Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Voice Of McDonald’s, Dairy Queen and The Grove.

Every blog, tweet, television spot or press release speaks in “the voice of the brand.” But who is the voice of the brand? The CEO sets the vision and the tone of a company, but rarely the voice. The founder sets the heritage which is a part of the voice, but Ray Krok would be flipping his current real estate if he saw the voice of his brand today. Is it the CMO, the brand manager, the advertising/digital/PR/media agencies, or some copywriter in a cube?

The truth is, it’s none of these people and all of these people. A company or brand isn’t one person or a logo, it’s every interaction a consumer has with the company. You might have the best CEO or marketing person ever, but if the woman behind the counter is chewing gum, with dirty fingernails, and an attitude most Yankee fans would find abrasive then the voice of the company plain sucks.

Social media works mainly in the same way. Plenty of people believe the only one who can write a blog about a brand is the head of the company. I don’t believe this is true. There are plenty of great people in and out of companies that can write about the culture, the passion, the fun, the quality and the products of a company. It’s how a business handles all these voices that matters.

There are a bunch of McDonald’s blogs. The official blog is the corporate do-good, responsibility blog The talks about the food’s nutrition or lack there of. An employee blog called McDonald’s Talk narrates the life and times of a new employee. has one post “Come on McDonald’s--get your act together.” As a McDonald’s fan (Mmmmm, french fries) and stock holder (oooh, dividends), I agree, get your act together.

Dairy Queen, on the other hand, seems to understand that the brand is owned by everyone that wants to be a part of the conversation. They have the fan page, the blog, the twitter page, and more. Each update gives a bit of entertainment, or deals, or good information for the customers. The result is that they have 177,000 fans, over 2,000 comments, and truckloads of tweets--almost all positive. Bravo to the CMO, the agency, the copywriter, whomever else, etc.

So, what about my favorite neighborhood mom and pop restaurant, The Grove. They’ve got a friendly crew serving lunch and dinner. The nachos and wings are fabulous. The owners are behind the bar with a smile and small talk about college football. I would love to put all that into a podcast and broadcast it. That is the voice of their brand. It’s everywhere around their restaurant and should be on twitter, facebook, YouTube and their blog.

The only one who isn’t setting the tone, diction, color and wit that makes a brand unique is a company not speaking. Two things happen to that silence, it’s either filled by someone else or it’s forgotten.


Chris MacDonald, Ph.D. said...

I would think this would vary from brand to brand. In some cases, a brand's image simply emerges as the net result of a lot of people's behaviour. In other cases, brands are carefully managed.
As for authorship, I think it also has something to do with what people are expecting: I wouldn't expect the Ford blog to be written by the CEO, but I would expect Jay-Z's blog to be written by him. After all, Jay-Z is a one-man brand, and his fans expect a kind of authenticity from him.

David Cohen said...

You bring up a good point. When the brand is a person, their voice is the brand. Yet, I don't expect Jay-Z to necessarily write every song on his album. That doesn't make it less his. It's still in his voice, his message and is taken as his song. Look at the publishing industry. Lance Armstrong's auto-biography "It's not about the bike" was written by Sally Jenkins. She was credited, but the question is, does that make it any less Lance Armstrong's message.

Thanks for the debate.