The first step to understanding branding is to recognize that it’s less about creating logos and slogans, and more about having a precise impact on the audience you want to influence. It starts with a raw examination of the product or service, and using those insights to determine how best to influence a target audience to buy into your value. Your audience needs to believe you are the solution to their problem, the answer to their aspirations, or both.
And while you may typically associate the idea of branding with things or products, you should know that as a voice actor, you too are a brand. And mastering the brand of “you” is crucial for success. So pay attention to your brand and tweak what needs fixing.
Here are six insights into effective branding we’ve gained over the years:
1. There’s no brand without an audience.
Your brand is the perception held in the mind of your audience, and creating and influencing that perception is what branding is all about. Effective branding is based on honest feedback from your audience and good intel about who they are, how they think, what they want, where they work, etc. You must learn to see the world from their point of view in order to see how to best position and/or improve your product or service.
2. It pays to spend money.
Anybody can come up with a personal logo or slogan. But remember that as a voice actor, you’re often marketing yourself to marketing experts at ad agencies. They know amateur marketing when they see it, and it’s a turn off.
Instead of going it alone in the branding department, take the time, energy, and money to do it the right way so you only have to do it once. Just because you need to market your service doesn’t mean it’s your forte. Honor your craft enough to hire a professional marketer.
3. Get tactical.
When you’re not in the room, do you know how your audience describes you? Talented? Witty? Difficult? Arrogant? Relatable? Elitist? Any idea how the competition sees you? Best in the business? Not as good as others? Scam artist?
There are two points to be made here: The first is that whether you like it or not, you already have a brand. The second is that branding starts with knowing what you want your target audience to feel, think, and say about your service.
The mission of your brand determines strategy, followed by specific tactics to position your brand in the minds of your audience. Who is your audience? What do you have that they need? How do they like to be reached? What differentiates your service from the competition? When is the best time to reach them? A savvy marketer will consider these questions and many others as he or she helps you develop your mission and goals.
4. Know where you’re going.
One doesn’t just blindly take to the highway and hope they arrive at the right destination. You first look at a map to figure out which roads will get you there. Brand strategy is your map, and a professional marketer as your GPS. They’ve travelled these roads before, and know where the potholes and dead ends are hidden.
Having the objective point of view of a marketer will help you map out a clear path with definitive milestones and measurable results. Whether you’re new to voice acting, reinventing a stagnant career, or doing damage control, map out your course before you get on the road.
5. Leverage your points of difference.
What’s unique about what you’re selling, that thing that will give people a reason to buy your service over others? The best selling proposition is, of course, having exceptional talent, but you still need branding to inspire your audience to give you a shot.
There’s not much the actor can do about the essential nature of his or her voice, so booking jobs comes down to auditions, demo reels, and facilitators like agents and casting directors. If you have a skill for multiple character voices, sound effects, singing, voice matching, etc., you can highlight these points of difference to set you apart.
And never forget professionalism, focus, and personal likeability; people prefer to work with people they like and who help the work go smoothly. The appeal of your marketing assets, website, postcards, business cards, email signature, etc. can help differentiate you.
6. Develop a narrative.
It’s important to inform your audience—through your brand—about how you came to voiceover, and why it makes sense for you. Voice acting is rarely a first career pursuit. Many people come to it after working in a related field like acting, radio, agenting, etc. What’s more, successful voiceover actors often seek to expand into genres outside their primary one (ie transitioning from just television commercials to audiobooks or video games).
It’s a smart long-term strategy to diversify your skills, but remember that your audience doesn’t necessarily see how it all connects. Make sure your branding establishes a clear narrative that explains how your past fits into your present.
7. Manage your brand.
Let’s assume that you’re learning and growing as a voice talent, which means you must wake people up to your evolving capabilities. The best way to do that? Brand management. This means adjusting your strategy and tactics as you see changes developing in the marketplace. New technologies, advertising trends, a new agent, a job opportunity that’s outside your wheelhouse—all green lights for looking at possible brand adjustments.
This isn’t to say that you should disrupt the integrity of your brand with every new change in the marketplace. Conduct a thoughtful examination of potential opportunities and decide if they warrant a response.