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Brand Voices with Lasting Power

My teenage nephew recently let me know in his most respectful way that things had changed since I was his age. I accepted that. But I told him he would soon learn the meaning of the saying, "the more things change, the more they remain the same."

To keep him engaged, I told him that his love for Adidas sprang from an age-old practice of associating the talents of individuals in sports with a few letters on exercise apparel. Consistently marketing that connection made Adidas a brand that my young and "hip" nephew wanted to identify with.

Brands, like athletes, largely choose how they want to be regarded. They do so by developing a way of marketing to their customers (or fans) that "speaks" to them with a unique voice. It's that consistency of a unique brand voice that keeps their customers loyal. Brands that struggle with a coherent and distinct voice—one that conveys personality, values, and attitude—often falter.

But what about newer, small-market brands that are hustling to have the success of Adidas? What are the elements of brand voice that will sustain these smaller companies today?

For some of these companies, a strong brand voice can be hard to achieve. It demands communicating the essence of the business in a way that gives it personality. Merely putting a sales lead's first name in an email (while it's an important first step in email marketing personalization) hardly suffices in shaping a company's brand voice. That's because the brand voice is the sum of many parts. Along with personality and consistency, authenticity is another important element of brand voice. Admittedly, we live in a time when authenticity is viewed by some as relative and by others as true north.

But when developing and amplifying a company's brand voice, there is no other way to find lasting success, except to stand for something and stick to it. It's a truism echoed in this month's edition of Chief Content Officer Magazine, the flagship publication for the Content Marketing Institute, by entrepreneur and SponsorshipX executive Mark Harrison:

Presentation by entrepreneur Mark Harrison at CMWorld22
Entrepreneur Mark Harrison Screenshot, Chief Content Officer Magazine

"I can assure you that every organization that's failing lacks a clear and undeniable north star."

Like Mark, many entrepreneurs bring authenticity to their brand voices in ways that make the world a better place and generate sales. They are unafraid to share their values, knowledge, and personalities as part of their brand stories. Based on having the right stuff of what makes a brand voice great, three entrepreneurs I know deserve a "shout out" on this Giving Tuesday and in recognition of Small Business Saturday this week.

Felicia Yvette is a new mother, professional makeup artist, and Executive Director of LimeLife by Alcone, an exclusive skin care products manufacturer. I met her at a small business fair five years ago. She is perky and personable, while also exuding confidence about what she knows. And Felicia knows about beauty products. Her authentic brand voice resonated in a way that compelled me to purchase her gift items during the holidays. I had many options for holiday gifts, but Felicia Yvette won my business because she 1) made an impression as a giving person when I first met her, 2) nurtured that relationship and offered beauty tips using funny and engaging email marketing campaigns about makeup, and 3) never called me to ask for a sale. When holiday time approached this year, I was comfortable following up with her and eager to buy her gifts again for family and friends on my Christmas list.

Former DC City Paper reporter-turned-business coach, Amanda Miller-Littlejohn, is another role model for having an authentic brand voice. Amanda offers resources in well-packaged, visually appealing, and accessible digital downloads. But she also consistently uses engaging email campaigns to update contacts about her activities and priorities: her passion for motherhood and leadership coaching. She is relatable and honest about her business pursuits and she shares her journey with a community of followers nurtured for years. Hers is a personal brand that teaches other women how to brand themselves to achieve their professional pursuits with precision and fortitude. She also communicates honestly about the challenges of entrepreneurial life and the need to pause on the road to your goals. Her recent guest opinion piece in The Los Angeles Times resonated with her following of Black women, many of whom are clients. Amanda's target audience heard her brand voice clearly and personally in a way that deepened their attachment and loyalty to her brand.

Author and communications strategy consultant Ed Barks is a standard bearer in business communication. His brand voice is authentic and unflappable. For him, talking and presenting come naturally. A former broadcaster, he learned quickly that he could pivot his career and use his golden, evenly modulated voice to teach others tips and standards for communicating in business settings. Ed practices what he sells, and he has been doing it for over 25 years. Throughout that time, his brand persona has been consistently approachable, knowledgeable, yet no nonsense. Ed's brand voice mirrors his personal style, exuding the calm and collected professional who communicates knowledge with a modest smile and sincere delivery that commands respect and a desire by followers to practice his teachings. It is also backed by prolific writing about business communication. The author of four books on the topic, Ed is giving away his latest nonfiction work, "Insider Strategies for the Confident Communicator." To benefit from his wisdom, download a free copy by visiting his website.

One of Ed's key takeaways in the new book also applies to the need to shape, fine-tune, and amplify any business' brand voice. That takeaway? Be intentional about what you present.

Brands will come and go, but only those with a consistent message, exemplary values, and unique way of communicating will have the staying power to be memorable.


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