On the background of the news concerning the Google acquisition of certain HTC employees for a sum of $11 billion in cash, as captured by ZDNet, we wondered what does the public associate brands with – nowadays.
The individual-behind-the brand is an obsolete trend. We remember the Steve Jobs cult, yet most of the customers of the same company today could hardly pin the current Apple CEO. A few amends can be made to this conclusion, however, since Facebook definitely means Zuckerberg, Virgin Group means Richard Branson and Tesla means Elon Musk.
When we see a person as being the brand, as in determining the fundamental decisions that steer a brand in what its products and societal impact mean, we’ve humanized the brand. All its employees and values are infused by the characteristics we associate with the one person that IS the brand.
However, is this just a perception, or does it have a nugget of truth in it?
The value of brand humanization
Profits. Influence. Isn’t that the core of commerce? These apparently come easier when instead of random clients, brands have loyal customers or even absolute fans. OK, let’s settle for the middle area of loyal customers – fans, although extremely in fashion for decades, are in fact a bit more. The amount of emotion involved in being a fan makes the entire thing a bit extreme, and in any serious study, the extremes are not taken into consideration.
*For those who enjoy video materials, here’s an Inc video on the value of brand humanization subject.
The process starts from the inside. As the brand owners personalize and humanize its presence, by attributing “character traits – likes, dislikes, mannerisms and a dialect” to it, and by positioning their campaigns “in and around these traits”, they induce the same perception to their target audience.
The process might take time, but it sure pays off in the end. There are recipes on how to approach this whole humanize-your-brand business. Big companies invest a lot of resources into it, smaller companies strike gold when they manage to infuse it on a more restrained budget.
The baseline – it’s not easy. Some specialize in it, others simply make the brand in their likeness. And yes, it is mostly about perception.
When the branding story parts with reality
Of course, all stories benefit or suffer from this phenomenon. Yet there is digression and digression. There are brands that have fallen due to being exposed as being the exact opposite of their official story. One cannot pretend to be ethical, for example, while in fact, not being – or can they?
Well, to put it bluntly, keeping up appearances works as long as no unwanted exposure turns the fans into haters. The game is a dangerous, especially when the reality does not at least partially keep up with the official image.
There are examples when the brand fans believe what they were led into believing, and ultimately contribute to fueling the image they want to be true. For example, Android and iOS are competitors, yet the big tech companies beneath these operating systems are in fact working together. Due to the patent system, one company actually gains when a product of the “adversary” is bought. Now, in a humanized version, would we see them as frenemies, as fair-play competitors, or as being in cahoots?
The same with merging, acquisitions and important personnel shifts – when actual humans associated with one brand go to a completely different company. We assume these former employees are imbued with the company values, and in turn the company values reside in each such employee. So, what happens when changes occur?
Keeping brand-related likes and dislikes genuine…
Snatching the approval of the potential audience is a game with high stakes. With Machine earning, AI, algorithms and big data involved, the customer is like an ancient king, maneuvered by clever, calculated decision makers.
However, even the turbulent history of humanity managed to have a few wise kings. Making educated choices, reaching a higher level of likes and dislikes, a level where we are emotional,, but also rational – here’s a possible way of actually being in charge as customers.
By supporting the brands which fake it less, and sanctioning the changes that we don’t like, we contribute as customers to a better future. Of course, we have to really understand what the values worth fighting for are, as well as the deep (yet amazingly prone to invisibility) link between what surrounds us and our own choices.