Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Get Real, Get Human - Brands as Humans!

When I was in B- school I was taught about brand personality and to the people who are still confused about it (and believe me many still are!)- 'Brand personality is the way a brand speaks and behaves. It means assigning human personality traits/characteristics to a brand so as to achieve differentiation. These characteristics signify brand behaviour through both individuals representing the brand (i.e. it’s employees) as well as through advertising, packaging, etc. When brand image or brand identity is expressed in terms of human traits, it is called brand personality" ( I do agree that there is a difference between brand image and personality but for convenience we will stick to personality)

Ages ago when I was a part of the advertising business, I remember being asked to describe the target audience vividly. Give a face to the target audience! Make them real.

Given the fact that we want to make the brand as human as possible, it is only natural the people also treat those brands (who are as human as it can be) with more feelings.

Customers are willing to accept and expect that brands are with flaws. It is comparable to real life interactions that we still adore people even though we know that they have flaws. Even the most lovable people have flaws and others are willing to ignore them largely. The same holds good for brands too. This acceptance comes from the realization by people that other people are never perfect.

By that logic, brands need to show all human emotions which endear people to people - a unique character, understanding, genuine, humanity, maturity, generosity and others.

Like in any relationship between brands should connect with people in various ways to further cement a relationship or  maintain it.

A part of the growing acceptance of mistakes has been the free information flow of any wrong doings. Thanks to the power of media, people are just a second away from the latest information. While there is growing sense of responsibility and ownership, in parallel there is a growing understanding of the infallible nature of people and and hence brands.

It is not surprising that the more human brands like Starbucks Zappos, Harley Davidson and closer home Cafe Coffee Day have built a great relationship with customers. If you were to visit the Facebook page of Cafe Coffee Day you will see that it has become an integral part of their customer lives with all the faults.

In a further twist to exposing the flaws of people, the people themselves 'expose' themselves especially on social networking sites thereby increasing the acceptance of human brands!

Infact like a person without flaws is a fallacy likewise is a brand without flaws.
  • Implications for brands
  1. Be transparent - If a brand or company makes a mistake, accept it and take corrective action. Do not hide behind a veil of lies or deceit. The repercussions can be life threatening like what happened to "News of  the World".
  2. Be kind - Brands need to be benevolent and engage in activities beyond the commercial realm. Donations to charity, support to environmental causes are some of the examples.
  3. Be genuine - do not be hollow in your interactions with your customers

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