Purpose, personality, positivity: 3 traits of a human brand

Reading time: 4 minutes

It was my birthday last week, so I treated myself to new workout gear from a boutique store that I only knew about because the girls in the gym talk about it ALL THE TIME.

Until a few months ago, I’d never heard of it.
Never seen an advert.
Didn’t even know if the clothing would suit me.
Didn’t stop me from blowing 700 bucks on a cute set.

My order was delivered the same day, beautifully wrapped and with two extra goodies: a reusable shopping bag and a hand-crafted beaded flower, with a simple message:

“We hope your day just got better. Thank you for supporting small businesses during difficult times.”

And you know what, it did get better.

If you live in South Africa, you’ll be familiar with the sidewalk beaded creations. Starting out as a piece of wire, artisans shape them into brightly coloured and surprisingly detailed flowers, birds, dogs, sporting emblems.

You can even order a custom creation and pick it up without leaving your car.

I’ve always admired the creations from behind my windscreen, avoiding eye contact with the vendor because I can’t say no to people. And I don’t want a boot-full of beaded Hoopoes.

But the fact that I wouldn’t buy one for myself didn’t mean I wasn’t pleased as punch that I’d been gifted one.

Knowing that I’d indirectly supported another small business by spoiling myself made me feel good. Knowing that the boutique store – which itself had probably taken a knock due to COVID – was still helping families to put food on the table made me feel proud to be associated with the brand.

Based on that experience alone, Indelicate Clothing earned a customer for life.

No marketing needed. No sales pitch necessary. Just an authentic brand with a purpose, personality, and positivity – the three Ps of human brands.

The moral of the story is this: Your brand is not what you say it is; it’s what everyone else says it is.

It’s how people experience it and interact with it.
It’s a gut feeling.

And although you can’t manipulate a gut feeling, you can influence it by creating natural, authentic engagements with your customers. Ones that don’t feel forced and that make their days a little better, a little brighter.

So, when we say a brand should “act human”, what we mean is, it should have a conscience, a soul, a point of view.

That means your brand should:

Have a purpose

Know what you stand for and practice what you preach.

This goes beyond writing a vague mission statement that no one reads even though it’s plastered on every wall.

If you can’t remember your mission statement, it’s probably too long, too generic, or both.

A purpose statement is better. Purpose statements are short, memorable, and easy to recall. Yours should resonate with your team and proliferate your business so that people want to put your purpose into action.

Everyone should be accountable for living the brand’s purpose and embodying it in their everyday jobs. Otherwise, it’s just an empty statement.

Put it in your job descriptions, measure it in performance reviews, hire for culture. Build evangelism within your own walls first so that your people live the brand truth and are excited to come to work.

But take a 30,000-foot view at least once a year to assess if you’re living your purpose or if you need to re-evaluate things.

Have a personality

If your brand were a person, what would she look like? What clothes would he wear? What language would he use?

What adjectives would you use to describe her?

Bat-shit crazy?

These adjectives should be anchored in everything you do, say, write, and in how you express the brand visually.

Consistency is key. People “get to know” you when you show up consistently, which leads to them trusting and choosing you.

When it comes to defining your brand personality, don’t focus on what sounds good; focus on what is good.

Ooze positivity

It’s been a shitty 18-odd months for many people. Everyone is looking for a glimmer of hope and optimism – your brand can give it to them.

Just like Indelicate Clothing did with the beaded flower.

Infusing your brand with positivity is especially important when selling products that people don’t really want to buy – like insurance.

If you want consumers to choose your brand over hundreds of others, do something of substance. Remember that people make buying decisions based on how brands make them feel, so make it meaningful.

Clever human

Jacqueline Lieberman of Brand Crudo says a brand’s purpose is a melding of conscience, heart, and mind. I created this nifty little Venn diagram to illustrate how it all comes together.

Anatomy of a human brand

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