Voices and Choices

Guest blog by Colin Cather, Brand Strategist & Founder at Brilliant Mistake Branding

If Twitter is a cocktail party, it’s one where the lights are down low.

So now, in this hashtagged room, what we say (our ‘content’) and how we say it (our ‘tone’) become the strongest of our brand-signals.

And these 140 character or less gestures will lead some people (the ones we want to speak to) our way, and they’ll let some others know that we’re not for them.

Just like any real cocktail party (the ones I’ve been to anyway), there will be someone declaring their opinions loudly, forcefully and – if they can – from on top of a step they’ve found. And there will be people listening. There will also be someone speaking in a clear, quiet voice – intriguingly, perhaps conspiratorially – and there will be people listening to them, too.

The point is – we need to know our Tone of Voice or TOV. And this – like anything else we do in our businesses, with our brands – should be deliberate. Thought-through.

Distinctive.

If you’ve had expert help in creating your brand guidelines, your TOV will already be encoded. If you haven’t – here are two simple pointers.

Be distinct.

Just as Nicole Kidman would be horrified to step onto the Oscars red carpet in the same dress as Cate Blanchett, so, our brands’ ability to find a target, and become famous, must begin with distinctiveness. Our differentiation.

At its most sophisticated – this is part of Brand Positioning. Finding a sweet-spot, where we can be something meaningful to our clients, customers and consumers.

In the same way that Pepsi is forced to wear blue, because Coke stepped out first with an entirely red wardrobe, we must – at the very least – listen to the other voices in the room and select an alternative. Otherwise we are just flattering others with our mimicry, or we are white-noise.

The Quick Fix

  • Try examining the Brand Archetypes. (These are as crude as the Seven Basic Plots of Storytelling, but we’re being a bit crude here.)
  • Identify who the others are. Identify who you most naturally are. Maybe because you have an affinity with one of the brands they reference. Go with that one.
  • Now we have a basis for our brand identity. And how we are going to speak.

And to those who say– “a distinctive Tone of Voice can alienate…”, I say “Good.”

Pick a Step.

We’re all familiar with the idea of ‘being talked-down-to.’ Well, when it comes to our TOV, just like that guy in the cocktail party, we have to decide how high to climb – relative to our audience.

The TOV steps look like this:

image

Here are three pieces of brand copy:

  • PARENT: “It deserves a little respect” [Green & Black’s]
  • HIGHER AUTHORITY: “One Day You Will” [Glenfiddich]
  • CHILD: “Hello. We make lovely natural fruit drinks…” [innocent smoothies]

Sometimes, brands choose their step based on the norms – like luxury goods tend towards Higher Authority (“maybe, someday, you too could look like this”). Other times, they are electing to buck the norm. To make this one of their ‘rule-breaking’ points of difference.

Again. Make a choice.

So that your clients and consumers don’t have to.

Colin loves brands so much he made one of his own. Burnt Sugar began selling crumbly fudge at Borough Market and went on to sell in Waitrose, Tesco and other big shops. Burnt Sugar beat the confectionery Goliaths to win The Grocer’s Branded Excellence Award, the Observer said it’s “the world’s best fudge” and sweet-lovers still say “mmm.” Now, as Brilliant Mistake, Colin likes to share the love by helping businesses, big and small, to unleash their brands’ specialness.

Law Firm Branding: Can you serve all markets from a single brand?

Brands

A thought occurred to me the other day: Assuming the Susskind vision of the future is true, can law firms continue to serve all their clients from a single brand? In most other sectors, companies use brands to target a specific market segment.

  • RBS have the Direct Line, Churchill and Privilige insurance brands.
  • Intercontinental hotel group have Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express.
  • In food retailing, many companies have a healthy eating brand, a ‘value’ brand, a mainstream brand and a luxury brand.

If more legal work becomes productised or commoditised and so becomes a ‘value’ based purchase, what impact does that have on your brand and your corporate and prestige clients’ expectations of cost?

It seems to me that the problem with trying to be all things to everyone, is you end up not standing for anything at all.

That’s one reason why Access Legal from Shoosmiths is so interesting: An attempt to create a brand for a specific market segment, but still keeping the parent brand to suggest quality and years of legal expertise.

Are Shoosmiths the only ones doing this? Are there any other law firms out there doing the same?

I’d be interested to know your thoughts. Let me know in the comments below…

Web Favourites Jan 29 2010

This post is part of a weekly/bi-weekly roundup of things that I read and found interesting. There won’t be a lot of comment from me, but hopefully you will find the links useful. Enjoy!

Interesting stuff I came across this week:

Tesco Law V Brand Solicitor – “Law firms need to be thinking about the outward facing solution because when I read legal technology sites they seem to go on about internal use. The future is "social" and what that means is turning your websites to point at clients so they can engage and transact with you.”

Consumerization of IT Executive Briefing – “”Designed for enterprise executives, this fully scripted presentation introduces Microsoft’s vision for how organizations can reap the benefits of the consumerization of IT”

Stop Trying To Be Better Than the Competition – “Creating your own special way to treat customers, creating an experience that’s unique, or creating a totally new and frictionless way for people to get a result is how you stand out from the pack, it’s how you create a difference that can’t be easily copied, and it’s how innovation comes to small business. Instead of spending your precious R&D time on product features, spend it on creating branded intellectual property, a distinct way of marketing, or on developing people and culture inside your organization that enables you to be seen as different”