Can You Make Presumptions Based On Someone’s Voice?

What do you think of when you hear someone’s voice without seeing how they look?  We certainly make assumptions about age and gender perhaps also where they are from.  It is likely we make a huge number of micro decisions about the individual just from the sound of their voice and build a picture on which we then base any relationship we have with them moving forward. 

How often have you spoken to someone on the phone for months and then finally met them?  It’s always a shock, right?  No one EVER looks how they sound.  

Those micro decisions you made when you first heard them all those months ago will not be universal and everyone will have their own idea of what someone looks like.  This will be based on life experience, other people you know, the sensitivity of your hearing and so it goes on.  However, 99.9% of the time they won’t match your expectations of how they look. 

This is the basis on which voices are cast for voice over projects – what picture will our audience create from this voice and is it appropriate to promote our product?  Will it entice and engage the right people? 

It really is that simple. 

For a financial institution promoting its 20 year history, you wouldn’t use a voice that sounded 25 because what would they know about investing my money?  

I’m struggling to think of a designer perfume ad where they have used a regional accent.  

Decisions are made based on wide stereotypes that appeal to the appropriate demographic purely in terms of how that voice might be perceived as a person.  We all remember the Brummie voice that said ‘we just wanna be together’!  Or the enticing female voice who voiced the first sensual M&S food ads. How would that have sounded with the Brummie voice?  Not quite so enticing?!!  

So what happens if you know what the person looks like before you hear their voice.  Is the opposite now true and you start deciding how they sound based on how they look?  Would you press play on the demo of a man who looks 40 if you wanted a 25-year-old sound? 

If you were after a sexy female voice, would you listen to the demo of a female you didn’t find sexy in their photo?  Does it follow that someone who looks sexy, also sounds sexy?  Certainly not in my experience. Did you know that the infamous voice of the Cadbury’s Caramel rabbit was Miriam Margolyes?  Incredible actress but let’s face it, not considered a sex siren. 

Can You Prejusge Based on Voice

It is fundamentally true that we prejudge everyone – we can’t help it.  Which is precisely why we don’t put photos of our voices on our website.  We like our clients to base decisions purely on the voice, what image they create and how well that fits your brief. It’s all about illusion and letting your audience envisage what the person talking looks like. Because once you put a face to the voice, it may shatter that illusion.  

This concept has even made it onto TV in the reality singing contest, The Voice, whereby contestants enter a ‘Blind Auditions’ round, where the judges aren’t able to see what they look like. If the judge likes what the contestant sounds like once they’ve started singing, they are able to turn their chair around to see them. A great singing voice doesn’t always come out of a buffed and coiffed body, as Susan Boyle very aptly proved.  

Our refusal to share with anyone how our voices look by not having photos on our website, since we opened back in 2004 has championed this mentality despite rigorous opposition from many quarters.   

And now it’s Christmas and I’m wondering which came first – Father Christmas, a large bearded man with a deep bass ‘ho, ho, ho voice, or Brian Blessed?! 


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