We can’t help it. We’re all human. We can’t resist overhearing other people’s conversations. On the bus. In a cafe. At a conference. If you overhead someone talking about you or your business, about your brand, what would you hope they’d be saying? Almost certainly you’d hope they would be things about how you are. True things about how you behave.
What people say, of course, is what is true for them. They would be things that are likely to be describing your personality. After all, and uncomfortable as it may seem, your personality is what’s in their head. Successful brands are those that enable people to have the same bunch of ideas about them in people’s heads, whether or not they are a customer, or an employee, or an investor.
Why’s this important? For several reasons. First, and assuming they aren’t talking to themselves, they are talking to someone else. They are passing on your brand to someone who may not know you, or know you very well. Assuming they are trusted by their friend, they will start to fix their own opinion of you. Secondly, their view is right, because it’s what true to them, however much you may disagree. And, finally, this may not be influenced by some of your strictly controlled marketing messages, but by experiences.
Brand experiences are shaped by so many different situations. From what they read in the paper or in social media, from a letter or email, from a call centre or meeting one of your employees at a party. Too many to think of.
Start with your purpose, your ‘why’
As a brand owner you can influence people’s understanding of your brand by starting with your purpose, why you do what you do. How does someone who believes in what you do expect you to behave? What’s the right right way to behave so that the impression you leave, the way people talk about your personality, how you’re overheard, is true, and the way you’d rather be overheard.
This is not the point at which I’m going to advise you write a brand book of rules. I’m going to suggest you do something much harder. I’m going to suggest you inspire people.
We can all think of people who inspired us. The memory of them, the understanding of their ideas, predetermines how we expect them to behave. If you work for them, and you hold, or aspire to uphold, their values and beliefs they will inspire you to behave the same way.
These values and beliefs we call your brand ethos. They drive behaviours and allow people to talk about your personality, allow you to be overheard, in way that is consistent with our brand ethos. These things make up the culture of your organisation and help decide how it’s run, the way it delivers products and services, recruits new people and deal with all the people that business needs to engage with in order to flourish.
Your personality stems from your ethos
In order to ‘live the brand’ and live up to your purpose, clearly describe your brand ethos. What sort of values and beliefs do you hold dear, are non-negotiable, are bellwethers of your decision-making? Once you have these you can decide on the resultant behaviours, what are the principles you will use to guide them, and that will determine how you want to be overhead: your brand personality.
Test them. Ask your employees what they think customers think of you and how they would rather think of you. Ask your customers. They may not be how you are at the moment. If not, start to use the principles to make changes. Changes to how you design products and services. Changes to how you talk about yourself and design your identity. Changes to about almost everything you do.
Over time you’ll be able to measure the difference you’ve made by listening to how you’re overhead.
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