Brands are people too.

“We often make sense of other things by viewing them as people too.”
– Mark Turner

You’re smart. When you see something you don’t completely understand, you’re smart enough to fill in the blanks. Simple enough.

This has huge implications. Particularly for brands. Psychology & Marketing suggests that  “unlike the product it represents to the consumer, a brand is in reality an abstract; a construct,” which means, brands fall in the “difficult to understand” category.

So what? So it means people understand brands like they understand other people. People form daily networks of friends, colleagues, and family around them. They  also construct webs of brands they are loyal to in the same purposeful manner. You have your workout partners and your favorite running shoes. Your foodie friends and favorite restaurants. Your carpool buddies and your commute.

This leads to two important things:

  • Brands need to understand the daily lives of their consumers and show consumers their utility within those lives. How can brands enhance the lives of people by making the stuff they already do better, easier, more enjoyable.

  • Brands are reciprocal relationships. Susan Fournier and Max Blackston first established brands as relationship partners in the 90’s; but in a world of social media consumers speak directly to their brands and tell them what they want. And what they don’t want...

According to business magnate Richard Branson, “too many companies want their brands to reflect some idealized, perfected image of themselves. As a consequence, their brands acquire no texture, no character, and no public trust.” We all love our friends as much for their imperfections as anything else.

Brand builders can push all messages they want, but in the end, brands exist in the minds of consumers. Modern consumers have a voice and want brands to be reactive and responsive to their demands, their lives and their values.

Wendy Clark, CEO of DDB Worldwide, was just featured in the Adweek Women’s Issue as one of 4 top women influencers creating a “culture of change” in media and comms. Clark says she will not rest until DDB “reflects the marketplace [it] serves.” To fit lives of the modern consumer, brands have to listen like people and act like the people they are understood to be.

Chief Creative of Los Angeles’ Kaster and Partners Brandon Rochon put it thusly: “I have always believed that people don’t invite brands into their houses. They invite people in. So for a brand to really be relevant and powerful and meaningful, we have to talk to them as a person.” 

What does this look like in practice? Take Tim Ferriss and his podcast as an example. Once you have a person’s attention, you can no longer bombard them with random sales pitches or you will lose them. You have to sell them products that fit their lives and add value. Ferris explained that he turns down “millions” in potential sponsorship revenue (80% of advertisers that proposition him) for his podcast (which has over 70 Million downloads as of April 2016) in order to stay true to his audience and only advertize for products that add value to his customers in a recent post on LinkedIn. This is truly listening to the pull of the customers and letting that drive your strategy. And the numbers show it pays off.

Brands are no longer the sole drivers of brand significance.

Now consumers fit brands into their lives and form their own brandscapes, influenced by branding, but not singularly defined by branding. All exposures to a brand build a fuller picture in the minds of consumers. Ones you control, and ones you don’t.

Consumers build relationships to brands that are useful to them. They use brands that help build out and extend their personality. And that add real utility.

So where does your brand fit in this world? What does it say about the people that consume it?

Straight from a Job Application: What makes a great community manager?

One of my previous copywriting clients was For those who are not familiar, sets out to do what Yelp does for job seekers. They want to provide information on the types of work places and companies are best for employees to make job seekers more informed. In getting to know their brand and product, one feature that stood out to me as a job seeker was that you could see lists of questions that employers had previously asked in interviews. Needless to say, this is great for interview prep. 

With this in mind, I give you some questions (and my answers) I recently had about a community manager position.

- What makes a great community manager?
A great community manager is someone who can put themselves in the shoes of those whose community he/she manages. You have to interact with your community as an insider and meet them where they want to be meet, providing relevant, brand-centered answers to the questions that community is asking. People fill their lives with a web of brands to fulfill their relationship needs. The job of a community manager is understanding which relationships your company or product can fulfill and then answering that need. 
- What are relevant metrics for tracking social media success?
Social media success can be tracked in a myriad of ways, the most obvious being growth in terms of page likes/followers depending on platform. What's more interesting is taking the time to look through comments, shares and likes and seeing what types of people are engaging with your profiles and encouraging engagement, not from the masses, but from the specific target audience that will eventually be the consumers of your product. If you only sell in France for instance, it is important to have the right international engagement that gives your product the clout it needs but having a large number of followers come from Dubai is less interesting for what your ultimate goal is. In the end, community management should lead to engagement, which should lead to consumption. If you break any link in that chain, you are wasting time. 
- How would you deal with negative comments or a brand reputation crisis?
Any brand is subject to the opinions of the consumer. Today, the consumer has a multitude of platforms, little soap boxes, from which to yell their opinions. It is said that 70% of customer service complaints via social media go unanswered. The best way to deal with negative comments is to see them as allegories for groups of unsatisfied customers and to answer those comments that you can actually, tangibly help with and those that are going to be relatable to the largest portions of your end users. This way you maximize your effort by answering one person's complaint, that will be seen by many. 



What is Cultural Competency?

Cultural Competency. I will admit it sounds like a buzzword for some new position that they just invented at your office but there are some very important things to understand about Cultural Competency.

Take this ad in the Metro (Ligne 8, Opera et Strasboug St Denis). 

The copy is as follows: Run on Impluse / Want it more.

The translation at the bottom of the ad reads: N'importe où - N'importe quand - Cours / Dépasse-toi


Premièrement, le français re-traduit en Anglais donnera "No matter where, no matter when - Run" et puis "surpass yourself"

Si le but du traduction est de donner des idées entièrement different à ceux qui peuvent lire l'Angalis et ceux qui peuvent pas, c'est une réussite. If the goal is to give a culturally relative translation of what was said in English then the ad should read "courez à tout instinct" and then "desirez davantage".

The difference is small in terms of wording but tremendous in terms of significance and meaning. What you are looking for in an English native copywriter working in France is someone with a culturally relevant aptitude in both French AND English who is able to understand both in a way that allows him to move ideas from one language and culture to another. This is a very unique person. 

Cultural competency is the ability to understand things in a cultural context when moving them from one cultural space to another. The key is having a deep enough understanding of the space from which you are moving the ideas AND the space you are moving them to for them to have the same culturally relevant meaning in both spaces.

If you have any further questions about whether Andre Can Write or not, please do not hesitate