There are many components to a brand, everything from a logo to a color palette to a positioning statement. These things fit together like a nice little puzzle and create one strong brand voice. And the more I started thinking about the metaphorical voice of a brand, the more it got me thinking about the literal one as well – as in, the voice-overs that brands use in their commercials.
While many commercials feature unknown voice talent, today many of the ads we see are voiced by celebrities. For example, actor Billy Crudup has been the voice of the famous Mastercard Priceless commercials for at least a decade. George Clooney voices countless commercials, including ones for Chevy. Most of us recognize James Earl Jones’ voice in seconds. Even Jon Hamm of “Mad Men” does voiceovers.
In fact, having commercials with celebrity voice-overs seems to be the norm these days, no matter what the category. By lending their voices to these commercials, these actors in turn become brand ambassadors, even if they are not actually on camera, Their off-camera personalities, political beliefs and day-to-day happenings inevitably have a bearing on what the companies they represent stand for.
A perfect example of this is the Aflac fiasco of 2011. Gilbert Gottfried got axed as the voice of the Aflac duck after posting controversial comments on his Twitter account about the Japanese earthquake and nuclear crisis. As a result, the duck’s voice was suddenly silenced – literally. Aflac’s first commercial after the firing was a take on a silent black and white film. Did you pick up on that?
Allstate is a great example of how a company took their “voice” to the next level. In their commercials of recent years, they show actor Dennis Haysbert – who formerly played the President of the United States on hit show “24” – telling people in his deep and memorable voice how trusted you can feel with Allstate. In the company’s most recent commercials, they put a different spin on the campaign by showing actors opening their mouths to speak, with Haysbert’s voice coming out, in turn giving a wink to viewers who might miss Haysbert’s presence in the ads.
Do celebrities like Clooney, Haysbert, John Hamm and others find it insulting to be kept off camera in these commercials? Well, whereas you might think this is a low point in the careers, the truth is that actors are usually VERY open to this easy pay.
Have you ever thought about what a particular voice communicates? Which actors’ voices make good brand ambassadors and why? Check out the commercials below and see if you can identify who is speaking. Do you think they’re a good match for the brand?