What Mickey Mouse Can Teach You About Voice

May 7, 2010
By Lisa Barone in Branding

Here’s something cool – Mickey Mouse is finding his voice*. Literally. According to the official Disney Parks Blog, they’re ‘playtesting’ a new Mickey Mouse that will be able to interact with guests in ‘never-before-seen-ways’ – most noticeably, Mickey will be able to talk. He’ll be fitted with his known voice and will be able to address children by their real names. Imagine being a child and getting to meet a Mickey that not only looks the same, but sounds the same as the one you already know? He becomes an instant best friend.

Here are a few videos of the trial that let you see it in action.

No exaggeration, that first video took my breath away. It was Disney magic in action, magic that transformed the Mickey standing in front of those children into a living, breathing Mickey, and the same Mickey I knew as a kid. And it was able to do that because I recognized his voice. It’s another brain cue to tie my Mickey experiences together and create a more unified brand [read Yawn Webmaster’s comment on the subject].

Mickey got his voice through a 1994 patent. As a brand, you get your voice through social media. That’s how you’re able to tie all of your experiences together. It’s how you create a fluid emotional aftertaste that people can hold on to.

I think that’s the aspect of social media that many brands don’t get. They look at social media as a new platform to sell and a new medium to share content, which it is. You can automate your interactions and turn your Facebook page into an RSS feed without much trouble. But that’s not what makes social media useful. The power of social media is that, just like with Mickey, you can address your customers by name. It makes it possible for you to use those social outposts as a way to tie all of your brand experiences together so that you’re creating a single voice in the eyes of your customer. You make it so that they’d recognize you in a dark alley.

We recognize people through their voice.

If you’ve been reading me for any length of time (I’m sorry), you know that voice is particularly important to me. It’s something I struggle with and something that (through hardship) I’m able to understand and appreciate differently than most people. Because it’s difficult for me to physically use my voice, I understand the importance of helping brands find theirs. It’s taken me awhile to figure out that that’s why I do what I do. And that’s why I do what I do well.

I remember in high school feeling like people who were particularly articulate seemed to earn more respect from both their peers and their teachers. Their voices were heard more and were given more weight. I remember how if you had one of those voices that didn’t match your body, people looked at you funny, seemingly trying to figure out where it was all coming from. And if you were someone like me, well, your words were pretty much lost because of how fragmented your speech was.

The parallels for brands in social media are obvious.

  • When your voice is fluent and authentic, people make a lasting connection.
  • When there’s a disconnect, they get confused.
  • And when it’s fragmented, they tune you out.

Think of social media as your voice and figure out what it is you want to be saying. Instead of looking for ways to put it on auto-pilot and how to automate interactions, think of what you want your message to be and how you can use your social words to create it. In social media, your brand comes to life. It’s not about exaggerated movements and fake Mickey hugs any more. Through Facebook, Twitter and blogs, your voice box has been turned on. You can either continue to be that robot or you can speak in a way that ties everything you’re doing together to create a fluid experience. You can make it so that you’re offline, online and everything-in-between interactions are all strengthened through the voice you existence of a new voice.

Your microphone is on. What are you saying?

*Thanks to Virginia Nussey and James Kim for alerting me to Mickey’s new voice via the Twitter yesterday. It changed my Thursday.

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