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Establishing A Brand Voice for Your Startup

“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” – Lee Iacco

This seems relatively straightforward.

It’s not like storytelling hasn’t been integral to companies pitching their products or services for awhile now. Most of us have seen an episode or two of Mad Men.

But in reality, many startups (and established companies) can struggle with this in an ever-changing digital landscape where social media has become a conduit for official statements, breaking news and viral memes alike. In this environment, how do you go about building your startup?

Once upon a time, companies spent millions in R&D creating brand mascots: A living embodiment of their brand to interact with the consumer.

With social media, this need has fundamentally changed. Sure, some companies still have mascots, but these days, there are more streamlined ways for brands to tell their story.

Social media has leveled the playing field between startups and major brands. By honing in on the overall messaging, startups can ultimately create the same effect companies once achieved working alongside advertisers on Madison Ave.

All this: One post at a time.

If You Build It, They Will Not Come

It’s harsh, but it’s also true.

A lot more goes into making an app (or business venture for that matter) successful than simply launching it.

Once your app is launched (and even before it’s launched), the goal becomes attracting new users; soon-to-be fans of your brand.

How exactly is this done?

Social media is one of the best places to start. Having a landing page or blog to go with it is also great, but social media can be utilized even before these assets are ready!

Sometimes, I catch myself marveling at the brilliance of it all as a marketer myself; reflecting on how businesses used to have to pay a premium to gain the ability to reach so many on such a vast scale.

Like renting out blimps and planes to broadcast their message across the skies for example. Now, they need only curate dedicated social media profiles.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The secret’s been out on social media for a while now, and that means competition is fierce, and viral-ity is few and far between for a growing business. So, how does your brand stand out in a sea of tweets and posts?

Your Brand Should Have A Voice

Powerful brands are actually individuals with their own unique personalities.

If they weren’t, no one would be able to tell them apart from a line of products and services offering virtually the same thing.

Think about it. In a lineup of 1000 similar red lipsticks, what sets them apart? Why are consumers happy to pay $87 for one red lipstick and $9 for another. The answer lies in how companies have gone about establishing a brand voice.

This goes further than just relatability, tapping into the collective subconscious by mirroring our shared human needs.

In 1954, Carl Jung described this phenomenon as ‘archetypes.’ These can be observed repeating across cultures and generations over the decades, helping to shape our collective human experience. From historical figures, celebrities and some of your favorite movies in Hollywood —  to all across the literary pages, archetypes can be seen in our most beloved (and bemoaned) personas.

Using archetypes in marketing helps us to create connections that feel instinctual to the consumer. This is because archetypes appeal to core human needs.

Curious what a core human need is? This refers to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a basic psychological principle which classifies and prioritizes our collective societal needs.

Starting with physiological (food and clothing), and safety (job security or even shelter), which must be satisfied before we as humans can attend to our higher needs, such as love and belonging (relationships), esteem, and self-actualization.

Archetypes appeal to our core human needs. We’ve broken these down for you below. Read on!

Archetypical Marketing is How Many Businesses Approach Establishing a Brand Voice

First, here’s a brief overview on archetypes!

In 2001, Mark and Pearson’s The Hero and the Outlaw reasoned that archetypal marketing for brands was once “an interesting bonus to effective marketing [but] is now a prerequisite.” 2012’s Archetypes in Branding expanded the fundamental twelve archetypes into five archetypes to a family. You can think of it like a spectrum for each of the main archetypes based on a brand’s unique characteristics — alongside a key nuance or two.

Social media and the fourth industrial revolution has only accelerated the need for brands to embody a unique persona. Marketers now have a daily conduit to nurture connection with consumers and show off brand messaging.

The universalness of these motifs helps brands to connect with us on a deeper level. These ideals have become so ingrained in marketing tactics today, many brands possess archetypal qualities they may be entirely unaware of.

You might even be surprised to see your brand already reflected somewhere in this blog series.

We’ve introduced them below, we’ll explore each of these archetype families in additional posts in this series. There’s a lot of ground to cover here, folks!

Here’s a quick overview of the different archetype families and their sub-archetypes:

Brands Seeking to Structure the World:

Caregiver – Guardian, Samaritan, Healer, Angel, Mother Earth

Ruler – Sovereign, Ambassador, Judge, Patriarch

Creator – Visionary, Storyteller, Artist, Entrepreneur, Angel Technologist

Brands Rooted in Spirituality:

Innocent – Child, Dreamer, Idealist, Muse

Sage – Mentor, Detective, Shaman, Translator

Explorer – Adventurer, Pioneer, Generalist, Seeker

Brands Yearning to Leave a Mark on the World:

Outlaw – Activist, Gambler, Reformer

Hero – Warrior, Athlete, Rescuer, Liberator

Magician – Alchemist, Scientist, Engineer, Innovator

Brands Yearning to Connect with the World:

Lover – Romantic, Companion, Hedonist, Matchmaker

Jester – Entertainer, Clown, Provocateur, Shapeshifter

Everyman – Citizen, Advocate, Servant, Networker

There are even different levels to be achieved in a given archetype, depending on the strength of the displayed persona, and the brand’s evolution.

The general rule of thumb being, the higher level attained, the more success and wider net that can be cast to attract consumers.

Focused brands are impactful brands. Humans are inherently emotional creatures, and we are drawn to personalities we’re similar to or that we yearn to be.

While this may seem overwhelming to grasp at first, companies can achieve greater nuance in their brand stories and greater resonance with stakeholders using these sub-archetypes. These sub-archetypes are not lesser by any means, but they do have a specialization that differentiates them within the same family.

Jung himself recognized that there are an unlimited number of archetypes.

Some archetypes can evoke gender associations (think: Brawny paper towels!), which also plays a role in brand imagery and making stronger connections. Some brands combine archetypes.

There’s even founder-driven brands (aided by the rise of social media influence), which can add another layer to messaging and overall brand presentation.

Examples of founder-driven brands include VaynerMedia and Lambda School, and skew towards the entrepreneurial-tech space, with a heavy reliance on social media savvy and demonstrated industry thought leadership.

Establishing the Look and Feel of Your Brand

The ‘look and feel’ of a brand has everything to do with marketing to make lasting consumer connections.

From color palettes to typography and imagery, honing in on your brand’s ‘voice’ will both accent and inform all of your decisions when it comes to messaging and presentation.

Benefits to Using Archetypes in Branding

– Clarify your brand’s purpose
– Express your ‘personality’ (the more brands are seen as people, the more relatable they are!)
– Solidify your position on important values
– Inform brand voice and overall aesthetic/ visuals
– Achieve consistency in your messaging

Plus, companies utilizing clear brand archetypes are proven to be more profitable (think Uber, Apple).

Archetypes aren’t meant to pigeon-hole brands, but rather serve as a compass for decisions at the brand strategy and brand expression levels both for customers and team members.

Consumers make sub-conscious buying decisions based not only on how they perceive themselves, but on their desired self. This is something you can observe many brands appealing to within their messaging (and given archetype), whether through ‘mirroring’  or ‘pulling’ marketing tactics:

Mirroring and Pulling in Brand Expression

– Shift views between the analytical to the emotional
– Shift tone from controlling to empowering
– Shift communication style between pushing and pulling tactics
– Help create an engaged community — not just an audience
– Develop your brand essence (or even just a tagline)

How you incorporate these marketing tactics will ultimately inform your brand’s personality and develop a unique voice.

The Psychology of Brand

As you can see, a lot more goes into creating a brand than many people think. When it comes to establishing a brand many newbies have questions. These include questions like.

-What colors are appropriate?
-How do we market it?
-What is our brand voice?
-What makes sense for us?

All of these questions become easier to answer when some psychology is applied. First, you need to understand your ideal consumer and what would appeal to them.

This step is critical. After all, you can create a very thoughtful and airtight brand. However, if it does not appeal to the appropriate market, it will not serve you well.

So, how can you ensure you choose correctly? An important step is to cement your brand’s foundation by choosing the right archetype.

If you feel lost when creating content as your business grows, you can always return to this general archetype to guide you.

Final Thoughts on Establishing A Brand Voice For Your Startup

When it comes to establishing a brand voice for a startup, using archetypes as a guide can be profoundly helpful. This is especially true if you are not sure of where to start.

For example, say your startup is involved in green tech. There are a couple of archetypes that make sense for this niche. We will explore only one, and how utilizing it might look.

Caregiver – Guardian, Samaritan, Healer, Angel, Mother Earth

Say you opt for the healer approach, as your startup addresses correcting environmental harm. This would mean that the language you use to promote your startup is softer and rooted in caring for the environment.

This makes sense because those who are interested in your startup likely share those concerns and also want to help transform the environment. For some real-world examples, take a look at how these social impact startups have approached establishing a brand voice.

This can guide you when it comes to imagery, marketing, copywriting, and more.

What do you think? Comment below.

Since 2009, we have helped create 400+ next-generation apps for startups, Fortune 500s, growing businesses, and non-profits from around the globe. Think Partner, Not Agency.


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