Keeping Your Brand Voice Fresh When Creativity Is Stale

3 paths to something fresh, unique and ownable

One of the myths of creativity is that it's unpredictable, uncontrollable, and only comes when inspiration strikes. But what about when the deadline is pressing and nothing seems to be coming to mind?

When you're tasked with writing on-voice content for your organization and creativity seems to be about 10 miles behind, it can be easy to surrender to cliché, trite and overdone ideas. Things that people read and think, "Yep, I've seen that before." Things that may be suitable for your space, but aren't differentiating. 

While you don't always need to sound fast and fresh (and you shouldn't if that's not part of your brand's voice), it's always worthwhile to craft unique and ownable content. So how can you find your creativity and generate consistent, on-voice and original communications for your brand, every time? 

Start by looking within. 

Activating brand voice in an authentic way means building on reality—who your organization is and what you're doing. Rather than searching for a bold, aspirational turn of phrase to outdo your competitors, use what's going on within your organization to lay your foundation. For example, if you want to sound welcoming, what are you doing to open a dialogue with your audiences? If you want to sound confident, what are the successes that you're standing on? These tangible examples will lay the groundwork for unique and inspiring communications. They'll also help you avoid quirky, gutsy or witty language that mimics competitors but departs from your actual voice. 

The newly relaunched Adobe Express has a simple but creative identity that's based on the product itself. Rather than reaching to lofty aspirations or ideals, the launch campaign shows exactly what the platform is made for—everyday users who need a simple tool to design like a professional. The name itself sets the tone for the product's two main benefits: It's quick and easy, and gives users the freedom to create their own way. By building on the very essence of what it is, Adobe Express users can instantly see themselves in the brand.  

One way to put this into practice is to start with the facts. List out everything you know about your topic, including strengths, weaknesses and proof points. Then think about how you would explain it in a paragraph. What about in a sentence? In a word?

Dig into your personal interests.

Start by giving yourself the permission to bring the various activities and interests from your own life into your brainstorming space. This may seem simple, but don't underestimate its power. Some of the most interesting and authentic communications come from the least expected places. What can you borrow from what you love—novels, poetry, art, fashion, sports, etc.—that could add some flavor to a flat communication?

The small but notable Australian coffee shop Story Espresso uses the power of storytelling to deliver the brand across touchpoints. From the packaging on their to-go cups to Haiku Instagram posts to short stories at the bottom of receipts, this brand stands out while creating a delightful experience for coffee aficionados and word nerds. A simple yet unexpected bond between coffee and stories makes this brand original and fun.

Consider creating an inspiration board (this could be digital or physical) to keep track of the interesting things you find in your day to day. What metaphor, image or idea might lend itself to explaining your content? Use these thoughts to invigorate your writing. 

Get out of your own way.

Continue to work without getting frustrated even if the "aha" moment doesn't occur. Creativity is a balance of hopeful perseverance and ingenuity. It does take imagination and outside-the-box thinking, but it also requires diligence and skill. Sometimes the most creative moments float to the surface when you've written and re-written several times. The important part is to keep going without self-censoring or resorting to what's comfortable. 

Oatly is an excellent example of creativity that turns what's expected into something original. Just when you think it's another Instagram post or subway ad, the brand flips the very concept on its head. A recent post showed over a dozen different ways Oatly could refer to itself in an ad within an ad, making light of clichéd marketing tactics. Everything is presented in Oatly's characteristically approachable, humorous and somewhat snarky brand voice, while still communicating the sustainability message that's core to the brand.

The key here? Give yourself the permission to free write. Write for 5-10 minutes nonstop about anything and everything that comes to mind. Write without editing yourself and let your stream of consciousness flow. Get up, walk around, and come back and write some more. 

Don't let lack of inspiration be an excuse for flavorless communications. Getting creative about your creativity will be the perfect starting place for your best ideas to emerge.

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Alexandra George
Alexandra George is strategist, brand communication, at Siegel+Gale.

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