Man has always been a visual hunter. We get 90% of the information about our world through our eyes. At least that’s the way it’s always been. When hunting for food, primitive man would scan the savannah for signs of movement, for spoor or for tracks. For centuries we’ve relied on our eyes to navigate the world. Until now. Now we hunt online using search engines. Now we use voice command to find what we need. Back when we were visual hunters, branding best practices would dictate that consistency across all consumer touch points was essential. The logo has to look exactly the same on the business card, on the brochure and on the trade show booth. Likewise, the colors had to match exactly. Consumers were hunting for the products and services they needed and that visual consistency allowed them to recognize and identify their prey. Today, that consistency has to be extended to SEO and voice recognition. And it’s being done to excellent effect by Ford Trucks and Dennis Leary.
Pity the poor, anonymous voice-over actors. Having developed a niche market in commercials, they are now being replaced by recognizable television and movie stars. Case in point: Ford’s use of Dennis Leary in its commercials for Ford Trucks. Ford’s brand promise has always been that their trucks are “Built Ford Tough”. As part of their identity, they even launched a tough looking logo that says just that. Now they’ve added a famous tough talker to provide voice-overs for their ads.
Mr. Leary is a stand-up comedian turned actor who’s stage persona is that of a guy’s guy. He comes across as a quick-witted, wise-cracking, back-slapping best friend from back in the day. But he’s vaguely threatening; it’s easy to imagine that some of his other friends are in jail. Your parents discouraged your association. Your wife doesn’t want him coming over – but thinks about him more than she’ll admit. You can’t drop him as a friend because he’s just too damn smart and funny. It’s refreshing, in small doses, to be around his style of brutal honesty. And he’s just the sort of friend who would berate you mercilessly for considering buying the wrong brand of truck. Most American television viewers would instantly recognize his voice and his delivery. And that’s a crucial benefit that can’t be gained by hiring a voice actor, no matter how skilled he or she may be.
Because, when you hire Leary to do your ads you get not just the voice and the delivery, you get the whole tough-guy persona. You get all his comedy routines. You get every wise guy New Yorker he’s ever played. All that gets associated with Ford Truck’s tough-as-nails identity.
Ford Trucks has found their association with Dennis Leary to be enormously successful. He is an almost perfect human embodiment of the truck.
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Thanks to the internet, screen time is no longer reserved for just the few brands, like Ford, that can afford television advertising. By now, every business has a website. That means every business can use audio and video to express its brand promise. Every business can – and should – extend its identity into these media. But it has to be done thoughtfully and with clear intent.
Just as Ford Trucks found a voice and personality that matched perfectly with their “Built Ford Tough” logo, other brands must integrate all of the components of their brand identity, whether visual or audible, into a single strategy. My Little Pony should not choose Danny Trejo as a spokesperson. Black & Decker Tools should not pursue an association with Ariana Grande. It’s easy to name the wrong voice for your product. But it’s hard to find the voice, the demeanor and the personality that’s exactly right to dovetail with your existing brand strategy and drive it in the correct direction. It bears some serious consideration. If money were no object, what celebrity would you choose to represent your brand? Why?
Of course, money is an issue for most businesses. But even if a celebrity spokesperson is out of the question, brands need to think about what kind of voice would best represent them. Male? Female? What kind of attitude would it have?
Brand identity has always been important but the scope of it is bigger now than it’s ever been. The consistency that you used to ensure from business card to brochure to trade show booth now has to extend further. Now it must encompass not just how a brand looks but how it sounds and how it’s discovered online.
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