The mess. The guilt. The chronic drain on your time, energy, and overall will to live. When you’re expecting a baby, people are usually quick to warn you about all of that.
But I’ll tell you what no one prepares you for: just how many goddamn times a day your child will cause you genuine physical pain.
Today alone I’ve had my hair pulled, my arm pinched, my eye poked, my shins generally pummelled, and been kicked in the boob – twice.
Now to be clear, it’s not because my children are enrolled in some sort of sadistic torturers-in-training programme. (Although they'd be acing that course if they were.) It’s just that being below the age of four, they haven’t quite mastered full control of their limbs yet. But still, I’m really over it. For me it’s honestly turned out to be one of the most wearing elements of being a parent. And I think part of that is because I just wasn’t expecting it.
So I don’t want to be guilty of doing the same when it comes to brand voice. Guilty of not preparing you for the reality of the work.
Because while most people do know it’s not quite as simple as brands like Monzo and Nike and Old Spice and Oatly make it look, the main challenges that get acknowledged are the obvious ones – that it takes time and money. But those are actually fairly simple problems to solve.
So today I want to get real with you and let you in on three genuinely hard things about working on your brand’s voice that most people just won’t tell you.
Lots of people outside the marketing team won’t really understand the value and importance of the work and, even if they do, will personally find it quite tough to adjust their ways of communicating.
Throughout the initial project, and often over the following months and years of trying to embed your voice, you’ll most likely meet with resistance, frustration, confusion, and – worst of all – indifference.
There are always exceptions of course, and there are definitely things you can do to help get people on side. But ultimately no one will care about the work quite as much as the marketing team and so a lot of the time you’ll feel like Sisyphus, forever pushing that boulder up the same damn hill.
A brand voice isn’t some magical marketing sheen you slick on over the top of whatever you write to make your company more appealing to people. It’s about learning to communicate in away that gives people a window into the real personality and character of your organisation.
So if your brand is bland or douchey or stuck behind the times or inaccessible then you can’t just create a voice that suggests otherwise.
(Or rather, you can – but you shouldn’t. Because that's not brand voice development, that's false advertising. And as well as being a dickish thing to do, it’s something most people will see through sooner or later anyway, so it will ultimately do more harm than good.)
If the real issue is that the company itself needs to make some big changes, a brand voice project won't save you from having to do that hard work.
Your company will (hopefully) grow and evolve and your brand voice needs to keep up with that. Any articulation of your verbal identity and guidance about how to embody it should be viewed more as a kind of live toolkit than a static set of rules.
That doesn’t mean you’ll have to do a full-scale tone of voice revamp every year. It’s just not a one-and-done piece of work. It’s something you’ll want to keep checking in on and updating and adding to, so that you’ve always got fresh, relevant examples of branded communications and your voice will stay reflective of and practically useful to the business as it grows.
So brand voice work isn't just a challenging thing - it's a challenging thing you'll never quite be done with.
But here’s the deal. Despite all that, putting in the work on your brand’s voice is still honestly one of the best and most effective things a business can do.
There’s no other single thing that will have as big an impact on the way people perceive and connect with your company.
It comes back to the having-kids thing really. I moan constantly about the trials of parenting (both because it’s cathartic and because without toddler-based rants and anecdotes that can be neatly segued into brand insights I really wouldn’t have a social media content strategy) but I’m still utterly, madly, revoltingly in love with my gorgeous children and know without a doubt that they make my life better.
It’s the same with your brand voice. Working on it will be bloody hard at times. But as long as you go in with your eyes open, I promise it’s a decision you won’t regret.
Want more dire warnings about brand voice issues that might be quite depressing but also ultimately helpful? Sign up to get my editorials dropped into your inbox every month.