It’s amazing to think anyone can come up with truly original, attention-grabbing ideas anymore when you look at the amount of brands jostling for space. But lo and behold, marketers are worth their buck – there are plenty of brands with wry and witty brand voices out there, subtly persuading you to choose their goods and part with your cash.
With an ever crowded marketplace, brands must work their socks off to raise an eyebrow or a chuckle. And there are some brilliant examples of brands doing this, so let’s get forensic and focus on a few.
Some might say that a Swedish oat-based milk alternative is a hard-sell, but Oatly have one of the most likeable voices out there. Their Creative Director, John Schoolcraft, is responsible for turning a plain product into a tongue-in-cheek, fearless challenger to the dairy industry.
‘It tastes like shit’ might be a customer comment that would cause an existential crisis in some companies, but Oatly used this on their packaging and in an ad to great comic effect.
Their environmental credentials and plant-based benefits are the core of their brand, so they’ve created a voice that is brave and confident about pushing alternatives to milk. Their packaging is fierce, funny and taps into customer curiosity – it’s interesting enough to make customers pick it up and keep on reading. The legal information on the packaging is affectionately labelled as the ‘boring side’. Oatly’s website is also a treasure trove of personality-driven copy that has nailed the ‘conversational’ style.
Oatly are also open about their political beliefs and brand lifestyles, with ‘be human, not a logo’ as the drive behind their brand voice. Their voice is a lesson in being fearless and forging your own direction.
The Economist magazine is what you have sitting on your coffee table when you want to convince someone you have your crap together…. “hey, I know who Angela Merkel is, ok?”. And it’s a brand that naturally oozes authority and it has a trusted relationship with its readers.
It’s a 172 year magazine, so you’d be forgiven for thinking its digital strategy might be a tad behind, but quite the contrary – The Economist does digital really well with engaging taster content and creative advertising. Their reputation as a more serious, lofty brand over their long-history has been softened over the last few years and they’ve used characteristic wit and provocative humour to make their brand voice more accessible and appeal to a younger, more progressive demographic.
Their magazine covers are insightful and funny and they do a really good job of marrying intelligence and wit, like your favourite, eccentric History teacher at school.
First thing’s first – Brewdog are an exceptionally fun brand. They’ve pulled some mad stunts* in their infancy, like celebrating their record-breaking crowd-funding effort by flying a helicopter across London and dropping taxidermy ‘fat cats’. Totally normal, nothing to see here.
*And there’s plenty more to look at.
They’ve grown up a bit over the last few years, but their core brand voice still muscles its way into all of their communications. Their commitment to ‘brew hardcore beers for punks’ has shaken up the craft beer industry and done more to bring it to the mass market than any other brand. James Watt, the CEO, has himself said that "humour is the best way to make anyone fall in love with a brand" and you can see examples of this everywhere.
Brewdog’s brand personality and voice helps to reduce the distance between the brand and its customers – their Equity for Punks scheme requires customers to actively want to get involved in the business. It’s not a stuffy, patronising craft beer range that requires you to know everything about each ingredient before you drink it. They’re more like the naughty, rebellious jesters on the side…getting drunk and having a laugh.
Now conversational copy is all well and good, but there’s been a bit of a shift towards more artisanal-style copywriting recently too. A brand voice that’s honest and thoughtful can also be really effective and build trust in your brand. Obviously, it depends on the context - for food based products, a more authentic tone can really work.
Teapigs are a tea company (don’t think there’s any pigs involved, unfortunately) and they combine a lovely, easy-going attitude with honest copy. The mood-o-meter on their website is a lovely touch, but they also go into great detail about the quality and ethical considerations behind their products, which is important for consumers. There’s a real focus on the ingredients and authentic produce.
Stick with me on this one. So, I know no-one’s supposed to actually like banks anymore, but first direct has a really effective brand voice. Banks always have a lot of work to do, because they have really bad reputations with their customers for a myriad of reasons. People assume the worst, so banks don’t come from a level playing field with their marketing efforts.
In the banking sector - the wacky, in your face brand voice just doesn’t work. You don’t want to be your bank’s best mate, you just want them to treat you like an intelligent adult and look after your dosh properly. first direct are good at doing this and they were 2016’s leading customer brand in KPMG’S UK Customer Experience Excellence analysis. first direct achieve a warm, respectful tone of voice and deliver messages in clear, simple terms.
Empathy is important in the banking world and first direct manages to make their brand voice reassuring and confident. In banking, it’s about achieving the ‘we won’t let you down’ look. Their employees are on board with their brand culture and they always push the ‘people’ aspect to the fore in their digital advertising and presence of social channels.
There’s 101 things (and then some), that are complex about banking, but take a look through the site and you’ll find clear, concise copy that takes big subjects and makes them easy and enjoyable to read.
So there you have it – a whole bundle of different brands with completely different brand voices, but they’re all effective. What all of them share is the confidence to try something new, use customer-centric copy and develop a brand personality that reflects their customer base.