Rethinking Brands As People

If you’ve ever spent any time working in marketing you have probably participated in a couple of exercises. One is where you work on “personas” – models of personality. One is for the brand and there are others for various customer segments. It’s an attempt to humanize the brand and to make the customer less of an abstraction. It’s the former exercise that’s our topic today, and there is an element in the brand persona process that some research shows is overlooked.

I’ve sat in meetings where the room tries to figure out our business’ personality traits. What is our attitude? Where do our values lie and what are our strengths and weaknesses? A brand does this to make it easy for customers to relate to and bond with us. That persona is then used to create everything from messaging to packaging to customer service scripts. There are a couple of areas that are common to any brand, or should be according to some research by the folks at Edelman. They released The 2016 EARNED BRAND study, which is a global online survey of 13,000 consumers in 13 countries that examines the consumer-brand relationship across 18 brand categories.

The study found that brands globally and across many categories were failing to connect. Part of that might be reflective of the things the study measured: how the brand embodies a unique character, builds trust at every touchpoint, and invites sharing, inspires partnership. Generally, most brands come up very short on those traits and that prompted a thought.

Maybe instead of just figuring out what our brand is we ought to spend time trying to really humanize it by behaving in ways that a good friend ought to. Think about your closest friends. The three characteristics enumerated above and among those measured by the survey are probably things you’d say about your close friends. In business, it’s not just about who were are as a brand but how we present ourselves and treat our customers. As brands, if we want to be “people” perhaps we ought to start acting as good people do. Listen more, be memorable, do good things in our communities, and build trust.

Make sense?

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