OCTOBER 11, 2019

Personification of Brand: 

A Challenge Guaranteed to make any CEO Uncomfortable

CX 2.0 2020 platform

Imagine your company as a living entity—it can breathe, walk, run, eat, smile, laugh, cry, and even make friends. Now, imagine it in front of a mirror, staring at its reflection. What does it see?
Is it male or female? Is it a child, a teenager, a young adult, middle-aged, or closing in on retirement? Is it vibrant and full of energy, or lethargic and barely scooting along? Is it happy, sanguine, bitter, sad? Is it skinny, fit, a little plump or downright overweight? Is it confident and secure, or not so much?

What else do you know about this business reflection?

Is it a world traveler, or does it stay close to home? Is it a planner, or a little reactive? Does it bring people together, or pull them apart? Does it make you feel safe? Is it fun to be around, or are people counting the hours until they get away? Does it attract great people? Does it have many friends?

The company’s friends include the employees, customers, investors, and vendors. How would they describe this living entity that is your company?  Do the employees see empowerment, excitement and purpose. Or, do they only see a means to an end? Do vendors love the partnership and feel like a part of the team? Or do they feel like a supplier, never appreciated or acknowledged for their part in its success? Are the investors proud of what they’ve helped build, or are they worried about recouping their investment? Do customers see a products and services company that they can count on and want to promote, or  one that doesn’t deliver on their promises?

Now, let’s answer these questions about SocialSurvey. It is young and vibrant. It is not yet as fit as it can be. It is mostly confident, but insecurities do come up from time to time. It travels the U.S. and soon the world. It is both a planner and a little reactive—at times a lot reactive. It brings people together, but doesn’t yet make them feel completely safe. It is fun to be around. It attracts great people and has a lot of friends.

As for those friends…

Employees at SocialSurvey feel like they are a part of something big and exciting. Coming to work is never a chore. Vendors mostly feel like partners and are appreciated for their part in its success. Investors are excited, but cautious. And customers feel like they are a part of the business. We are a tribe.

Take a minute and write this description for your company. Be as honest with yourself as possible. Maybe you should ask employees to do the exercise as well. What do you see? What does this say about your company, your future, and your brand? This is an exercise that should be done periodically as it is in constant flux. A single employee or customer can have a big impact on the results.

Let’s take  a minute to define what “brand” means.

Zappos founder Tony Hsieh, wrote in his book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose that “a company’s culture and a company’s brand are two sides of the same coin. The brand is simply a lagging indicator of the culture.” Marty Neumeier, author and speaker on all things brand, defines it like this: “A brand is not a logo. A brand is not an identity. A brand is not a product. A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or organization.” In other words, a brand is whatever customers and employees believe and feel it is.

Now, with this in mind, let’s look at a well known company—Subway®—through this lens. If I asked a Subway® executive to describe their brand, how would they respond?  Likely they would say, our brand is “Eat Fresh.” They would probably tell you about their animal welfare policy or their commitment to community. They would definitely want you to know about the entrepreneurial independence of their franchise owners.

But is “Eat Fresh” really their brand? Or is their brand the answers to the “personification of brand” exercise above? What do you believe and feel when you hear Subway®? This means that the brand is no longer what the company says it is. It is what the customers, employees, vendors, and partners believe and feel it is.

In my career, I have interviewed hundreds of potential employees. I often ask brand questions about their previous employment experiences. The majority of these prospective employees tell me that their previous companies have a set of values, but never really live them. “Yes, we have core values, but the company looks nothing like that to any of our employees or customers.” When I ask if they can recite any of their core values or mission statement from memory, I often get a blank stare. One guy said, “Have fun…I think. Although the place was not much fun.”

The CX 2.0 Audit is coming soon! In the meantime, think about your company’s internal and external promises. Is it male or female? Is it a child, a teenager, a young adult, middle-aged, or closing in on retirement? Is it vibrant and full of energy, or lethargic and barely scooting along? Is it happy, sanguine, bitter, sad? Is it skinny, fit, a little plump or downright overweight? Is it confident and secure, or not so much?

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