brand story & messaging

Why your brand voice should sound like a human

Christine O'Connor | October 29, 2021
Sound like a human to reach humans

Photo by Elevate/Unsplash

Despite the ongoing uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic—or perhaps because of it—millions are quitting or changing jobs. They are losing patience with maintaining their status quo and see this moment as an opportunity to make a change that aligns with their personality and values.

Branding and marketing pros could learn a lesson or two from the Great Resignation.

Leaders sense the shifts taking place in their workforce—you can see it in trends like increasingly casual dress and a shift to hybrid or permanent remote work. But few are making the connection with customers, clients, local stakeholders, investors and others who also are seeking a refreshing break from the formulaic.

Let your freak flag fly

Enterprises often believe that they need to communicate in the safest brand voice possible. Many fear that any deviation from standard approaches is risky. But in fact, the opposite is true. Just like employees, other stakeholders are hungry for change and increasingly seek out brands that speak to them as humans.

If your work is high impact, you’re likely already coloring outside the lines. So why not apply the same strategy to your external communication? We say let your freak flag fly. At least make it sound like your organization is run by humans who want to reach other humans. It feels good, and makes you stand out from the competition.

Well-targeted humor earns fans

Nia Impact Capital’s CEO Kristin Hull is a master at making finance and investing issues accessible, often by using her sharp sense of humor. Her blog, The Money Doula, features posts such as #Lent2021 Giving Up the Patriarchy, which notes that the challenges women have faced during the pandemic underscore the ways our economic system caters to men at the expense of women’s advancement. With a nod to Marie Kondo, she says “I am releasing the male dominant system with gratitude for ways it may have served in the past, and discarding the patriarchy as it does not spark joy.”

Educational doesn’t have to mean boring

The Thinkshift team loved working with Fish 2.0 to develop a distinctive voice in the sustainable seafood sector. Just one example: Executive Director Monica Jain’s article in World Positive,Your Relationship with Seafood is About to Change,” spoke directly to readers, asking them to imagine a better seafood future and picture themselves as agents and beneficiaries of emerging technologies and market innovations that are scaling to clear the murky seafood supply chain. Using language like “Is lionfish the new kale?” “We’ll be able to have our fish and eat them too” and “How seafood is like lettuce” made the piece relatable, educating readers without boring them.

How does your enterprise speak to its audiences? Do your messaging, content and overall brand voice sound like a human spoke them? If you’ve been using the same roboprose for years, your brand is blending in with the pack and may even be left behind as audiences demand more of brands. Enterprises that stand out will the ones that address their human audiences like humans and build genuine connections.

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