Not that long ago, actors and vocal artists would, as standard, work incredibly hard to lose their regional accent. The scope for diversity within voice over was extremely limited, with anything beyond RP (received pronunciation) frowned upon. This is a reflection of the class assumptions of the time and is now outdated and unnecessary. In fact, many clients who require a voice now seek specific regional accents to reinforce their brand through audio.
Britain is a melting pot of accents, tones and dialects, all of which inspire different associations in different audiences. Of course, an audience is a transient thing and must be considered and profiled to the same extent as the voice that you choose to represent your brand. What tone and accent will be most appealing to your audience?
Appealing to consumers is clearly a variable business. Brands seek to gain the trust of social profiles from different backgrounds, different regions and different age brackets. Obviously what appeals to one may not appeal to the other. Which is why many high profile brands spend a great deal of research time and money in discovering what voices are most effective for them. As a general rule, northern British voices are perceived as more trustworthy. Many advertisers look further beyond this to choose a celebrity or familiar sounding voices to further suggest trustworthiness.
Policy and Advice
In contrast, many areas of the UK respond more positively to advisory information when it is transmitted through Home Counties or RP voices. For this reason, many instructive uses of audio such as those advising tax deadlines or the digital switchover have employed an authoritative RP voice range. Conversely, residents of some regions prefer to listen to lifestyle direction such as warnings against drink driving, smoking or faulty smoke alarms when they are spoken in the local vernacular.
Narrative voices in projects such as audio books are often directed by the story genre. Where menace can sound especially effective through a Glaswegian accent, romance can be conveyed to wonderful effect through melodic Welsh. Alternatively, storytelling that is area specific can be chosen based simply upon geography. A tale set in Birmingham, for example, can better conjure its fictional world with a voice appropriate to that geographical area.
Sometimes geography is intrinsic to an organisation. So when corporate projects such as whiteboard instructional videos seek a voice, it may be imperative that the local business area is reflected. Newcastle accents are often associated with warmth and understanding, so are often chosen for customer service focussed projects. However, if your corporate brand is global (or aspires to be so), then it’s best not to go too niche. Mid-range American or Home Counties British tends to strike the balance well here.
Of course, this segues into both advertising and corporate activity. Designing a video which is intended to advertise through social media relies upon its scope to go viral. For this reason, it needs a great voice. Distinction is the key here. So familiar and characterful accents are a great place to start. Think Liverpudlian or West Country. Both of these accents, although geographically miles apart, are attention grabbing whilst maintaining a relatable familiarity.
Very specifically instructive, training audio requires accents with clarity and authority. Where RP is a great accent to achieve this, it can sometimes be perceived as bland and in this way struggle to demand the attention that training requires. Many training projects choose the North Western Mancunian to achieve a more textured educational audio.
Whilst every project is entirely unique to its individual aims and targets, thinking about accents is a great way to narrow down a pool of voices. Regional dialect is such an inherently ingrained aspect of British society that choosing the right vocal accent for your audio project is arguably the point that will lift it beyond the ordinary.