Current trends, opinions, news articles, and musings about branding.

The Voice

When it comes to branding, few things are more important than the voice. Every successful brand has a voice, a muse, that connects with the target audience and brings comfort to the customer that he or she is doing business with a company that can be trusted.

Nike has a voice, one that has long been the brand telling the athlete within us all to “Just Do It.” No one has to say, “Just Do It” in Nike television spots—in fact, I can’t remember a time when a featured athlete or voiceover ever uttered those words. But “Just Do It” and everything that surrounds that best-of-all-possible taglines are what make up The Voice of Nike.

Other brands rely heavily on a voice, an actual voice, to be The Voice of their brand. For years character actor Ed Grover was The Voice telling us all a 30-second story about a great location and then winding it up by imploring television viewers that, “You better bring your VISA card. Because at Whiny Joe’s Crab Shack they don’t take any crying and they don’t take American Express. VISA. It’s everywhere you want to be.” He was smooth, he was forceful, he was undisputedly The Voice of VISA during a long period of impressive growth in the company’s business.

Ed was also the voice behind every single Nissan commercial for about five years and I worked with him quite a bit on that brand.

One of the great voices I ever worked with belonged to a gentleman named John Stocker. The client was Canadian Tire and John was the voiceover throughout every commercial, finishing the spot by telling viewers or listeners: “There’s more to Canadian Tire than tires.”

Indeed there is. Canadian Tire started out as Hamilton Tire & Garage in Toronto in 1922, a simple filling station and servicer of automobiles. But the company would expand to the point where Canadian Tire stores were ubiquitous across The Great White North and were selling everything from hockey gear to paint to gardening equipment to bikes and so much more. More important than what Canadian Tire was selling, however, was the image the brand portrayed to everyone from Victoria Island to Newfoundland: a wholesome operation that always provided service with a smile and employees who helped strap that new ladder you just bought to the roof of your car.

During the 1980s, when I was working on the brand, we did quick 15-second television commercials that had some clever twist as well as 60-second spots that featured heartfelt stories about growing families or special times in the life of a small child. The shorter spots sold products while the longer spots were specifically designed to cement the wholesomeness of the Canadian Tire brand in the minds of viewers. The constant between the two was always John Stocker’s voice.

Now, anyone who’s worked with John would tell you that he has scores-if-not-hundreds of voices. After all, he’s been the voice of myriad cartoon characters. Yes, that’s true: John could amaze with his variety of voices, but he always knew the voice he was bringing with him when he entered a recording studio on behalf of Canadian Tire. It was warm, friendly, neighborly—the verbal embodiment of the brand.

And that’s why everyone in Canada believed him when he told them, “There’s more to Canadian Tire than tires.”


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