Getting talked to like you’re a dog can be blatantly insulting — after all, you don’t need treats to make decisions. But when a “good boy” attitude is coming from a pet-friendly brand, the jargon can be downright endearing. In BarkBox’s case, talking to customers as if they’re pets isn’t just charmingly cute and refreshing, it’s helped foster a $1 million/per month business, which is aiming to become a $5 billion business in five years, Business Insider reports. Now, that’s worth a bone or two.
BarkBox’s unique “voice” in the digital space makes them worthy of top dog when it comes to pet products. From their social networks, to their website communication, BarkBox stays true to its pet focus. The company sends out monthly pet care packages, which owners have no prior knowledge of its contents, and in all web-based communications with its customers, the spirit of pets abounds.
Take a look at the About page. BarkBox puts purchasing power in the paws of your pets, with language such as, “If your dog is begging for more,” you can make an additional purchase here. Need some support help? Send an email to their team, and you’ll receive a, “Well hi there!” greeting, capped off with a “Ruv ya” salutation. By addressing their customers with a dog-friendly, BarkBox isn’t demeaning potential purchasers — the brand is simply putting them in the dog frame of mind.
Instead of worrying about presenting a tone or voice that is safe and won’t offend the majority, here are five reasons why your brand (after carefully strategizing what goals you wish to accomplish) should be genuine in the “voice” it presents to potential and current customers.
1. You put customers in the right frame of mind.
In the BarkBox example above, by talking to customers as if they’re dogs, you’re coaxing them to be in the mindset to make a purchase for their dog. Just saying things such as, “Well hi there!” is enough to make them picture saying the same thing to their dog.
Priming customers by putting them in the appropriate frame of mind is key to closing a sale. “When positive messages or the idea of someone having positive results are put out there, people are much more likely to respond and attempt whatever it is,” Phoenix-based licensed clinical social worker Nicole Zangara says. A bland brand voice does little more than make potential buyers feel bored or indifferent.
Just like dogs love positivity and affection, potential customers are going to want to show their dogs those same sentiments by purchasing from a brand such as BarkBox. BarkBox makes all their marketing posts dog-related, creating an emotional tie in all their marketing messages, such as this Facebook promoted post that definitely tugs on pet owners’ heartstrings.
2. You can call competitors out.
When your brand’s voice is confident and genuine, throwing down the gauntlet to competitors is no issue — after all, you’re just showcasing that you believe in your product and are willing to stand strongly by it. For example, this year, Sony took a shot at Micrsoft’s limitations on sharing and playing games by creating a YouTube video that reinforced Sony fans’ loyalty to the brand.
In this case, Sony’s confidence in the digital and gaming space gave them the authority to present a compelling case of why Microsoft’s requirements of how games can be shared was detrimental to their users. Sony wasn’t afraid to show off its self-assured brand personality, and it strengthens its fans belief that it was a competent brand.
3. It’s easier to own up to mistakes.
Taco Bell isn’t a luxurious brand, and it doesn’t pretend to be. Instead, the brand’s voice is one of a trusted friend that will never fail to make you laugh. Just look at their sauce packets, which feature unique messages that have diners staring at their condiments for far longer than normal. Fun phrases such as, “Pick me!” and “Will you marry me?” manage to bring humor into the fast food experience, and their Twitter account carries that same fun-loving attitude — even when their customers complain.
The account doesn’t feign pretentiousness, and by having a genuine brand voice, Taco Bell adds a human side to their marketing. Social media maven Amy Jo Martin, in her 2012 book “Renegades Write the Rules,” writes, “People don’t connect with logos and taglines; they connect with other people. So you have a choice: build a business that doesn’t truly connect with its intended audience, or build one that does…the number one branding question today is not, ‘What is your brand?’ but rather, ‘Who is your brand?’”
Even though Taco Bell doesn’t have a human face representing it, its strong brand voice adds that human element to its marketing messages, which makes engaging with the brand much more fun and interesting — and makes people far more likely to forgive mistakes, just like in any human interaction.
4. You give your brand an aura of transparency and openness.
If your brand is not going to be open and honest about its dealings, your customers won’t feel like your brand is going to be receptive to their needs. Give your brand a voice that seems like it’s striving to connect with its customers, though, and they’ll be willing to come to you with whatever — not just complaints, but possibly suggestions on how to improve your product, a willingness to be a brand advocate, and ideas for campaigns that will expand your customer base.
“There is a correlation between the way you express yourself and the strength of your relationships with customers,” writes Natalie Rodic Marsan, founder of marketing firm Broken Open Media. “The open, two-way conversation flow on social channels provides the opportunity to embody your personality frequently, resulting in a collection of experiences that the community has with you, your brand, and the people behind your brand. Over time, this creates a lasting impression.”
Don’t think your brand needs a vanilla, inoffensive voice — sometimes the bizarre and quirky is a hit. Take Skittles, a brand that has an offbeat, but strong, voice in the traditional and digital advertising space. Its commercial characters range from kids with “Skittles-pox” to man birds and sheep boys, and its Facebook posts include such random musings as, “It’s really great that bananas like to cuddle with each other so much.”
Communication from Skittles makes viewers smile and relish the fun side of life — like a friend who pops in randomly, says something silly, and leaves everyone with a great taste in their mouths.
5. The connections you make will be more meaningful.
Give your brand a strong voice that people can either relate to, or react strongly to, and the emotional connection will boost your sales. A 2011 study by market research firm Motista found customers who felt emotionally connected to a brand were four times more likely to buy from that brand versus one they were merely satisfied with.
One great example of a brand that caters to people’s emotions with a strong, genuine brand voice is Old Spice. In a 2010 YouTube campaign, the brand enlisted actor Isaiah Mustafa to embody the manliest man around and answer questions from YouTube users from a hyper-masculine point-of-view. Mustafa made people laugh, he made people want to be as manly as he was, and, ultimately, he made people want to buy Old Spice products. The campaign doubled Old Spice sales month-over-month, Mashable reports.
What is your favorite brand voice? Share in the comments.