Just like people, brands come in all shapes and sizes. A brand is not a logo, colors, a fancy tagline, or even a fancy Super Bowl commercial. A brand is not your Facebook page, Twitter background, or set of beautifully designed Pinterest boards.
Your brand is all these things and more: It’s what you tweet, post, pin, +1, Instagram, and offer as a call to action. It’s what you write in emails and what you don’t. It’s whether you talk about yourself all day on Facebook or offer real value.
It’s how you manage crisis or how you don’t. It’s how well you listen and, most important, how quickly you respond when people request help or engage with you online or offline.
The living, breathing, human brand
The human brand is much like a living, breathing organism. Its true definition is determined by those who love, like, or even dislike you. A brand is made up of humans within your organization and finally defined by those outside your organization.
You can’t create a brand with a robot or algorithm. Yes, you can use data, analytics, research, and more as input to develop your brand and its brand promise, core messages, vision, and mission. Yet it’s people who select the final colors and tagline. It’s humans who post the status updates. It’s humans who read them. It’s humans who click like, pin, post, and share the content that the humans in your organization write.
On average it takes a minimum of six brand touches for someone to remember your brand. You had better make every touch count. It’s humans who decide whether they like you and whether they tell their friends good or bad things about you.
The sooner you can acknowledge the importance of becoming a human brand and the need to truly inspire and connect with your audiences, the sooner you will see results and progress as you integrate social media into the DNA of your organization.
Below are 13 characteristics of the human brand. I could write 100, because it’s impossible to define a human or a human brand with a short list. However, if you are wondering what human brands do and think, this is a good place to start.
1. They think like humans. You may be thinking that brands can’t think. Well, yes, they can. Human brands have people on the inside who think like humans. They don’t think like a cash register or corporate building. They think about things that human beings do, eat, like, and believe.
2. They care about humans. They care about the humans they engage with. They care whether they are happy, sad, satisfied, frustrated, hungry, or full. They care about their needs, wants, problems, and desires and about offering them real value, not just nonsense marketing tactics. It matters to them that they are cared for. They care about all the people in their ecosystem, from customers to the board of directors. They keep them in mind in all their decisions.
3. They value relationships. Human brands value people more than dollar signs. They are not willing to trade a dollar for a relationship gone bad. They know that investing in people is the only way and that relationships are both the cake and the icing of personal or professional success. You won’t see the human brand buying fake Twitter followers or Facebook fans. They value real human interaction and authentic relationships.
4. They listen to other humans. Human brands listen more than they talk. They speak when they must but always have an ear open to how their audience, clients, partners, and stakeholders respond. They know their Google Analytics and other website data, and analytics is a gold mine. They use the data to listen and learn about their audience, not only to convert the transaction to a sale. On social media, you’re likely to find them listening more than talking.
5. They talk like humans. Human brands don’t talk like robots or corporate collateral. They speak in language that other humans read, hear, and understand.
6. They have a personality. What is your brand personality? Is it serious? Fun? Engaging? Inspiring? All of the above? Human brands have a personality that inspires and connects them with their audiences.
7. They show they’re “human.” In line with their personality, human brands aren’t afraid to let their humanity show. They laugh, giggle, sing, dance, talk, and might even get frustrated. They often let you see the people behind the avatars, as they know they are their own best ambassador.
8. They own their mistakes. No human being is perfect and no brand is perfect, because it is made up and defined by humans. Human brands are humble. They make mistakes just like you and me, and they aren’t afraid to own it.
9. They are available. Are you available when your online or offline audience wants you to be? Do you respond to questions in a timely manner? Are you even available to answer questions? Or do you hide behind a corporate Web form, and fill your Twitter and Facebook stream with corporate-speak? Human brands make themselves available. Even if they can’t be there 24×7, they let their audience know when they are available.
10. They know themselves. They know who they are and what they offer their customers, partners, online community, and friends. They know their strengths, weaknesses, and sweet spots. They know how to talk and listen, as well as what makes them shine. They don’t guess what to post or pin as they engage with confidence and pride.
11. They know their audience. They know what their audience wants and how to provide it. They know that if they inspire, connect with, and help their audience to achieve their goals that they will, in turn, achieve their own goals as well.
12. They are agile. Human brands do not sit static; they evolve. Because they are always learning and listening more than talking, they are able to move and evolve with confidence and agility. They don’t have to jump on every shiny new object; they jump confidently at the right time. This offers them an extreme level of competitive differentiation.
13. They invest in people. Human brands invest in listening, learning, training, empowering, building teams, and creating a culture that enables their brand to shine. As Sandy Carter of IBM says, “Culture eats strategy for lunch.” Even though I am a strong believer in strategy, I agree. Without investing in culture and people, brands can’t be human, whether they’re internal or external.
Pam Moore is CEO and founder of Marketing Nutz. A version of this article first appeared on TheMarketingNutz.com.