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Vauxhall: How do you get 200 people to speak with one voice?

Andy Biernacki, the Head of Brand at Vauxhall, worked with 9 separate departments within Vauxhall, and over 20 different external agencies with up to 50 writers in each. He needed them all to write with 1 brand voice.

It’s not about informing…it’s about changing behaviour

We knew that with so many creative people involved, the smartest way to implement the voice was to get all the different stakeholders to help create it. This would give them a sense of ownership. So, when we created the verbal identity guidelines, we had run a co-creation workshop with the department and agency leads.

But we knew that guidelines by themselves don’t change how people think.

200 writers trained. And one very valuable minisite.

First, we ran a series of workshops for nearly 200 people from Vauxhall and its agencies. Crucially, we made sure that each session involved participants from lots of different departments and agencies, many of whom were meeting for the first time. This provided visible proof that everyone was involved in the same process.

The feedback from the workshops exceeded everyone’s expectations (with an average score of over 96%), and soon we were getting requests for workshop places from departments like public policy and legal affairs. The voice was spreading throughout the entire organisation.

But a brand voice is created by every piece of copy that’s written, and we couldn’t run a workshop for every writer and for every piece of copy. So, we developed a live, interactive website where any writer could upload their copy for other people to see. People can also vote on their favourite pieces of copy, so those with the strongest voices are the easiest to find. This gave people a chance to learn from each other, not just from us.

Better than we can say it

Ahead of the next major car launch, we were delighted when Mother, the ad agency creating the ATL campaign, asked us to edit the Tone of Voice document they had created for the partner agencies. It was proof that Vauxhall and its agencies had started to own the voice.

Verbal Identity led the briefing of internal and agency teams to ensure the new tone of voice is consistently applied, including really practical elements encouraging best practice sharing and celebrating success in implementation.

Simon Oldfield, CMO, Vauxhall.