If you're a pig, don't baa like a sheep: why an authentic brand tone of voice matters

"The great enemy of clear language is insincerity."

George Orwell


Time for a quick experiment. Think about how you'd greet the following people:

  • your next door neighbour, who's more annoying than auto-playing video content;

  • an old friend you've not seen for a few months;

  • your mother-in-law. Whenever.


Chances are, your salutation involves some form of hello or hi or hey - it is, after all, a salutation. But what makes things interesting, what explains more about your relationship, is how you're going to say it.


So, my response to the above might be:

  • Hi, John. No, I'm not available for your barbecue. I know you haven't told me when it is yet. I'm just busy. Forever.

  • Maaaaate, long time no see! [Awkward man hug.] I see your beer belly's as bulbous as ever, you big blubbery bugger!

  • Hello, Mrs Kate's Mum. Please don't hit me.


Point is, even though I'm saying the same thing - 'Hi' - the way I'm saying it differs according to the audience and the situation.


And it's no different in the business world, where the core message (the what) is always the same - 'Use our product' - but is one that takes many different forms depending on the audience and the situation (the how).


Which means when it comes to your messaging, the how is just as important as the what. Because it's the how that projects your brand's image, that tells the world who you are.


It's the how that makes you authentic.


So, what's authenticity, then? Well, we could talk about how it means staying true to yourself, remembering why you do what you do and always being honest with your audience. 


But, essentially, it's this: if you're a pig, don't baa like a sheep.


See, no one likes a fake. And in this ever-connected, transparent world, fakes are quickly spotted, quickly punished and not quickly forgotten.


So, if you're a pig, oink like a pig. 


Find that tone of voice that's authentic to you and run with it.


Take all-conquering brisket barons, Red's True Barbecue. Think they'd have carved out their market share without fully embracing a Deep South discourse, from the menu ('The Good Book') to their Kansas-style saloon restaurants ('Places of Worship')?


Or what about twee tone of voice pioneers, innocent? Think the entirely not-new notion of liquefying fruit and sticking it in a bottle would have taken off had they not so whimsically eulogised the wholesome benefits of their product?


And not forgetting your favourite copywriting double act, 4-Letter Word (hello!) - we're no different. We have a passion for communicating ideas with words. At the same time, we like to poke a little fun at ourselves and the marketing world as a whole. So this is how we reflect who we are... because it is who we are, and we'll attract people who 'get' us and repel those who don't (you animals).


Because being authentic isn't about just keeping your customers happy, it's about keeping yourself sane, too. After all, being a fake takes a lot of hard work.


Every brand wants the same from their copy, their design, and their marketing: they want it to get people interested in what they do. Whether you're an artisan start-up or a stratospheric supercorp, the aim is the same: get people through the door.


And people understand this. They buy into it.


But what they don't buy into is pigs baaing like a sheep.


So, if you're a pig, oink. Oink and be proud.


Need help oinking like a pig? You know what to do.