Faking the Accent

by Blake Howard    January 22, 2013

Every brand has to dig deep, not mimic others, to find its true voice. Here’s a story of how I’ve personally found this to be true.

When I was in college, occasionally when out with friends, I would act like I was from Europe (primarily Scotland, Ireland, or England) complete with the accents and all. Maybe it was because of the red hair and the fake accents, but people would buy  it hook line and sinker. Usually it was hilarious and good clean fun, but one time it went pear shaped in a hurry and didn’t end so pleasant.

Out with friends, I was chatting in my loud and aloof English accent, when a girl came running up and said, “Hey, are you from England?” “Of course,” I shouted, like someone offering the queen her afternoon tea. Then the girl fired back, “No way, my friend is here from England. Let me go grab her so you two can meet”. Fancy that, I thought to myself. The chipper English lassie came skipping up and introduced herself and asked where I was from. As a disclaimer, I’m a terrible person to impersonate an Englishman, especially to someone actually from there. For starters, I’ve never been to England, and at that point I knew nothing thing about the island. My only knowledge came from watching Braveheart enough times to do impersonations in my sleep (literally). So naturally, I responded to her question with the only city I knew, “London.” “Me too!” she fired back, “What part of London?” Oh bother, now I was really caught in a pickle. Without hesitation, almost unknowingly, I replied with a school boy cracking sound, “North!” Puzzled, the English gal tilted her head and said, “But where North?” Realizing my geographic knowledge of England was at its end, the gig was up. I confessed with my natural (and slightly country) accent saying, “Actually, I’m from Tennessee.”

“Tennessee, England?!?” she questioned, perplexed.

Unfortunately, I had already broken character and decided to surrender like the Red Coats in Yorktown and I told her the entire truth. The English girl stormed off saying something about fiddle sticks.

Is this story half embarrassing confession? Or half lesson learned? Indeed it is both.

It is a fantastic branding lesson. Don’t try and fake someone else’s voice. As a brand, don’t try to be someone you’re not. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in almost 10 years of branding, it’s that EVERY business has something great about it (or it wouldn’t be there). Sometimes, you have to dig deeper than others, but EVERY brand is unique and has the potential to be great. You just have to find your true and authentic voice.

The greatest brands in the world are all unique. Uniqueness is the quickest path to differentiation, and differentiation is the quickest path to building a strong brand.

What’s your unique accent? What are you saying that is different?

7 thoughts on “Faking the Accent”

  1. I love this story Blake. How you combined a humorous anecdote to tell a important lesson. You gotta come write for my blog! :) Hope to see more like this.

  2. Ha! Good story, Blake. And great lesson.

    As a designer, I find your question of unique accent as tricky to answer as it is important to consider. I’ve spent the last year+ working through figuring out an answer to essentially the same; what’s my voice? What am I saying that’s different?

    Having spent enough time with the questions I realize that it isn’t a matter of not being sure of the answers so much as it is a challenge of discouragement, wondering if anyone will understand my “accent” or be intrigued enough to hear what I have to say. I believe organizations struggle for similar concerns.

    So, for brand owners and managers who can answer the question of accent, voice and unique content, but who hesitate to be true in expression for concerns of reception, how do you suggest an organization goes about overcoming fears and embracing core precepts and characteristics?

    Thanks, Blake.

  3. Great post! As a photographer, this post really resonated with me. I’m constantly trying to make sure that I am listening to my own photographic voice and not letting others’ interfere. Sometimes, it is a little challenging, what with so many photos showing up in social media streams. Also, there are so many photographers that sell their “style” by offering products that will help other photographers achieve the same look and feel to their photos. Not only does it result in folks straying away from their unique voices and brands, but it makes the world a less interesting place.

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