Meet Pete. Hailing from the turquoise waters of the Caribbean (or perhaps the Indian Ocean), Pete is a salty dog who sails the high seas, looking for loot, swashbucklin’ and plunderin’ for treasure. That’s right, Pete is a pirate. But I think Pete should reconsider his career path: he just might have a future as a copywriter.
Allow me to explain.
When I’m not developing messaging strategies, writing copy or collaborating with designers, I’m the mother of an aspiring pirate. I recently read her a book called “Pirate Pete’s Talk Like a Pirate”* and as I read it, I kept thinking what a great tool it would be to illustrate what it means to have a distinct and meaningful brand voice.
In the book Pete tries to recruit new talent to join his pirate crew. He posts a sign on his ship that says “Buccaneers Wanted” and sure enough several “rascals” show up to—for lack of a better word—interview. Pete tells them, loud and clear, exactly what he’s looking for:
“Ye needs a peg leg and an ol’ eye patch,
A fierce-lookin’ hook and a beard ye can scratch!
Ye gots to load a cannon and know how to fire it,
But most of all, ye gots to talk like a pirate!”
The first rascal steps up to make his case. He appears to meet Pete’s requirements, but when asked if his beard “hankers for a scratch” he responds:
“It is quite itchy, especially during the summer when the weather tends to be sultry.”
Pete is not impressed. He says, “Ye don’t talk like a pirate! Walk the plank!” As the man plunges into the water Pete says:
“Ye should’ve said,
‘When the sun’s a-blazin’,
Me beard gets the itches,
Worse than a bucket of sand down me britches!”
This pattern continues as three more rascals attempt to prove their worth to Pete. Each time he is disappointed and restates their responses in his proprietary pirate speak. While technically their statements mean the same thing, their words clearly convey different messages about those speaking them. And Pete, has a reputation to uphold—one that he does not want to be watered down by a bunch of “squiffies” who clearly do not know what it means to talk like a pirate. Instead he decides to stick with his trusty parrot and sails on his way.
So what can we learn from Pete about building and communicating a brand? While what we say matters, how we say it is just as important. When developing messaging, it’s critical to create a distinct voice and use it consistently to communicate personality and character. Without it you might just blend into the crowd and end up like these unsuccessful scallywags—swimming in the drink—or something like that.
*Reference: “Pirate Pete’s Talk Like a Pirate,” by Kim Kennedy; Illustration by Doug Kennedy, “Pirate Pete’s Talk Like a Pirate.”