So when I get chatting to someone at the park, or in the supermarket queue, or stuck halfway through a soft-play tunnel, and they flinch when I call out my kid’s decidedly knobbish behaviour as knobbish,* I know they're not for me.
Because your language tells people what you're like. What they can expect from you. It's one of the quickest, easiest, and most effective compatibility tests I know of.
If people aren’t keen on sarcasm, swearing, and brutal honesty about parenting, then they’re very unlikely to be keen on me. And I’m very unlikely to be keen on them. So introducing those elements of my personality into the conversation early on is a great way to save myself from agreeing to a playdate with a parent who is ultimately never going to become a friend because they’re the type of person who wants to endlessly discuss their child’s bowel movements and then invite me along to a baby-led belly-dancing class.
This is how a brand voice is supposed to work too.
But most companies don’t get that.
Most companies think that the point of developing their voice is to attract people to their brand. To make anyone who hears from them like them enough to buy in.
But the purpose of a strong brand voice isn’t to make sure people like you – it’s to make sure people get you. That they understand who you are as a brand and get a sense of your organisational personality. It's a subtle difference, but a vital one. Because yes, then that personality will make some of them like you. But it will also make some of them not like you.
Which of course is the thing most businesses are afraid of. Yet it’s a thing that’s actually hugely beneficial to embrace.
Because at the end of the day your company (or your product/service) isn’t going to be a fit for everyone. No-one has universal appeal. So since there are definitely going to be people who aren’t fans, you might as well put them off as early as possible – otherwise you’re going to waste time and effort and money drawing them down a funnel until they get close enough to realise you’re not for them and off they fuck.
Done right, your language plays a huge part in helping people figure out very quickly if they like you enough to buy in. Which means that they don’t waste time and you don’t waste resources trying to build a relationship that ultimately isn’t going to lead anywhere.
So you don’t need to call your customers knobs (although that would be fun to watch).
But you do need to be completely real about who your brand is and not be afraid to let your voice represent that personality in all its glory.
*To the other parent of course, not to my kid’s face. I’m a realist, not a monster.
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