hey did you watch the game yesterday, that referee made a really bad call; he certainly did I wonder how the NBA would treat such an offence. At work if I make a bad call on my inventory shelf-life I get a 20% pay cut. Yeah I hear you, at home if I don’t notice that my wife changed her hair color I get to sleep on the couch. Speaking of your wife, are you free for poker next Monday?”
For brands to be human and friendly they should not be what the industry labels as ‘consistent’, they should create conversation and build on that conversation; also contrary to old school advertising rituals a brand should not have the typical smile and friendly attitude in everything it says – unless you want it to sound like
On the same note and somewhat building on transmedia planning, when a addresses you (similar to anyone else), it should not have the same tone when talking to you over coffee as it does when you are at work, or having a drink in a pub. Humans naturally change moods, talk about different things, and have a general dynamic personality; therefore if brands want to become more personal, human, and engaging they should do the same.