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Apples: Healthy Part of Business

By: Robert Wallace

Games in the workplace are not a terribly novel idea – just look at the countless startups with ping pong tables, shuffleboards, and gaming rooms. But there is one game that can actually be used for guiding the branding and content strategy in business rather than general culture building.

The game? Apples to Apples.

Yes, the adjective cards that come with the popular board game can be used to help uncover your brand’s voice and tone, and more precisely communicate the qualities you want to be known for. This is key to avoiding vague or jargon-laden messaging in your brand’s communiques.

Borrowing from the tried and true

Card sorting is a popular method that has long been used in website design and architecture, and more recently it has been adopted in devising content strategy. It essentially helps teams organize, make sense of, and prioritize key qualities or attributes, whether that be in a website’s structure or messaging.

This process can either be done with blank pieces of paper or cards, any one of the online tools out there, or with Apples to Apples.

Finding your voice

The adjective cards in Apples to Apples can help stimulate new ideas and get the team thinking about new terms they may not have otherwise. These cards are particularly helpful too, because they have the definitions of each word, which comes in handy as one person’s definition of funny might be different from another person’s.

This is a collaborative effort. If doing this internally, get the team involved. If you’re doing it for a client, get them involved too. It’s also important to note, your core values should be established. This provides a solid foundation to work from.

Once those are established, move onto voice and tone. Your voice always stays the same, but your tone may change based on various scenarios. Just like your personal tone changes when talking to different people or in different circumstances. It amplifies our personality – and the same goes for your brand.

Your tone will be much different if you’re sending a congratulatory or thank you note to a customer, than it will be if they are troubleshooting on the “Help” section of your website. This exercise will help you pinpoint what that tone will be.

How the game is played

Everyone who is participating will get a small stack of the game’s adjective cards (the green ones). These will be separated by the individual into “yes” and “no” piles. As you flip through the cards, simply ask “Does this sound like us?” If no, set it aside.

Gather all the yes’s from each person then walk through why they chose those. As you do this sort out the “maybe’s.” You’ll also group similar cards from the solid “yes” piles. Themes will start to reveal themselves – intelligent, smart, capable, or funny, witty, etc.

Of those groups, identify which are most true to the brand, and which amplify the core values. Begin to write main words on the board, then create “but not” statements. For example, “funny, but not sarcastic.” Do this with every word.

Once complete, double check these against all core values and the brand. It should be genuine, true, and align with the brand. Once these statements are qualified you can create voice and tone message examples. Mailchimp has done this with nearly every customer-facing message from the note you get when you create and send an email campaign, to the email you receive when you sign up to use the platform, and even when you get a failure message.

Nailing your voice and tone will give you a true north for internal operations and help drive the vision, and bold clarity to those outside of the company. Not to mention, it will help you architect and prioritize all of your brand’s messaging.

Written by Robert Wallace

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