Content is the driver of many brand experiences – and even if you sell a product, often your marketing and thought leadership content is the filler that keeps the relationship strong and healthy. Great content engages, but it also defines a brand or author and helps people stay focused on the core message or value. Be it games or whitepapers or tweets or micro-sites, content is both integral and inextricable to the relationship. I’m also convinced that it needs to be more personal.
Especially as more social and content marketing is programmatic, the automation of personality can have a big impact on content marketing success. As in any brand personality, the characteristics must be authentic and sustainable. Unlike “human interactions” where we use lots of clues – behavior, physical characteristics, attitudes, beliefs, and demographics – to form opinions and likability, a brand personality is built through every direct or indirect interaction with the brand. Content is a common interaction – usually indirect but often direct, too.
Marketers have long given brands a “personality.” The brand personality enables a consumer to express his or her own self – or ideal self – by participating with the brand. Unlike product attributes, which tend to serve a utilitarian function for consumers, brand personalities tend to serve a symbolic or self-expressive function. We assign human traits to a brand like it was capable of interacting on a personal level. Now that social media is such a huge part of brand personality, it’s the people behind the brand that actually interact and give the brand its personal flavor. Having a large group of followers is meaningless if those people are not engaged. So the challenge is to how to allow the “real people” behind the brand to build a personal and enduring relationship that supports and doesn’t usurp or dilute the brand.
The social nature of our digital lifestyles has led to a new level of “sharing” of personal information. While I don’t think sharing private information in a business context is appropriate, sharing some level of personal information makes perfect sense. Yet, talking about the kids or your dog or morning commute via a brand account can extend the level of the brand relationship. No one pretends that the brand is an actual human being, but it does have characteristics and a voice that speak through social channels. We all know and value that there are people behind that Twitter or Google + account and that those people have lives and interests and experiences. Exposing some of that personal information as part of the content strategy is certainly appropriate and builds on the perception of the brand level persona.
- There have always been real people representing a corporate or product brand. The chief executive (CEO), for example, and the customer service reps, the front line employee, and product endorsers. The personality traits of the people are associated with the brand itself. Brand marketers often balance the need for a brand personality that is built on and linked to those people, but also can withstand any separation.
- B2B thought leaders and celebrities are real people, representing a brand (sometimes themselves as a consultant). It’s easy to think how a little bit of personal information – presence of a spouse, pet, child, or neighborhood – could help readers and fans feel more connected. Many go further – exposing personal passions (think Jerry Seinfeld and his beloved Mets; or Jay Leno with sports cars) that build a personal connection with fans that goes beyond the subject matter expertise.
- In B2C, the games or contests or promotions are often led by a real or fictional character. Consumers can easily think of brands as if they were celebrities or famous historical figures. Think Jolly Green Giant, the GEICO gecko, and Isaiah Mustafa (the Old Spice Man). That “person” is real, with interests and a style and usually some level of sass and cool.
Let’s face it. People expect that people will be behind the corporate message. They want to know those people, and so a personal story can add a layer of connectedness that is the essence of any relationship. Fifteen years ago, no one was sharing information about themselves – it was all business, all the time. Today, social community leaders, thought leaders and executives, and even small business owners are the face of the organization – and so making the brand “real” by sharing some personal journey builds relationships with customers.
For example, you’re sure to have amazing moments at your company that are awesome to share – like a Friday afternoon family day, a promotion for someone on the team, or the launch of a new product feature. Your reaction to those events is personal – but not private information – and thus makes the brand more real and connected to the humans that customers want to have a relationship with.
When you open up and allow some of your personality to blend into the conversations you have with your professional contacts, you can gain trust and respect from your clients and customers. How are you allowing the real you to improve and illuminate your content?