Your script is all ready to go. If it’s a video, you know what your visuals will look like. The graphics and music are all set, too. Now you just need the voice over. But that’s not always easy to choose. Often, one of the biggest questions is whether to go with a male or female voice over. Read on for some information and tips to help you decide. After all, that voice is the icing on the cake. It’s got to be just right fo the success you want.
First things first, should you go with a male or female voice over?
You have the idea, you have the script, and you’re ready to add the perfect voice over — but which gender should you choose? Ultimately, deciding between a male or female voice over can alter your message’s clarity, consistency, and effectiveness. Each voice sets a different tone, has a different appeal, and can even send a different message, even with the same message.
So which should you pick? Let’s take a look at some research looking at preferences for voices. We’ll break down the research and talk to the experts so you can be sure you’re choosing the right voice over for your next project.
Let’s look at some research
A 2010 study from AdWeek Media/Harris Poll surveyed 2194 American adults to determine how consumers responded to male versus female voices in advertisements. Here’s what they learned:
In terms of forcefulness, 48% of the respondents said that males sounded more forceful while 49% of those surveyed said that gender made no difference.
In terms of being more soothing, 46% of respondents said that females sounded more soothing while another 46% said that gender made no difference.
What about persuasion? Here, the results were split. 19% felt a female voice was more persuasive while 18% believed a male voice was more persuasive. Yet, 64% said gender made no difference.
Thus, depending on your goal, choosing one gender over the other can make a huge difference. For example, if you’re creating a forceful message, 49% don’t care about gender, but 48% do care. So, you’ll satisfy 98% of consumers by choosing a male voice. If you want a soothing voice over, however, you’ll satisfy 92% of people by going with a female voice.
The gender-neutral voice over
Just like people now often list their pronouns on their social media or don’t want their gender assumed, the gender-neutral voice over is another choice when it comes to choosing a voice over. Remember all those people that don’t care which voice it is? Maybe this is a good opportunity to incorporate a gender-neutral or non-binary voice over. You can broaden your audience this way.
We can see from this piece on Voquent, that this voice is becoming one with more equality and more reach:
There are some who also seek a non-binary voice because of the associations and alignment of values that are embraced by more thoughtful and considerate approaches to workplace and living cultures. If you want to demonstrate a commitment to fostering a more inclusive society, a non-binary voice may well help symbolise those values in your broadcasts and communication.
As we read already earlier in this piece, sometimes there is a need for one voice or the other, sometimes it doesn’t matter. So many things come into play when choosing a voice over, and with male, female, and gender-neutral, we have even more choices. Let’s get back to the female voice, though, and see when is a great time to choose this one.
Look at your audience
Who does your audience consist of? Mostly female? Mostly male? Mostly unknown, including gender-neutral? This often dictates the voice you should use.
In the same study as above, 28% of respondents felt that a male voice was “more likely to sell me a car” compared to just 7% who chose a woman’s voice. 23% also said that a guy’s voice was “more likely to sell me a computer” compared to just 7% who picked a female.
But it makes sense. Men are typically more interested in gadgets, electronics, and cars than females. If you’re selling male-dominated like products like sports nutrition, hardware tools, or trucks, a male voice generally fits the message, the brand, and the listeners. A woman’s voice, however, would match things like cosmetics, fashion, and feminine hygiene products. However, it’s okay to break tradition. We are seeing big shifts here, as well. Look at James Charles, after all.
We can see these shifts from the traditional in marketing, like dads choosing the best cold medicine for their child or guys sharing make-up tips. We also see (and hear) more women in business and travel geared ads. This being said, one hugely important thing to think about when choosing a voice over is your audience and your message. Then, try to match your voice with your audience.
What do the experts say?
“Men’s voices are associated with neutrality, with authoritative, factual information,” explains Arthur Chu, a Cleveland-based artist. He has done voice over work for brands like Safeway and Intel. “The voiceover you want for some kind of authoritative instructional video, or something asserting dry historical fact, is going to be that baritone, somewhat monotone, slightly stern voice.”
Often people feel protected when they hear men’s voices. So things like insurance and security systems are often done with male voice overs.
What about women’s voices?
“Because females tend to be the more nurturing gender by nature, their voices are often perceived as a helper, more compassionate, understanding, and non-threatening,” says Debbie Grattan, a veteran female voice over artist for brands like Apple, Samsung, and Wal-Mart. “This can be important in instructional videos.” That sense of patience and compassion in teaching a new skill is important and effective. Female voice overs are also effective at corporate/web narration, as well as commercial spots. They convey a less aggressive, more persuasive approach that is often appealing to these audiences.
Sometimes, however, the gender of voice overs is simply tradition. This is a glass ceiling ready for new producers and voice artists to break. Our world is shifting rapidly, and just like we can see or hear a guy talking about how he chooses his floor cleaner, we can also hear a woman talking about her favorite remodeling tips and tools.
It can be a fine line between tradition and effectiveness, though. There’s still something comforting about a woman’s voice telling you about the latest healthcare facility in your area. But we also might like to hear a woman talking about the latest gym nearby. Men aren’t the only ones who sweat. So it’s not only the voice, but it’s the appeal. It’s the message you’re trying to send.
Let’s revisit that gym. Say you are the proud owner of a new gym in a particular neighborhood. If you are looking to make it welcoming for all genders, maybe a female voice over would be more effective than a man’s. She can be tough, out of breath, sweaty, and toned, all those things the guys are, but she can also be persuasive and appeal to the women looking to join a gym.
Here’s another thing to think about – the complexity and details of the voice. Sometimes it’s enough to differentiate simply between male and female, but what about the characteristics? Male voices can be warm and comforting, just like female voices can be gruff and tough.
Here’s a great bit of information from one of our own articles at Bunny Studio:
People often like to make snap judgments about male vs female voices based on their preconceptions. Smart marketers, however, always remember that everyone is different. In other words, saying that you want a female or male speaker and leaving it at that isn’t as effective as describing the voice in fine-grained detail.
…you might get more for your marketing money by exploring characteristics such as register, articulation, and inflection. On top of asking actors to try different things, you can find multiple gendered voices with similar personalities. This is a smart way to create a consistent brand voice that welcomes all comers.
A current way of thinking, as well, is to keep the gender role but change up the voice. For instance, feminine hygiene product advertising has done a lot with this. Instead of women simply talking about feminine protection, they talk about how they maintain their everyday lifestyle. They don’t want periods to interrupt life, so we see athletes and other strong women talking about what is natural. And yes, a female voice over is still probably the one to choose for these products, even if your guy is picking them up for you.
And when we are thinking of the dad taking care of his kids in a voiceover, you may want to choose the more nurturing male voice over rather than that tough, hard male voice over.
More to think about
Ultimately, focus on your target demographic and stay congruent with your product or message. It’s not just about the product you are selling, it’s the audience you’re selling to.
Let’s take a quick look at video games. Did you know, for example, that more women than teenage men are gamers? So why not have more women characters in them, voiced by women? Makes sense, right? You can also have a female voice over doing the advertising the games. After all, who is to say that a female voice over won’t appeal to that male gamer, too.
When it comes to voice acting, females haven’t always dominated the conversation. Still, things are changing and more animated movies, TV shows, commercials, and video games now feature rich, complex female characters that resonate within many audiences. This means that the demand for female voice overs is on the rise!
The big takeaway for female voice overs
Female voice overs are often the way to go. They create a trusting, soothing tone and can bring out the compassion in your audience. But they can also send out a powerful message that women are by far, not the weaker sex. You can go traditional and have a female voice over in a nurturing role or in one of power, or how about a nurturing and powerful role all in one.
Don’t forget to be creative with male voice overs as well. You can also use the gender-neutral voice over to appeal to an even wider audience when your product fits. Just like so many things in our current society, gender isn’t always easy, but choosing the right voice over for your latest project can be that selling point that takes you to success.