“Aim to be a little more vague.”
That’s the advice that business and marketing expert Tom Goodwin recently shared on LinkedIn. The founder of the innovation consultancy All We Have Is Now encourages brands to move away from a precise tone that attempts to get inside the viewer’s mind. His reason: Peoples’ experience of this year’s events are highly individualized and nuanced. Because of this, brands’ attempts to tap into the zeitgeist can feel misguided or simply annoying.
There’s no question that media and advertising have transformed in 2020—and Goodwin’s point is one small example. But the advice made us pause.
As content marketers, “vague” has never been an attribute we associate with top quality content—and we don’t see that changing anytime soon.
When an Audience-Focused Brand Voice Fails to Deliver
It’s true that advertisers’ attempts to latch onto a national mood have fallen flat over and over again in 2020. As Goodwin astutely points out, this is because there is no national mood. Even though we all experience the same macro-level events, it can seem like you’re living on a different planet as friends, family members, and coworkers—depending on your locality, your political lens, your socioeconomic status, your health, your household structure, or just the day of the week.
In this sense, attempting to overtly frame your message in relation to what you believe your customers’ thoughts and feelings to be may come across as inauthentic or off-base. But the takeaway here isn’t to go more generic. Instead, it’s to thoroughly hone in on your specific point of view.
Why a Generic Brand Voice Is Never the Answer
The only way to stand out among mundane platitudes about “unprecedented challenges” and being “in this together” is to bring a unique perspective to the conversation. This is where your voice needs to shine.
Nailing a distinct and specific brand voice takes a lot of thought, preparation, and flawless execution. The best recent example we’ve seen of this is Capsule, the same-day prescription delivery service whose brand voice is an embodiment of a Boomer parental figure or a grandparent who texts.
“We started with a pretty simple premise for the brand,” Eric Kinariwala, founder and CEO of the five-year-old company, recently told LinkedIn News. “If your mom was a pharmacist, and you were the only consumer or patient in the world, what would that interaction look like?”
In this instance, the brand persona serves as the foundation for excellent customer service and an unmistakable brand voice. Capsule’s blog is titled, “Hello, Dear”, and new customers receive a text message from Capsule’s Chief Pharmacist, Sonia, that begins with that same salutation and ends, “Love, Sonia.”
Without this point of view, Capsule would be just another healthcare brand in 2020 with a highly relevant but much less memorable offering. This perfectly illustrates how to meaningfully relate to your end customer without attempting to be a representation of that customer.
Perhaps, in 2020 and beyond, the best way to “get inside your customer’s head” is to offer a totally distinct point of view while giving them exactly what they need in this exact moment.
Focus on How You Make People Feel, Not What You Think They Want to Hear
How do you know what people need from your brand in the coming months? New research presented during Advertising Week 2020 provides some insight. McKinney, a creative, media, and technology agency, has been tracking people’s emotions over the course of the pandemic, and they’ve identified a few common “emotional territories” that have emerged across the spectrum as we move into Q4.
Above all else, people report feeling restricted, conflicted, and overwhelmed. Misery may love company, but when faced with such overwhelmingly negative sentiments, you don’t want your brand voice to emulate these feelings. Instead, serve as a salve. When planning your content marketing for Q4 2020 and beyond, consider your customers’ three greatest emotional challenges and the ways you can help:
• When people feel restricted, they appreciate feeling more in control.
• When people feel conflicted, they want to feel more resolved.
• When people feel overwhelmed, they’re looking for ways to reduce their burden.
How can your brand’s content help deliver on these higher-level needs? In some cases, earnest service journalism is the answer, because good advice can help unlock the answers people seek. Some brands may invoke a voice that is funny and irreverent, because people are craving levity and escape. With either approach, the goal should be to make someone feel just 10% better, say the strategists at McKinney, because that small boost can make a big impact in times like these.
The Essential Step to Establish Your Unique Brand Voice
How do you nail down the voice that will best serve your brand? It all starts with a cohesive brand content strategy. This is something that goes beyond typical brand guidelines and marketing plans. Among other things, this plan determines:
• Your brand’s core areas of expertise.
• Your unique point of view in relation to the competition.
• The values and beliefs your brand upholds.
• Your brand’s creative guidelines for tone, visual execution, and written style.
• Your target audience personas and the needs you serve.
• A clear framework for communicating with potential customers, current customers, and long-time brand advocates.
• Well-defined do’s AND don’ts relating to the items above.
Many brands fail to take this crucial step in content planning. According to a 2020 survey published by the Content Marketing Institute, 71 percent of B2C marketers have a content marketing strategy, but only 33 percent of brands have documented it. Without clearly defining and writing down the parameters for content strategy and execution, your message will inevitably stray and lose clarity over time. And you certainly won’t be up to the task of shifting quickly and effectively the next time the world turns upside down overnight.
If your brand could use some support building a content plan that serves your customers in a deeper and more insightful way, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also learn more about our services here. We’d love to help!