Being earnest and excess baggage

In this new post truth era, authenticity and integrity are the new sought after credentials if you wish to cut through. But what about the importance of being earnest? Even with the wit of Oscar Wilde, being earnest may bore you and turn off your target audiences.

In other words, however earnest you are, however strongly you feel we ‘should’ engage because you mean well, it’s unlikely that will be enough.

Being Earnest - Noble Oxtales

Shoes and handbags

In previous Noble Oxtales we talk about the essence of brand definition – telling the truth and telling it well. It’s important to strike the right balance with a tone of voice that engages and connects in a human way before it informs.

So when it comes to the language you use, beware of your ‘baggage’ allowance!

Less is more. Make every word count and resist the temptation to throw extra words into the mix to ‘add weight’ to what you want to say. Importantly, always put yourself in the shoes of the busy human being on the receiving end of those words.

When it comes to the difference between meaning well and communicating well, there are examples everywhere.


Now a classic and much-emulated brand, the ground-breaking Innocent Drinks makes the selection then consumption of our five a day just that little more pleasurable. Through an engagingly light touch, Innocent entertains us by humanising and translating nutritional benefits of every piece of fruit with a gentle wit and colourful look and feel. We know the folk at Innocent feel strongly about nutrition and healthy eating, we know they take care with sourcing and sustainability but they are far from earnest about it!


Did the rather earnest and dry delivery of James Dyson explaining his revolutionary cyclone technology pass you by? Me too. In contrast, the instantly recognisable warmth of Victoria Wood’s voice-over did at least encourage me to listen.

With James Dyson we were left in no doubt about the seriousness of his life’s work and the vacuum cleaner’s performance. But with Victoria Wood’s version, just the association with her wit and everyday intelligence broadened the impact and reach of an advert about a household appliance.

Perhaps this is too simplistic to illustrate the impact of a change in tone of voice. Mind you, if you also remember the wonderfully funny sketch The World of Sacharelle – you may just wish she’d had a free rein with the Dyson ad script too!

Of course, fellow ‘marketing experts’ would say language and tone of voice depend on the target audience and the product. This is true to a point, but as Noble Ox has highlighted many a time, 99% of your target audience are people first and foremost.

The most powerful brands connect on a human level.  It’s those that talk to us (not at us) that work the best.

Talk to Noble Ox about how we can help you connect with your customers >>

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