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Anatomy of a Motto: The Voice

Have you ever had an experience where you’ve spoken to someone on the phone or communicated with them via e-mail, only to meet them in person and discover that they don’t even remotely conform to the portrait you’d created of them in your mind’s eye?

This can sometimes be a good thing, on a micro-level. My nasally, congestion-plagued voice yields a pleasant surprise when I show up, Adonis-like, for a first date.

But the disparity is not helpful in a marketing context. If your messaging tone of voice conveys something different than what your company can actually deliver, clients experience frustration and disenchantment. For example, if they’re drawn to the formality and classiness of the voice on your website, but walk into an office that seems sloppy, chaotic, and too laid back, the mismatch can be exasperating.

On the flip side, a voice that lacks any kind of distinctive feel might mean that potential customers miss what you have to offer entirely. It’s equally harmful for your tone of voice to underpromise and fail to distinguish you from the competition.

I saw this very thing play out in a meeting with a client recently.

Cassel Bear has been fortunate to work with Seneca Label for several years. Based in Cleveland, they have been producing quality, custom-printed, pressure-sensitive labels since 1968. The team works unbelievably hard and is always developing new solutions to address clients’ varied needs. Since I came on staff, I’ve written for their website and sales sheets, content that covers a lot of the brass tacks – technical details, specs of what they can print, types of labels and how they can be used.

Recently, the Seneca team opted for a macro-level conversation about their overall brand, so we turned our attention away from the trees to look at the forest. Instead of receiving my directives via e-mail or through quick phone calls, I got a chance to sit down with the guys for a few hours and was amazed at what I learned.

It wasn’t so much what they said; it’s how they said it. They were incredibly funny. Their speech was punchy, forceful, with great energy and oomph to it. I heard and felt a level of passion and intensity for what they do that was difficult to catch in the midst of label sizes, die cut shapes, and types of folds. There was even a certain Cleveland, industrial, blue collar “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get ‘er done” can-do vibe that I found terrificly winsome and engaging.

Very little of this comes through the current materials that they – or we – have written, so I’m glad they opted to take this opportunity for us to reinvent together.

So what happened next? We began by crafting some new public-facing statements about the company that convey who they are, what they do, what’s important to them. Usually, this might be called a mission statement or a motto or values, right? But even something that structured and official seemed like it was so different from the vibe of who they are, so we wrote in a style and a voice that just embeds that info in some of the very phrases and idioms that came straight out of their mouths:


When it comes to manufacturing quality, custom-printed labels that exceed expectations, the team at Seneca is relentless in our pursuit of your satisfaction.

  • Need a quote? You can expect a speedy response.
  • Want the best label? We go above and beyond – even when it hurts.
  • Unusual request? We develop new processes to make your concept a reality.
  • Others telling you no? We fearlessly tackle the jobs that they won’t touch.
  • Someone else botch your job? We’ll clean up the mess.

Sound crazy? It’s how we’ve been operating since 1968. And with clients satisfied and returning for repeat business, maybe crazy dedicated isn’t a bad way to be.

Solutions That Stick With You


These building blocks will inform the updated writing for the website and sell sheets, in the hopes of capturing this voice across all of Seneca’s marketing materials.

And this voice has now suggested some visual correlatives, as our designers have begun creating a new design style for Seneca that takes its cues from WPA-era, labor-centric poster art and murals, beginning with a new logo.

Watch Seneca Label over the next few months to see how this attention to crafting a distinctive voice plays out – and, in the meantime, see if you’re able to articulate your own. If not, give us a call.

And we won’t judge you if you don’t look like an Adonis or Venus in person.