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The tracks of my tears: a lesson about brand voice

Posted by Sarah Mitchell on 30th March , 2021 in The Write Fit
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The last business trip I took in the ‘before times’ was to Content Marketing World in 2019. The Typeset team met up in Detroit, which presented a perfect opportunity to introduce Dan to one of my favourite places, the Motown Museum.

I grew up in the Detroit area, and visiting Hitsville USA is always a joyous pilgrimage back to the music of my youth. One of the best parts of the museum is being immersed in all those hits again.

On arrival, we joined a large crowd waiting to get in. It wasn’t long before a museum employee came out and winnowed us into a single-file line of ticketholders ready for the next scheduled tour. He was a young guy with a big smile and an encyclopedic knowledge of Motown lyrics. He riffed on song after song as he went through the rules of the tour.

  • “Stay with the group” turned into “Losing you would dim my life you see, ’cause you mean that much to me.”
  • “Make sure you have a ticket” was sung with a cheeky “Your love don’t pay my bills, I need money (that’s what I want).”
  • “Don’t forget to visit the gift shop” was a finger-wagging serenade of “Oh yeah, you’d better shop around”.

It was cute and gimmicky and a way to get the group excited about the tour. What I didn’t realise was this guy wasn’t crowd control or the warm-up act – he was also our tour guide.

For the next 60 minutes the entire history of Motown was explained through famous lyrics. It was an impressive feat of brand messaging.

It was also obnoxious.

I was reminded of this when reviewing our State of Writing 2021 results. (Expect to see the full report in April.) We asked our survey respondents about brand voice. Eighty-two per cent said it was extremely important or very important to have a brand voice that was different from competitors.

My trip with Dan was the fourth or fifth time I’d visited the museum and I’d never experienced anything like our tour. Originality in delivery, however, didn’t save the day. I was disappointed that our guide was more focused on his lyrical acumen instead of giving us insight into the history of Motown. He’d made it about him when the brand definitely could stand on its own merit.

Having a distinct brand voice is one thing, but you can take it too far. Our Motown Museum experience was a good lesson that you can wear people out, even if they’ve willingly purchased tickets months in advance and travelled across many time zones to do business with you. Don’t be that guy who ruins the fun for your customers.

Sarah Mitchell
30 March 2021


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