My friend Blaine Parker, who runs Slow Burn Marketing with his wife Honey Parker, writes a weekly email newsletter. I’ve asked his permission to re-publish this week’s edition because it’s so extremely valuable to those of us doing voiceover work.
SEARING WHITE HOT BRAND
Sunday afternoon, I stumbled upon a Food Network series that tells the stories of their TV personalities.
The episode in question was about the life and career of Guy Fieri.
What came out of that program was a striking lesson in brand authenticity.
If you’re not sure who Guy is, you may have seen him hosting one of the single most popular shows on the Food Network, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. He’s a loud, happy, joking guy with spiky blond hair, a goatee, and a fondness for wrap-around sunglasses, bowling shirts and bling.
Guy’s own cooking is wild. His Johnny Garlic Pasta Grill restaurants offer a bold and brash menu of items like deep-fried artichoke hearts, Cajun chicken Alfredo, and Lava Shrimp Sautee. His Tex Wasabi’s Sushi BBQ restaurants are as twisted as it gets, ranging from ribs & steak to nigiri & maki to items like the Jackass Roll, which is a rice & tapioca paper sushi roll of barbecued pulled pork, French fries, and avocado with a garlic chili mayo sauce.
A JACKASS CASH COW
Of all the celebrity chefs who populate the Food Network’s programming, Guy Fieri is the one whom you’re most likely to want to sit down and have a beer with.
That, or you find him the most infuriating.
Guy Fieri’s brand simply isn’t for everyone.
But the thing that’s really stunning about Guy is that his brand is The Real Deal.
He is not a manufactured personality. He isn’t the product of executive consultation. He is exactly who he appears to be: a tattooed nutcase with a kitchen ladle.
His menus reflect that.
And his personality permeates everything about the Guy Fieri brand.
AUTHENTICITY IS KING
Previously, we’ve talked about how important brand is to even the smallest business. Knowing who you are and how you’re going to convey that to your public is key.
So many small businesses, especially in radio advertising where so many of us live, have no brand identity.
They think because they have a logo or a jingle or a lame slogan, they have a brand.
“For all your widget needs” is not a brand. It’s lazy, sloppy thinking.
A brand is huge.
A brand is who you are and what you mean to people.
In the case of Guy Fieri, the brand is a crazy guy with a nutty sense of humor who feeds people in a fun, bold and flavorful way.
GUY FIERI REALLY IS THE GREAT OZ
That’s why he’s such a great example of branding: the wild and crazy restaurant brands of Johnny Garlic and Tex Wasabi would be forced and inauthentic and probably not too successful–if there weren’t an equally wild and crazy man behind them.
When Dorothy & Toto pulled back the curtain, they found a pathetic old man pulling levers and blowing smoke.
You pull back the curtain at Johnny Garlic’s, and there’s a wackjob whose flames are even bigger than in the kitchen.
That’s not to say every business owner is Mr. Toad, and every business’s brand needs to be his Wild Ride. That would be silly.
The point is that every small business brand is in some way a reflection of the business owner’s personality–and that personality typically infuses everything that happens in the business.
TAKE 10% OF YOUR PERSONALITY, AND MAGNIFY IT 100 TIMES
This is actually a piece of advice that a popular Hollywood comedy coach gives to aspiring stand-up comics.
Her lesson is that stand-up comedy is all about persona.
To be more marketing-oriented about it, stand-up comedy is all about brand.
Is your preferred brand Larry the Cable Guy, Steve Martin or Andrew Dice Clay?
Each of those comics has a distinct onstage personality. Their comedy reflects that personality. There is no confusing the brands. And each brand means something specific to the customer.
The Virgin airlines brand is in so many ways a reflection of Richard Branson. And like Sir Richard, the brand is sophisticated yet approachable, with equal parts refinement and fun.
OK, you ask. What about companies where the man running the company isn’t out front and isn’t a big personality?
YOU ARE NOW FREE TO MOVE ABOUT THE BRAND
Look at Southwest Airlines.
Herb Kelleher is the co-founder and former CEO. He is a tall, gray-haired man who, if you called up Central Casting and asked for a grandfather, would land on your soundstage.
He is not Guy Fieri, Steve Martin or even Richard Branson. He’s a lawyer from Haddon Heights, New Jersey who’s married with four grown kids.
But his no-nonsense, down-to-earth approach to the idea of Southwest Airlines informs everything about what happens there and has happened there since 1969.
Herb Kelleher is a pragmatist with a colorful personality, and Southwest is a pragmatic, colorful airline.
The airline reflects his personality and his mission to keep prices down while keeping a sense of humor about business.
Southwest and Virgin might be big companies. But what happens there also happens in every small business everywhere–as evidenced by Johnny Garlic and Tex Wasabi. They are distillations of Guy Fieri’s personality.
EVERY SMALL BUSINESS HAS A BRAND WAITING TO BE UNCOVERED
And most small business advertising professionals never take the time to uncover it.
Branding is a process of sugaring down.
In the making of maple syrup, “sugaring down” means boiling 10 gallons of sap until you finally have one quart of actual maple syrup.
That’s a 40:1 ratio of raw material to end product.
In working with a small business, the advertising consultant needs to gather roughly 40 gallons of brand identity sap and boil it down until they finally find the essence–that one quart of potent, flavorful syrup that becomes the brand.
And it’s always going to start with the business owner.
That individual’s personality is the core of the brand.
How they run the company, what they choose to sell, how they treat their customers, their philosophy on life–everything about all those business choices is the basis for brand. That, and the kind of person the business owner is. These are gold.
ACTUAL GOLD–NOT FOOL’S GOLD
These are not things you can fake.
These are the essential components to brand authenticity.
And they MUST be found before any truly effective advertising campaign can take place.
To borrow from a Fortune magazine article written in May of 2007, “Playing the authenticity game in a sophisticated way has become a requirement for every marketer, because the opposite of real isn’t fake–it’s cynicism.”
I would argue slightly with the wording here. I’d say the opposite of authenticity is fakery, and it leads to cynicism.
But I’m splitting hairs.
Because the real challenge is that we already have plenty of cynics listening to our advertising.
Wouldn’t it be nice to melt those cynical hearts to the point of unfreezing their wallets–and in the process of creating brand giants of small business?
Brand is essential, authenticity is king, and you can take that to the bank wrapped in a Tex Wasabi Jackass Roll.
Your Short, Fat Creative Director in
In our email exchange about my request to republish this article Blaine commented that many voice talent have become commodities. My reply to that thought was:
Commodity. That is one thing I am not and do not ever wish to be. The only answer to that dilemma is to pursue the voice work that’s for me, not the voice work that’s for a “middle-aged guy with a nice voice.” I am the world’s exclusive source for voiceovers by Bob Souer; but, there are tens of thousands of other middle-aged guys with nice voices. So, if you’re looking for a middle-aged guy with a nice voice, yes, I fit that description. But listen to my demos. If that’s the sound you’re looking for, call me. You won’t find that anywhere else.
(edited to fix typo)