Thursday, May 28, 2009

Is your brand personality boooooring?

Brand personality has always been important. (Duh.) Now, for brands in social media, it matters more than ever. When a brand enters social media it should take a long hard look at how its personality is stacking up in that context. Welcome to the personality contest, folks. Bring it.

Let's use the airline business as an example. It's one that I know reasonably well, having worked on the American Airlines business at their agency in Dallas a few lifetimes ago. American has always been a seriously conservative brand. I would describe their brand personality as professional and efficient. It's the LinkedIn of airlines. Yawn. 

When you walk into the par-tay or networking event known as social media, is professional and efficient how you want to be seen? Does that cut it? While those traits are relevant for the frequent business traveler, which admittedly is American's bread and butter, isn't there a little more to it that that? Their stated customer commitment on their website is "safe, dependable and friendly" air transportation. So what does friendly MEAN in a social media environment? 

Does it mean civil and pleasant responses to customer inquiries, as American seems to provide via @AAirwaves on Twitter? I think it takes more than basic courtesy to be seen as a friendly brand, though I applaud them for being responsive. 

Does it mean a rapping flight attendant, as for Southwest Air, which in 2008 was named the Most Admired Airline by Fortune Magazine - probably one or two business travelers reading that, I'm thinking - and the Friendliest Airline by A huge part of Southwest's popularity is, in fact, driven by its brand personality, carried through each customer experience touchpoint. Maybe rap isn't for everyone, and as I understand it, the Southwest Flight Attendant, David Holmes, started the rap thing himself. But that's because the company created a culture of personality in which he could do that. 

I would say there are plenty of other ways for American - or any brand - to use social media to humanize its brand. That's half or more of the advantage of these new tools, isn't it, the ability to put a face on  your brand? 

When I go to American's channel on the new YouTube beta it's mostly junk about their new planes. Social media is NOT about your planes, your sale, or your junk. It's about people. Personalities. Stories. 

What's the rest of your competitive social sphere look like? Maybe you've also got a brand like AirTran, with its crowdsourcing site and winning points by being the first airline to offer WiFi on every flight. (Hopefully, you do not have their social "hate" groups created by customers.) Based on the Tweet I showed at the start of this post, I would say that when you choose to go social, you are putting yourself in a position where you are going to be compared, and you need to deal with that fact. 

I'm not saying any of this to dis American. I would actually give them a pat on the back for being social, and figuring it out, and doing some good things. (And I did try to contact @billysanez from American to get his perspective, but strangely enough have not heard back. Go figure.)

If your brand or your client is participating in social media, take the time to step back and reevaluate 1) what your personality is and whether it needs to evolve and 2) whether how you are expressing it is strong enough. 

What do you think about how brand personality needs to evolve?

1 comment:

  1. I think the problem is too many corporations are too strict. Granted I know some industries are highly regulated so getting into the social space is somewhat difficult, but the majority? Give me a break. The approval process for some companies is just ridiculous when it doesn't have to be. Having five layers of approval before somethings able to be posted online just shows how much trust is put in their employees. None.

    Corporations need to get out of their old ways and embrace the changes.