I love the thrill of an Easter Egg hunt. And not just the chocolate kind. (That I love that kind goes without saying.) I’m talking about digital Easter eggs – the secret messages and subtle references that programmers and creatives hide in their work. Hidden gems that make us feel, when we find them, like we’re in on the joke, like we’re connected. That buzz you feel when you spy the Pizza Planet delivery truck from Toy Story in another Pixar movie? Or spot a Stan Lee cameo? You feel it because, as a viewer, you like knowing what’s going on. And this got me thinking about how developing your brand voice is a lot like laying Easter eggs. Here’s why.
Google’s Easter Eggs and other hidden gems
So, you know what I’m talking about now when I say Easter eggs? The little hacks like Google’s search results for ‘Askew’, ‘Pac-man’ or ‘<blink>’. Or Googling [any actor’s name] followed by ‘Bacon number’ to reveal how many degrees of separation they are from Kevin Bacon (love this one – makes for a great drinking game). Not tried them before? Go have a look when you finish this post.
More Easter egg examples include Facebook’s Pirate language setting. Or what happens when you type =rand(4,4) into a Word document. Or when you ask Siri ‘When’s the world going to end?’ Or Childish Gambino appearing as Spiderman on Logic’s new album cover. (Note: this cracker was suggested by my 15yo son. I’m not really that cool:)
A brand you understand
That feeling of being ‘in on it’, finding the clue, getting the reference, inhabiting the shared universe – it gives us a buzz. It makes us feel connected to something larger than the piece of work we have in front of us. That’s how your brand voice should make your customers feel. Like you’re authentic and they get you. Like they’re part of your universe. A universe they can identify with and distinguish from the others.
Giving your brand a distinct personality and attributing a voice to that personality with consistent vocabulary, references and tone, creates a brand ecosystem much like the Pixar universe. Without a distinct personality, your communications are inconsistent. And customers don’t like inconsistency. They don’t trust it. A disparate brand voice leads to an unpredictable brand experience. And this makes customers feel uncomfortable.
Of course, just like a person, your brand will have different ways of speaking in different situations. But a solid brand voice has a cohesive personality across all communications. And this gives your customer a sense of understanding, reliability and trust.
Developing your brand voice
So, ask yourself this: If your logo wasn’t alongside your content, could your audience identify it as coming from you? Does content across your different channels read like it comes from the same brand? Have you dropped Easter eggs into your content to help readers identify it as undeniably yours?
If the answer is ‘no’, it might be because you have multiple content writers and no brand voice guidelines. You might write your own emails but outsource your newsletter and social media posts. Your website copywriter might not write your blog posts and your blog copywriter might not write your case studies. When multiple content writers don’t have brand voice guidelines to follow, it’s not surprising that they can’t create a unified brand experience.
When I start a copywriting project, pinning down brand voice is a priority. To this end, I ask clients:
- What’s the general vibe of your brand?
- What do you want your brand to be known as?
- How do you want your brand to make people feel?
- What three traits would you use to describe your brand?
- If your brand was a song, what would it be?
- If your brand was a famous person, who would it be?
These questions might be tricky to answer, but if you want your writing to have personality – a consistent and authentic one – these questions really do help. (Have a think about your brand song and let me know what you come up with in the comments.) Your answers will bring your brand personality into focus, which will feed into your brand vocabulary and tone of voice guidelines – guidelines that cover words and ways of speaking that your content writers can use – and your customers will pick up like Easter eggs along the way.
Like Easter eggs, your brand voice must be genuine and natural
You don’t necessarily notice that yellow ball with a blue stripe and a red star in all the Pixar movies. Or that Stitch sits on the shelf of a young Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island (love this little combo, two of my Disney faves). That’s because these Easter egg references are smart and subtle.
And just like Easter eggs, you want your brand voice to be genuine and natural, not forced. This can be a process of trial and error where you gain clarity and conviction the more you write. Or, you can find a copywriter to help you develop brand voice guidelines you can distribute to your team so you’re all on the same page.
A unified brand personality suggests reliability and trustworthiness – two traits all good businesses want to convey. So it’s well worth investing the time and effort to hammer it out. Remember, words are more than just words. They’re little chains of gold that create a world your customer can buy into, subtle gems that together bring your brand to life. Make sure the chains you use aren’t fake, fickle or forced. Make those chains gold and your Easter eggs Faberge all the way.
Any Easter egg discoveries you’d like to share? I’d love to hear your favourites.