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Don’t use that (brand) voice with me

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Brand Voice Should Invite Not Forbid

My friend Dimitri* asked leading questions.

They weren’t the impossible questions like “What is the meaning of life?” or “Why five toes? Why not four or seven?” where you could speculate together and combine ignorance.

No, Dimitri’s questions were contrived and assembled to manipulate your emotions and response. In conversation with Dimitri, you knew he was looking for some specific answer. But he would never tell what he wanted. He engineered his question so the one plain answer was what he wanted you to say. Then he could launch into a lengthy response. That game left us weary, frustrated and eventually vetoing most of Dimitri’s questions.

Lots of firms play Dimitri’s game: their communication is guided only by a desire to sell (which is, after all, the point of corporations and not necessarily bad). But when the only conversation a company will entertain is one that leads you to buy their product, that looks more like monologue. People veto those conversations and/or walk away.


No one wants to be reduced to a number on a spreadsheet or a statistic. That’s why the used car salesman with the plaid jacket is a favorite target in our culture. It’s also why manipulative sermons and boring lectures are easily dismissed. Of course, some brands are famously annoying, like the “Save Big Money” voice of Menards and we tune it out—except for when we remember it because we want to save big money.

There is more opportunity today to invite participation instead of hijacking it. And invitation, while harder because it requires thinking about someone else’s need or desire, has the advantage of building relationship.

Monologue and the preachy/lecturey voice have limited shelf-life.


*Not his real name. His real name was Smitty.

Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

November 24, 2014 at 1:22 pm

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