Your brand is your company’s personality. Do people like it?
A recent article in Fast Company, entitled, “For Brands, Being Human Is the New Black,” reminded me of a common refrain we hear from companies, especially those in the business-to-business sector: What is a brand, and do we really have one?
B2B companies seem to take comfort in a common denial that their organizations are capable of achieving brand persona. In other words, a “brand” is something that the Apples and the Nikes of the world have, but Johnson & Thomas P.C. can’t expect to have—nor should they care about—a brand experience.
Not true. If your company has an audience (and who among us doesn’t?), wishes to market a product or service to that audience (again, who doesn’t?), and has some level of exposure between your company and constituents (um, that’s everyone), you have a brand. How well you cultivate and communicate that brand experience to said audience is largely up to you. So don’t dismiss the opportunities and liabilities.
In the B2B world, a great many purchasing decisions are made on a comfort level—we entrust our company’s endeavors to those with a proven track record, and we prefer to work with people and organizations that we “like.” That “like” factor is all about experience, and until we begin working with another company, we base it all on perception.
As the article in Fast Company suggests, this is why brands are in many ways like humans. They look a certain way; they sound a certain way. They have reputations; they have personalities. We get a feel for who they are with each passing encounter with them. And we instinctively make decisions, explicitly or not, about whether we’d like to get to know them better as we know more and more.
The article deals specifically with the notion of acting human—engaging with audiences on a very human level and through very personal tactics (i.e., social media). But companies must also think of themselves as being human. If you were to give your company a personality, what would it look and sound like?
To get there, consider these questions:
What do we want to our company to sound like? Funny? Informative? Casual? Professional? Technical? Whimsical?
What do we want our company to look like? Cutting-edge? Approachable? Soft? Strong? New? Of heritage?
Why should someone like us? Who are we looking to attract, and how can we change their lives for the better?
Does our ambition match reality? Do we want to be cool, but in reality we are stodgy? Can our people pull off the personality we wish to project on our company? Is it authentic?
Where will we make the connection between our company’s personality and the places in which our audiences live, work and play?
How will we change minds? Do we have to? Is it possible? What are the strategies to move the needle on public perception?
As with humans, business personalities cannot be changed overnight, nor can they be shifted in the wind disingenuously. The trick is to truly discover what your company’s brand personality is (not what you wish it to be), clearly communicate why that’s a good thing, and differentiate it among all of the other competing personalities at the party.