Our Brands, Ourselves
Cheryl Burgess’ (@ckburgess) timely discussion of humanizing brands in the voices and persons of employees looks to the Apple “genius bar” as a prime example. I’d assumed it was a reverse riff on Best Buy’s longstanding Geek Squad (not sure if they still use the somewhat off-color accoutrements it used to have – “we can’t get dates” et al.). They both seem to be working, even if Apple’s lacks quite the humor. But Apple has always taken itself rather desperately seriously (that’s another topic).
Never before have frontline representatives been so significant and, often as not, problematic. I’m thinking of airlines, and United in particular, and the very mixed experiences we have at the hands of the motley crews who combine their theoretical safety role with serving us meaner portions, less often, and often as not without much grace. (I had 2 out of 2 rude attendants on a flight yesterday, and I was in first . . . .)
Getting some sort of alignment between the image the people in corporate HQ are trying to present (ahem, the smiling Smisek greeting us on every flight) and the IRL people who follow has never been simple – and has become the hallmark of success for brands who succeed (GEICO’s famous telephone manner – I have in 20 years never had a bad experience with them).
The option here is to go further – to seek to co-opt the voice of those on the team, not simply have them parrot successfully a voiceover from marketing. As brands get weaker for many reasons (only one of which is the click that can send us to the competition) this offers the strongest incentive to build human organizations in which every representative of the company truly, organically, shares its values and transmits them from the heart.
It’s a tall order, and will stay tall for companies that slowly subside in the social-driven marketplace that is emerging. But for those who can align the corporate voice with the personal, competitiveness and job-satisfaction will go hand in hand.