The Personal Life Of Brands

September 12, 2015 / BRANDS ARE LIKE PEOPLE

The Personal Life Of Brands

September 12, 2015

John Caswell Head Of Crayons, Group Partners

Read more about John and his story here.

Fascinating isn’t it—how we can immediately like or dislike someone and then have our judgment be proven to be so wrong. Furthermore it’s intriguing how so many of us are reluctant to confess to such instinctive human behavior.

That first impression of someone—that initial instinct sparked somewhere deep inside our soul—coursing like a crazed snake through our blood—increasingly supercharged by our impatient need for a conclusion—all kicked off within a split second.

Don’t Get Me Wrong. Please!

There’s much written about this human process at a deep physiological level. Put simply, when we meet someone, all our senses are working overtime to assess microscopic subtle signals. The impressions gained are formed rapidly based on personal conditioning over time—they’re synchronizing in realtime with our senses. The Good the Bad and the Ugly. That Movie That’s Forever Playing In Our Heads.

Don’t Let Opinions Form You

That handshake was weak, that dress was weird, what the hell sort of phone is that?

We have leaps of imagination and jumps to conclusions that form our perceptions. If we are honest there’s a whole raft of considerations like these clicking away as we meet with people—subtle cues that inform our opinions. And at some point during this jazz we’ve made a decision—Do we like that person or not? And we may not ever find out if we were right.

The Dreaded ‘Like’ Button In Our Heads

Like? What does it even mean? A friend taught me something important about decisions. He said, “A decision is an irrevocable allocation of resources and it’s not until later we realize if the allocation was positive or not.” Think about that. If it wasn’t an irrevocable allocation of resources then the accomplishment would be a great intention—not a decision.

It’s Precisely the Same with Brands

If a brand cannot quickly or accurately express itself then it’s often confused and misunderstood. People are outstanding at jumping to a decision when it comes to brands. Some we live to regret. Some we live with in a lifelong marriage until death us do part.

Luckily for some brands, with deeper pockets, they have the slim chance to learn from these encounters. Brand experts are learning the definition of ‘brand’ that I am describing here—the definition that’s way beyond look and feel, mood boards and brand books.

A Way to Go

I spend my time trying to ‘read’ people and help them unlock the energy that’s trapped inside. I do it visually, face-to-face and large, really large so it attacks all of their senses and gets them fired up all over. I get them to think of brand as everything—I want them to understand it as forensically as if it were a living human being. I’ve also been pretty scathing of the branding industry over the years. Not because I’m not a lover of the field, or that there aren’t brilliant practitioners—because there are—but because, ironically, the industry has not done a great job of branding itself.

An Impossible Challenge to Brand

In the past year I’ve worked with at least 50 different companies. Admittedly the topic is usually focused on strategy, the future, survival and effectiveness—and it’s typically with the leadership team. On far too many occasions, brand is barely given lip service. The foundational topic of brand is often tacked on—not built in—and is considered distant to strategy in their minds.

I’m forever keen to make inroads—shifting companies’ appetites for the idea—moving leadership teams towards a meaningful evolution of their brands. And ?their reactions are visceral and polarizing. 

An All Too Typical Scenario

How many times have you or your team arrived at that point with a client (or perhaps within your own workplace) where a new strategy or vision is executed, only to be told that the existing brand can’t be changed too much. Or perhaps the discussion tails off because the appetite and capability to discuss all things ‘brand’ just doesn’t sit with this particular leadership team. In my humble opinion it proves what I already know—brand, its critical importance and what it means to every single business on earth, is still woefully misunderstood as a field.

What Businesses Need to Start Doing

Unless, and until, businesses can understand that their brand is a living ‘being’ and react with people just like we react with one another—then they can expect to be passed over as instinctively as we all do with each other. A successful brand grasps subtle nuances. It develops a true understanding and meaningful relationship with every audience. It must be malleable, and at the same time able to weather the storm, binding the business and all those who sail within it for the journey ahead. Everyone in the company has to understand its personality. And the brand needs to know how to flex and change with time—with the mood and the mode of the day, like humans do.

Businesses need to understand that all senses are working between them and others at all times. They need to know how to show up, when to be quiet and how to genuinely expect nothing in return. They must have the grace and charm to empathize and be invited to speak—to be there when required and not overstay their welcome. They need table manners. And they have to say please and thank-you with authenticity and belief.

Businesses have to stop ‘not’ keeping their brand promises. They have to stop thinking that coming into a room and vomiting their loud shouty voices until people walk out or buy in is not impressive in any way. They have to stop being annoying—in particular when people don’t need reminding of them. They need to stop thinking that the way they dress—with that ‘70s website—is in any way going to get people dancing. They need to smell great. And they have to drastically reduce their chances of getting me wrong.

Photo: philhearing

John Caswell Head Of Crayons, Group Partners

Read more about John and his story here.

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