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Brand | Thursday, 25th June 2015

Brands are Human. So Digital is Human.

Written by Ed Muscat Azzopardi

The title of this blog is a logical leap that isn’t too hard to make. If Brands are human and they use digital media to express themselves, then the medium must be appropriately human. Let’s take a few steps back and examine brands first. We’ll get to digital a little later.

Deconstructing the notion of Brand

We could define the word ‘brand’ in any number of ways but, for the sake of clarity, we’ll settle for dividing the notion into three parts:

Brand Perception – What I think about your brand/product/service/self. No matter what you might say your brand is, the perception that I walk away with is mine. If you want to change my perception of your brand, you’re going to have to work hard at it. Really hard, because your brand’s perception is locked away inside the minds of your audience. This also makes it fragmented – plenty of humans out there (hopefully) means plenty of minds.

Brand Identity – The physical expression of your brand. Happily, you control every aspect here. You can throw time, money, effort, and inspiration at your Brand’s identity and it can look better as a result. If you plan things well, it can even tell the story of who you really are and what your Brand actually stands for. This brings us quite neatly to…

(Shared) Brand Purpose – This is the reason for your Brand’s existence. Why do you wake up in the morning (or afternoon) and do what you do to make your Brand unbelievably awe-inspiring? It also helps to share this with everyone around you. You can only get to where you want to go if everyone knows the destination and what you’re willing to do to get there. Defining your Brand’s purpose should be done in terms of who you are and not what you do.

Sometimes it is easier to think of a Brand in the way you think of yourself. There’s everything you do and express deliberately that could be considered an expression of your personal Brand. There’s the motivation that drives you that can be thought of as your Brand’s purpose. Then there’s what everyone thinks of you. Even if you try to influence everyone to think highly of you, you don’t always have control over everyone’s perception of you.

And putting a Brand into this perspective helps you define and deliver a significantly more human brand experience than one designed strictly around a product or service.


Why bother with human brands?

Because, whether you admit it or not, you want to be loved. The products and services that you hold dear are those that have treated you in the most human way possible. And it is because you want everything wrapped in love that it is evident that you must provide it.


Share the love

You don’t just want to sell your services. You want people to tell their friends and pets that they interacted with your brand and that they loved it. You want them to walk away feeling like your Brand has given them a bear hug that stops short of taking their breath away.

Remember that your customers want to feel connected to every choice they make rather than have them forced upon them. And customers keep choosing Brands that treat them as humans, time and time again.

Let’s recap. We’ve seen how the various components of your Brand ought be designed carefully around humans rather than products. Now that you’ve waved the magic wand of humanity over your Brand, let’s turn to the way you can spread the wonder.


The second renaissance

Digital is human

We are living the second renaissance. Following the Second Dark Ages (don’t look for this in history books – I made it up), the ages of mass-produced messaging that was meant for broadcast, we are now encouraged to think for ourselves and to express ourselves in whatever way we want to.
We don’t all sit and watch TV, passively absorbing content at a specific time of day. We choose what to consume and know that we can create our own content very, very easily. If a kid can create a YouTube channel in her Dad’s kitchen that attracts millions of views from around the globe, there’s no reason for anyone to be left out of this massively distributed opportunity to get spotted.


Two rules

We don’t like rules much. At least there are only two of them:

SHOW UP – in an era where the conversation is going on with or without you, there is every reason for you to dive in and actively participate. Be silent, and the world will gradually forget about you.

BE HONEST – Be true to your Brand. Every opportunity for expression must be a sincere reflection of the humanity of your Brand and consistent in tone of voice. Your audience chose against the arrogance of the broadcast generation and are in love with the honesty of today’s.


Human x Digital?

A human Brand that’s forced to use digital media can’t turn into a cybernetic monster. The humanity of the Brand must embrace the channels available to it and speak like a person does. Remember that whatever the channel, great brands ought to be:

  • Consistent (in premise)
  • Useful (because I have no time for useless brands)
  • Relevant (to the audience, the time, and the place)
  • Social (conversation vs broadcast)
  • Human (because you are)

Next week Teri will be covering companies that defy expectations. Can you think of any brands which seem to be winning when it comes to the human element? Share them in the Facebook group.

Ed Muscat Azzopardi

a little more about

Ed Muscat Azzopardi,

Ed was born in 1977 and, much to public annoyance, is still alive. He is passionate about food, the written word, brand, design, and a host of other activities that don't involve physical activity. In no particular order he is a pharmacist, a geek, a bad drummer and an even worse cook.