English, a language spoken across every time zone and in countless dialects. It’s difficult to accurately state how many people speak English as a mother tongue, because reports differ too wildly. But a conservative estimate shows nearly 2 billion people speak English worldwide, either natively or as a second (or third) language.
That’s over a quarter of the world’s population!
So, of course creating a marketing or advertising campaign in English is a no-brainer. To reach so many consumers in one fell swoop seems like an easy decision. And yet…with so many different versions of English (even among native speakers) from the UK to America to Australia to Singapore, deciding to use English is merely the first in a long list of decisions.
The next crucial decision is choosing a voice over artist with the right accent.
ALSO READ: The Neutral English Accent
There are many who would argue that recording a “neutral” accent would appeal to the largest common denominator, but before charging ahead in that direction let’s think some things through.
Choosing a specific accent instead of choosing a ‘neutral’ accent (or attempting to choose no accent at all, which is nearly impossible by the way) can alter a consumer’s perception about a brand before they even process what’s being promoted.
In fact, an “accent can trigger social categorization in a prompt, automatic, and occasionally unconscious manner,” Ze Wang of the University of Central Florida, states in a BBC article from March 2018.
The accent your campaign chooses can alter people’s perceptions about your brand and cause them to make unconscious assumptions about things like educational level and even family life. The same March 2018 BBC article goes on to state that some accents in the UK are consistently heard as more trustworthy than others. And yet, depending on where you’re advertising and what you’re looking to accomplish, one accent may be a strong marketing choice in one region, and not a great choice in another. It comes down to this: an accent sets the tone for the advertisement. It can connect with the consumer on a subconscious level, transport them to somewhere new, or make them feel at home instantly.
Hearing a certain type of voice will cause the listener to make assumptions about a brand, even before they’ve processed the message they’re hearing.
One option is to choose a local accent e.g. a regional Northern English accent in the UK. Choosing a voice actor who speaks with an accent native to the area you’re advertising will help you to get on the same wavelength as the local people listening. It’s a great way to ingratiate yourself into the community and studies show that people are more ready to trust someone that sounds like them.
This study discovered that it was much easier for a listener to trust someone with an accent like theirs, while someone with an “outsider” accent would have to speak firmly and with confidence to even begin to win over someone’s trust. Perhaps this isn’t shocking, it’s simply indicative of our human tribal mentality – we more readily trust what we know.
An advertising campaign that takes the time to research how people speak at a local level and hire a voiceover artist that sounds the same, is sure to be one step closer to gaining the trust of their listeners!
Keep your Roots
Another option is to stick to what you know, be your authentic self.
Where is your brand from?
If you’re a company that’s recently expanded to a larger market, this doesn’t necessarily mean you should abandon your roots to play to a wider audience. Your background may be exactly what this wider audience is attracted to. Owning your origins can be a very powerful tool of honesty and give you an advantage in advertising on a larger scale. German car manufacturers have for years used English voiceovers spoken with a German accent to re-enforce the popular opinion that German engineering is of the best in the world.
An article from the Cooper Journal states that “the secret to persuasion, influence, and motivation is a formula deeply grounded in storytelling”.
In other words, people don’t buy products, they buy stories.
And choosing a voiceover talent with an accent that best reflects your story can be a compelling element to your marketing strategy.
Pick Something New
But maybe the story your brand tells isn’t about where you’re from, but where you’re going.
Major finance companies have consistently turned to African speaking accents to sound more accessible to a global audience and disassociate from accents that might imply that their services are only for the privileged.
A travel company, on the other hand, may want to choose a sound that transports their listeners to warm beaches and reminds them of sunny weather. Important strategic goals are accomplished by choosing the right accent.
ALSO READ: YouTube Star on How to Become a Voice Actor
A survey from Travel and Leisure magazine indicate that accents across the United States, for example, have different effects on their listeners. For instance, a southern accent made listeners feel peaceful while invoking a sense of charm and friendliness. A Puerto Rican accent recalled warm sunny beaches and holiday getaways, while a north-eastern accent (from Boston, New York or Rhode Island) felt more intelligent and easier to trust.
If you’re a media producer then ask yourself – what accent puts your consumers in the right frame of mind?
The Right Voice-Over Artist
Here at Voquent, we understand the importance of accents and variety and are proud to offer a platform with the most extensive collection of unique languages and dialects in existence.
Currently, that’s over 533 primary and secondary languages and over 1,500 distinct regional dialects and accents from around the world.
Not only do we offer the most extensive variety of regional accents, we also make sure our voice over actors are top quality, and able to perform many accents. After all, we hire talented actors, not just talented speakers. Many actors from Northern England, for example, are extremely well-versed in performing characters who speak British RP. Hugh Laurie, the well-known British actor, has such a believable American accent that many native Americans still can’t believe he’s British!
At Voquent we know that choosing the right accent, be it local to a specific region or one of a growing number of neutral variations, is critically important to your brand and message.
Caroline Cole works as a writer, voiceover actor, director, and teacher. Her passion for literacy, storytelling, arts advocacy, and creative living help her use her voice and words to jazz up road trips, speed up long lines, and un-boring plane rides.