Does a Brand Need a Human Face to Connect With Consumers?
In his branding article published on Forbes.com, Jayson DeMers proposes that the remedy to waning consumer trust in corporate brands is personal branding. It is true that trust is a major factor in establishing strong consumer-brand relationships. However, personal branding is only one of several ways to attach human characteristics to a brand and create a connection on a personal and emotional level.
Personal branding must start with senior leadership to foster a true culture of brand ambassadorship. Many successful companies have established a corporate leader, the CEO for example, as an ambassador who embodies the company values and brand personality. Think Galen Weston Jr for Loblaws or Richard Branson for Virgin. While representing very different brands, each evokes a clear concept with automatic associations that reflect the brand image. This week in Toronto Metro News, Frank Techar, COO of BMO Financial Group connected to consumers by writing a personalized letter to Canadians that tapped into feelings of Canadian pride and nostalgia to encourage responsible financial management.
DeMers refers to businesses as “faceless corporations,” however humanizing a brand need not be taken literally – that is, we don’t necessarily need to associate a brand with a real, live human being to create a personal connection. Brands can take on human traits without the need of an actual person.
It’s the very “set of colors, font, style” (let’s not forget imagery and graphic devices) that DeMers mentions which culminate into what brand owners refer to as visual identity, putting a metaphorical face to the brand. It is rooted in deep strategic analysis and the result is an outward expression of the brand proposition and personality characteristics.
How a company is visually expressed is only half the effort in personifying a brand and creating a distinct identity. What a brand says (messaging) and how it is said (tone) is equally important in humanizing the brand and creating personal connections with consumers. It’s the combination of functional messaging with emotive drivers that strengthens the brand-consumer connection. Coca Cola’s Vitamin Water does an excellent job of using cheeky, street-style language to evoke a distinct personality that resonates with a specific target market.
The social media culture is a powerful tool in allowing brands to build emotional connections with customers. Given the brand participates socially in a meaningful way, engages authentically, listens, and reacts in real time, brand presence on social platforms is highly effective in humanizing a brand and building deep, lasting relationships with consumers.
While these tactics combine to humanize brands and create trust in the minds of consumers, at the core of every successful interaction is authenticity. When a brand is able to make an authentic connection with a consumer, be it through leadership branding, a strong visual and verbal identity or genuine social dialogue, it establishes a foundation for brand preference, loyalty and long-term advocacy.
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