When I was first starting out as a voice over talent, when mammoths roamed the earth and cassette tapes were the norm, my dad urged me to go after car dealerships as clients.
My dad said he never met a married man brave enough to buy a car his wife didn’t like, so car dealers should always use a female to voice their commercials. While his logic was dead on, it was years before I heard a woman narrate a car commercial, and it’s still a fairly rare thing.
Is a male or female voice the best choice to represent your brand?
Do you pick the strong bass notes of a male voice to convey your message or the lighter tones of a female VO talent to share the benefits of your product? Both can be very effective, so simply defaulting to one or the other can limit your audience not grow it.
Do men always have to narrate beer commercials? Don’t women drink beer too? Should women be the expected voice for toilet paper? Everyone shops for TP, not just women.
So how do you pick whether a male or female voice would work best for your video project or radio ad?
Yes, Be A Little Sexist: Who is Your Customer?
ED medication. Men.
Maxi Pads. Women.
These are two cases where the market is clearly delineated, but it’s usually not so straightforward. As social norms continue to blur, the perfect voice to represent your company may be the opposite of what you would normally select.
What if a woman voiced a commercial for tools? Wouldn’t that be an acknowledgement of the shifting roles we see today? I have a toolbox chock full of hammers and screwdrivers. In fact, I just used my ratchet set. Real women own tools, so talking directly to this demographic using a female voice makes sense.
How about a man touting the benefits of cleaning products… to men, and not just some husky voiced manly-man purring to the ladies? Men know how to do laundry and dishes. They may not like it, but they do it.
Why not aim advertising straight at them with a male narrator?
With millions of products and services purchased by every gender and age group, defaulting to one type or range of voice for your commercials or videos could be shrinking your market instead of expanding it. Go wild and hire the opposite gender to narrate your next project.
What is the Real Goal of the Project?
The single force behind any of my marketing strategies has always been a single question, “what do I want my marketing effort to do for me?” As a voice talent, knowing what my client’s goals are for a project helps me provide the tone and energy level they are looking for.
If you are going for a hard sell, “Buy It Now” kind of spot, a male voice is a good call. Deeper tones work really well for this type of high-energy project. Male voices have a lot of natural authority attached them. Plus, no one does the Voice of God better than a baritone.
Maybe your goal is more of a gentle nudge to push potential clients toward your product. A woman’s voice is ideal, especially with a softer smiling delivery. This type of narration creates that warm fuzzy feeling like fresh baked cookies and kissing a boo boo. And who doesn’t respond to that?
If brand awareness and name recognition what you’re looking for the best advice I have is choose a voice you love – male or female. You want to pick the voice you can easily listen to for years to come, because brand is about consistency over the long haul. Jumping between voices and genders won’t help you cement your name into a client’s mind. Think of it as a jingle or soundtrack for your product.
If you are having a hard time deciding which gender would work best, have both male and female VO talents audition with multiple scripts (old or new) and see if that voice personifies your brand. Choose wisely because you want to stick with that sound for as long as possible.
The more specific your goal, the easier it is to choose the right voice.
Would the Opposite Choice of Talent Work Better?
As a female voice talent, I can tell you that many producers default to a male voice.
All I can say to that is… stop it.
With the exception of a few products, professional voice talents of either gender can adeptly represent your product or service and give you the desired outcomes. So why default to one gender over another when you have a world of choices and a bounty of talent just waiting to read your script.
Audition both. Listen to both. Then decide.
As demographics and buying power change, so do the voices that speak to the customer.
As you choose a voice to represent your company, be mindful of the power and success that the unexpected choice can bring! Let me know what you think below in the comments!