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Establishing A Brand Voice for Your Startup

Design & Branding

Tammy Slaughter wrote this article

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“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.”

 

– Lee Iacco

This concept seems relatively straightforward, right?

It’s not like storytelling hasn’t been integral to companies pitching their products or services for awhile now. Most of us have seen an episode or two of Mad Men.

But in reality, many startups (and established companies) can struggle in this area, especially in an ever-changing digital landscape where social media has become a conduit for official statements, breaking news and viral memes alike.

Once upon a time, companies spent millions in R&D creating brand mascots: A living embodiment of their brand to interact with consumers.

With social media, this need has fundamentally shifted forever. Sure, some companies still have mascots in some shape or form, but these days, even they tend to have a dedicated social media feed to interact with fans, and serve as an official brand representative.

Social media has leveled the playing field between startups and major brands. By honing in on the overall messaging, they can ultimately create the same effect companies once achieved working alongside advertisers on Madison Ave. Click To Tweet

All this: One post at a time.

If You Build It, They Will Not Come

It’s harsh, but it’s also true.

A lot more goes into making an app, or business venture for that matter, successful then simply launching it. Click To Tweet

Once the app is launched (and even before it’s launched), the goal becomes attracting new users; soon-to-be fans of your brand.

How exactly is this done?

Social media is one of the best places to start. Having a landing page or blog to go with it is also great, but social media can be utilized even before these assets are ready, too.

Sometimes, I marvel at the brilliance of it as a marketer myself; reflecting on how businesses used to have to pay a premium to gain the ability to reach so many on such a vast scale.

Companies used to rent out blimps and planes to broadcast their message far and wide; now, they need only create and curate dedicated social media profiles.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The secret’s been out on social media for a while now, and that means competition is fierce, and virality is few and far between for a growing business.

So, how do you stand out as a brand in a sea of company tweets and posts?

Your Brand Should Have A Voice

Powerful brands are actually individuals with their own unique personalities.

If they weren’t, no one would be able to tell them apart from a line of products and services offering the same thing. This goes further than just relatability, tapping into our collective subconscious by mirroring our shared human needs.

It helps us as business operators and marketers to create consumer connections that are practically instinctual.

In 1954, Carl Jung described this phenomenon as ‘archetypes.’ These can be observed repeating across cultures and generations over the decades, helping to shape our collective human experience. From historical figures, celebrities and some of your favorite movies in Hollywood —  to all across the literary pages, archetypes can be seen in our most beloved (and bemoaned) personas.

Archetypes are essentially the heart of a brand in the eyes of the consumer, conveying meaning that makes customers relate to them as if they actually were alive in some way. 

Why are archetypes so successful at connecting with the consumer psyche? Well, each one relates to a core human need, making them feel somehow…familiar to us.

Curious what a core human need is? This refers to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a basic psychological principle which classifies and prioritizes our collective societal needs.

Starting with physiological (food and clothing), and safety (job security or even shelter), which must be satisfied before we as humans can attend to our higher needs, such as love and belonging (relationships), esteem, and self-actualization.

 

Archetypes all appeal to these core human needs in some way. We’ve broken these down for you below. Read on!

Archetypical Marketing for Brands

In 2001, Mark and Pearson’s The Hero and the Outlaw reasoned that archetypal marketing for brands was once “an interesting bonus to effective marketing [but] is now a prerequisite.”

Social media and the rise of the fourth industrial revolution has only accelerated the need for brands to embody a unique persona. Marketers now have a daily conduit to nurture connection with consumers and show off brand messaging.

The universalness of these motifs helps brands to connect with us on a deeper level. These ideals have become so ingrained in marketing tactics today, many brands possess archetypal qualities they may be entirely unaware of.

You might even be surprised to see your brand already reflected somewhere in this blog series.

2012’s Archetypes in Branding expanded the fundamental twelve archetypes into five archetypes to a family. You can think of it like a spectrum for each of the main archetypes based on a brand’s unique characteristics — alongside a key nuance or two.

While we’ve introduced them below, we’ll explore each of these archetype families in additional posts in this series. There’s a lot of ground to cover here, folks!

Here’s a quick overview of the different archetype families and their sub-archetypes:

Brands Seeking to Structure the World:

Caregiver – Guardian, Samaritan, Healer, Angel, Mother Earth

Ruler – Sovereign, Ambassador, Judge, Patriarch

Creator – Visionary, Storyteller, Artist, Entrepreneur, Angel Technologist

 

Brands Rooted in Spirituality:

Innocent – Child, Dreamer, Idealist, Muse

Sage – Mentor, Detective, Shaman, Translator

Explorer – Adventurer, Pioneer, Generalist, Seeker

 

Brands Yearning to Leave a Mark on the World:

Outlaw – Activist, Gambler, Reformer

Hero – Warrior, Athlete, Rescuer, Liberator

Magician – Alchemist, Scientist, Engineer, Innovator

 

Brands Yearning to Connect with the World:

Lover – Romantic, Companion, Hedonist, Matchmaker

Jester – Entertainer, Clown, Provocateur, Shapeshifter

Everyman – Citizen, Advocate, Servant, Networker

There are even different levels to be achieved in a given archetype, depending on the strength of the displayed persona, and the brand’s evolution. The general rule of thumb being, the higher level attained, the more success and wider net that can be cast to attract consumers.

Focused brands are impactful brands. Humans are inherently emotional creatures and are drawn to personalities they’re similar to or that they yearn to be. Click To Tweet

While this may seem overwhelming to grasp at first, companies can achieve greater nuance in their brand stories and greater resonance with stakeholders using these sub-archetypes. These sub-archetypes are not lesser by any means, but they do have a specialization that differentiates them within the same family.

Jung himself recognized that there are an unlimited number of archetypes.

Some sub-archetypes can have gender associations (think: Brawny paper towels!), which also plays a role in brand imagery and making stronger connections. Some brands combine archetypes.

There’s even founder-driven brands (aided by the rise of social media influence), which can add another layer to messaging and overall brand presentation.

Examples of founder-driven brands include VaynerMedia and Lambda School, and skew towards the entrepreneurial-tech space, with a heavy reliance on social media savvy and demonstrated industry thought leadership.

How Brand Can Inform Marketing Strategy

The ‘look and feel’ of a brand has everything to do with marketing to make lasting consumer connections.

From color palettes to typography and imagery, honing in on your brand’s ‘voice’ will both accent and inform all of your decisions when it comes to messaging and presentation.

Benefits include:

– Clarify your brand’s purpose

– Express your ‘personality’ (the more brands are seen as people, the more relatable they are!)

– Solidify your position on important values

– Inform brand voice and overall aesthetic/ visuals

– Achieve consistency in your messaging

Plus, companies utilizing clear brand archetypes are proven to be more profitable (think Uber, Apple).

Archetypes aren’t meant to pigeon-hole brands, but rather serve as a compass for decisions at the brand strategy and brand expression levels both for customers and team members.

Consumers make sub-conscious buying decisions based not only on how they perceive themselves, but on their desired self. This is something you can observe many brands appealing to within their messaging (and given archetype), whether through ‘mirroring’  or ‘pulling’ marketing tactics:

– Shift views between the analytical to the emotional

– Shift tone from controlling to empowering

– Shift communication style between pushing and pulling tactics

– Help create an engaged community  — not just an audience

– Develop your brand essence (or even just a tagline)

Depending on how you incorporate these marketing elements will ultimately inform the presentation of your brand’s personality and unique voice.

The Psychology of Brand

To market successfully, you must have a deep understanding of the way your ideal consumer thinks. To do this most effectively, you need to dabble in a bit of light psychology to help make your brand feel alive to them in some way. To have a personality others will connect with, that keeps them coming back.

We’ve already covered how archetypes connect with us innately due to appealing to our core human needs (i.e. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs).

But the most commonly used model of brand personality is the one developed by J. Aker. They identified five dimensions:

– Sincerity: Down-to-earth, honest, wholesome, cheerful

– Excitement: Daring, spirited, imaginative

– Competence: Reliable, intelligent, successful

– Sophistication: Upper-class, charming

– Ruggedness: Outdoorsy, tough, strong

These five dimensions also tie in with the Big-Five personality structure, or the O.C.E.A.N. model:

– Openness to experience: Inventive/curious vs. Consistent/cautious. Traits of this dimension include appreciation for emotion, art, intellectual curiosity, unusual ideas, imagination, and diverse experiences.

– Conscientiousness: Efficient/organized vs. Easy-going/careless. Traits of this dimension include responsible, self-discipline, organized, trustworthy, achiever, planning behavior.

– Extraversion: Outgoing/energetic vs. Solitary/reserved. Traits of this dimension include positive emotions, energy, openness to others, impulsivity, sociability.

– Agreeableness: Friendly/compassionate vs. Cold/unkind. Traits of this dimension include kindness, compassion, modesty, cooperative, trust.

– Neuroticism: Sensitive/nervous vs. Secure/confident. Traits of this dimension include anxious, nervous, vulnerable, unstable, tendency to express unpleasant emotions.

You’ll see elements of some combination of these facets in each archetype. It all comes down to psychology, and harnessing its power to make connections when marketing your brand!

Boiled down to its simplest form, that’s all marketing is, anyway.

Finding Your Brand Voice — Archetype Or Not

As you read through this branding series, reflect and ask yourself the following questions:

– Which archetype do your competitors most resemble?

– Which archetypes do your customers resemble?

– What drives them (customers and competitors)?

– How can your brand do things differently amongst your competitors?

– What role does your brand play in customers’ lives?

Then, look within.

– What is your team culture like? (their personalities, interests, etc.)

– What motivates team members to come in for work?

– What are your company values?

Having a solid answer to each of these questions will help you hone in on your brand’s unique personality and voice.

Remember, a lasting brand legacy requires evolution, and reinterpreting one’s identity to stay compelling — whether through a new logo, new spokesperson, or new messaging altogether.

People are complicated, and so it would seem, are brands!

About ChopDawg.com: Since 2009, we have helped create 350+ next-generation apps for startups, Fortune 500s, growing businesses, and non-profits from around the globe. Think Partner, Not Agency.

 

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