Humans have personalities. Robots don’t.

A brand’s personality makes it unique

I love a great, entertaining movie. Action, adventure, drama, romance, comedy… I have favorites in just about every genre.

But there are two kinds of movies I purposely stay away from: Dog movies, because I can’t stand to see a dog in peril—and 99% of the time the dog in the movie will be in peril. And robot movies, because they seriously creep me out. I’m all for advancing technology, but I’ve seen enough films to believe that we probably shouldn’t be trying to create artificially intelligent machines.

One thing that (for now) separates robots from humans is the machine’s lack of a personality.

Brands are made of people

Until robots become entrepreneurs, all brands today have humans behind them. So a brand should have a personality—a combination of personable characteristics that defines it. Because of the unique makeup of the humans inside it, no two brands can be exactly alike.

And yet many brands are afraid to let that personality shine—even if that personality could be the key element that draws a customer in.

Personality makes each brand unique

I’m not talking about going crazy—a brand can take expression in baby steps, gradually becoming more comfortable with sharing its personality. But take this recent Twitter exchange between AMC Theatres and Oreo: These two brands, in knowing themselves and their audiences, and allowing flexibility in their social media presences, saw amazing engagement not when they engaged with their customers, but when they engaged with each other.

It’s no secret that movie theatres don’t want you bringing outside food and drink into the theatre. They want you to buy your sweets and salties from them. But it’s also no secret that people sneak in food anyways.

But rather than put a corporate smack-down on Oreo—or ignoring it entirely—when the cookie brand asked a question of its Twitter followers about sneaking cookies into a movie, AMC Theatre’s Twitter voice, Shane Adams, had the freedom to show some personality. And Oreo’s Twitter author responded in kind, leading to both brands garnering positive attention among fans, followers and marketers alike.

Adams shared the background story and his thoughts following the exchange on his blog afterward, summarizing it perfectly: “If you’re a brand representative in social spaces, be sure that you understand your brand voice. Fight for an amount of autonomy where it makes sense so you can be agile and respond not just to customer service-related questions, but to the pop culture zeitgeist as well.”

Take a page from Oreo and AMC Theatres’ books

What we can all learn from this exchange, B2B and B2C brands and stewards alike:

  • Put people you trust in positions to represent your brand
  • Trust those people to represent you well, and let them do their jobs
  • Brands are made of people, so they shouldn’t sound like robots. People have personalities.

So go on. Embrace your humanness.

Because who wants a world where scenes like this become commonplace?

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Quality vs. Quantity

Why I’m a fan of Grey Poupon even though I didn’t cut the mustard

For the past several years, I’ve followed dozens of brands on Facebook. The experience has felt like the stereotypical frat party back in college — you go because everyone else is going, you drink rum-infused Kool-Aid because it’s what’s offered, you’re crammed into loud, crowded quarters and act like you’re having a great time. Like many companies’ Facebook goals and metrics, the success of the event is based on the number of partygoers you woo through the doors.

Collecting fans on Facebook is intoxicating. Hosting contests, promotions and giveways may increase the number of “likes”, but does it really create authentic, meaningful engagement with your customers?  Have we forgotten about quality?

Grey Poupon: cultivating quality connections

Grey Poupon is taking a drastically different approach to Facebook where quality connections rank supreme. Using selective criteria, they’ve established the “Society for Good Taste.” Once you apply to be a fan/member, an application scours your Facebook stats and posts for specific parameters (i.e., interests in classic literature, gourmet cuisine, luxury vehicles, geographic location and grammatically correct posts).

While I didn’t make the cut — which was incredibly surprising since I’ve never purchased their product (ha) — there are some key takeways for other brands:

Don’t forget who you are. By creating an exclusive club, Grey Poupon remained true to their sophisticated, elitist brand identity. In fact, the look and feel of their Facebook page is consistent with their legendary Rolls-Royce commercial from the 80s.

Instill competition. The competitive nature of the site is also generating buzz in both traditional and social media networks. Quite frankly, I was slightly disappointed when I received the rejection notice. Of course, I’ve told all my friends about the app and am anxious to see who makes the cut.

Identify ways to sustain interaction. After being denied membership, I was provided with four recommendations on how to improve future applications: watch PBS’ MasterPiece Theatre, listen to Mozart on Pandora, read Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, and visit an online Grey Poupon recipe book. In my opinion, these recommendations were very tastefully curated, since only one directly related back to their product and was useful information not product hype.

The power of nine quotes

Most memorable quotes from Connections 2011

One thing is for certain: A year or two ago, companies were struggling with the idea of how best to comfortably (that’s a key word) incorporate social media into their communications mix.

Now, the companies that are really succeeding have not only embraced social media, they’re realizing that in order to make it really work, they have to do two things: 1) make it a personal engagement and 2) trust and empower more of their employees to be the voices of their brand.

“The Power of One” was the theme of ExactTarget’s Connections 2011 user conference, and that very message was clear. According to Scott Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of ExactTarget, the Power of One explored “the power of an individual to change lives, the power of one business to change the world, and the power of cross-channel one-to-one marketing.”

Here is one powerful quote each from nine speakers who left me pondering long after their presentations concluded.

1. “Advertising is the tax you pay for being unremarkable.” – Robert Stephens, CTO of Best Buy. While it may seem counterintuitive for me—a person whose job is with an agency that recommends quite a lot of advertising for its clients— to like this quote, hear me out. This doesn’t necessarily mean that advertising should—or is going to—disappear. But the idea behind it, that each brand should strive to be unique, remarkable and engaging… that’s entirely on point. A lot of companies resort to advertising as a bit of a cop out, because they don’t want to put the effort into finding their true niche and being remarkable. But there will always be a place for advertising that communicates well and gets the word about a great brand into the hands of the people who need to know it.

2. “The B2B audience has the expectations of a B2C consumer.” – Mandy Lewis, Acquity Group. Many B2B marketers use their B2B status as an excuse not to implement an engaging web, social or mobile strategy. What this quote does perfectly is remind us that each customer, whether B2B or B2C, is a person. And people are using web, social and mobile means to engage with brands around the world both at and outside of work. They’ve personally begun expecting a smooth experience when it comes to making purchases online, finding the information on a website that they’re looking for, etc. B2B companies can no longer hide behind that extra ‘B.’ It’s time to step up and find creative ways to engage your customers.

3. “Cross-channel marketing: Think of it like a pinball machine instead of a bowling alley.” – Chris Baggott, Compendium. To some, “cross-channel marketing” may sound like “more messages, more work.” But cross-channel marketing should instead translate as, “I have this great message, now how can I make sure that I can effectively communicate it in more than one way?” Doing more planning at the start for how you’ll share your content at the end will make you more consistent and efficient. Not all content is appropriate for being a feature on your website, and not all content is worthy of a whitepaper. But all content worth sharing is blog-worthy. Start there. Make your blog your resource and repository of content, then it becomes a launch pad for sharing it in multiple channels.

4. “98% of people open their mail at the first opportunity.” – Stat from USPS, relayed by James Michelson, VDP Web. The USPS has found itself in the headlines recently with its budget woes, and we all know its volume has decreased with the massive amount of communication being conveyed online. But direct mail is still a channel that can be a great, proven tool in your marketing mix, especially when you utilize good-quality and enhanced data for personalization. The companies I heard from in this session have seen great success using direct mail to support their email marketing efforts in particular.

5. “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” – Tom Arrix, Facebook. This quote is hung throughout the halls of the Facebook offices. Try thinking about your possibilities in “What if…” statements instead of “We can’t because…”

6. “Mobile is the digital superglue.” – Brad Rencher, Adobe Systems, Inc. Mobile binds our offline and digital experiences—we’re in close physical proximity with our phones all day. Forrester expects that in the next five years, mobile marketing will grow by 38%—faster than both search and email. What does that mean for your customers, and how can your business best leverage mobile? It could be as simple as starting with a mobile-optimized version of your website, or it could be as involved as creating an app for each mobile operating system. Do the research with your customers, and figure out how it can work for you.

7. “Value your customers for their influence in addition to their spend.” – Matthew Thomson, Klout. It’s the same adage that is worth repeating endlessly: when people like something, they’ll tell others about it. Your biggest fans are your best evangelists, because people trust their friends’ recommendations more than marketing messages. Reach out to your customers in personal ways, and be sure to do some research into which ones are already shouting your name from the rooftop. They’re people you want to know, even if they aren’t your biggest spenders.

8. “Social media is a job today, but soon, it will be a skill.” – Jay Baer, Convince & Convert. Remember when “typist” was a job title? We have social media managers today, but it won’t be long before this will be a skill that each person will be expected to have. Social media gives you a way to engage personally with your customer, and your company’s social media experts shouldn’t be siloed away in the marketing department.

And finally, a powerful quote that isn’t directly related to marketing, but certainly was memorable and puts life into perspective: “May all your boulders be blessings.” – Aron Ralston, inspiration for the film 127 Hours.


Related posts:
Connections 2011: ExactTarget’s user conference wows again


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