CreativEnergy created the logo for FreshU Grill & Juice Bar in Hoboken, NJ.
MARCH 31, 2016 @ 12:59 PM / By Jayson DeMers, Contributor Forbes.com
Companies are in a bit of a crisis in the modern era. Even though consumer-brand trust is as important as ever, the sad fact is, people don’t really trust brands. They see corporations as faceless profiteers, a sentiment brought on by tales of corruption in big business, the 2008 financial crisis, and constant bombardment of advertising over the past several decades. Any message that comes from a corporate brand is instantly given extra scrutiny.
There’s a solution for this, and its concept is straightforward (though the execution gets a little trickier). Since people trust other people more than they do brands, all you have to do is make your brand seem a little bit more like a person—you have to humanize your brand.
Here are five practical strategies to help you do so:
1. Imagine your brand as a fictional character. Your brand needs a human voice, and a personality, but it’s hard to assign those qualities to a logo or a corporate name. Instead, try assigning them to an actual personal framework. Come up with a fictional character who represents your brand, and flesh out all the details. Who is this person? What’s their name? How do they dress? What’s their favorite food? What are their likes and dislikes? Are they excitable or calm? Formal or casual? These questions will help you imagine a real personality to serve as your brand’s avatar, and from there it’s easy to slip into that mentality. This is the best way to have to almost literally humanize your brand.
2. Stop scheduling social media posts in advance. I’m a big fan of social media scheduling tools. They take some of the pressure off, letting you write and schedule posts in advance. You never have to worry about dead space or empty newsfeeds, but at the same time, you distance yourself from your audience. You may spend time to come up with casual, personal messages, but if you’re doing them ahead of time, people will probably notice. Instead, rely on your abilities to react to things in the moment—you’ll naturally come across as more human, and your users will notice the difference. It comes with more pressure and a larger time commitment, but it’s well worth it, especially for faster platforms like Twitter.
3. Engage in conversations. Don’t just post ads to your users; engage them in conversation. Ask them what they like and what they want to see. If they tell you they like one of your posts, thank them for their readership. If you see your audience members commenting on an external thread, jump into the discussion. This shows that you’re paying attention, and that you care about more than just one side of the conversation. The more you engage with your users, the more likely they’ll be to see you as a trustworthy, personal entity. Again, this requires more work; it’s easier to sit back and throw out an extended monologue. But when you engage with individuals, you’ll instantly cement those individuals’ loyalties, and you’ll look good to everyone else looking on.
4. Be funny. Humor has a primal way of connecting us. When we laugh together, we tear down walls and bond with each other—it’s why we’re more likely to laugh when we’re surrounded by people we care about than we are when we’re by ourselves. When you make your users laugh, you show them that you don’t take yourself too seriously. You show them that you enjoy humor just like the rest of us, and that you aren’t afraid to set aside the formal professionalism of your brand for just a moment to experience a human moment. Obviously, the type and appropriateness of humor you use will be dependent on your brand, but self-deprecating humor and tongue-in-cheek references both work especially well for audiences. You don’t have to be a consistent comedian, but you have to throw out enough references and asides to keep your audience feeling good about you.
5. Use personal brands in conjunction with your corporate brand. Brands aren’t entirely limited to the corporate realm. If your corporate brand just isn’t doing enough to personalize itself, or if you want an added boost, you can humanize it by proxy by using a number of distinct, related personal brands to support it. For example, you could encourage your corporate leaders and top salespeople to start engaging more users in conversation on social media, or ask them to syndicate and redistribute content posted by the corporate brand. This shows users a more human face, and a side of the brand that’s more “real” and accessible. As an added bonus, you’ll get more visibility for whatever content you push out, and possibly better opportunities for leads and partnerships.
These strategies are all meant to add a more human element to your brand, but there’s an even simpler strategy you can use independently or in conjunction with the tactics I listed above; be yourself. Instead of trying to mathematically calculate the perfect way to create a “human” brand voice or trying to predict all your users’ behaviors, just stop thinking like a corporation and start thinking like a person. How do you talk to people in your own life? How do you relate to people? These considerations should be the driving force for your branding campaign.
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