Humanising your Brand and Marketing with Characters
Strange as it might seem, marketers often forget they’re in the business of communicating with humans. All effort goes into consumer-centric, rational activities such as business objectives, needs analysis, the buying journey, trigger events, social media channels and buyer personas; but where is the human factor in all this? As humans we want engaging and meaningful experiences, visual communication, stories and emotional connections. We react favourably to things with wow-factor, that offer us aha-moments and experiences that make us feel good.
In November 2012 Melbourne, Australia’s Metro Rail launched a viral video called Dumb Ways to Die – it became the 3rd most shared advert in history:
1. Music sales: Just over 100,000 copies sold to date
2. YouTube views: 62 million
3. Social shares: 3.94 million
4. Game: 15.1 million players
5. Earned media: $60 million in six weeks
6. Campaign results: 30% reduction in near-miss incidents for Metro Rail
There are several reasons why this marketing campaign became such a huge success the main one being that it took the human factor into account: it was entertaining, visual driven and it told a story. People loved it, shared it and made the campaign work.
Turn to the majority of websites and content marketing campaigns and they are as dull as dishwater. It’s as if the perpetrators of this tedium went out of their way to strip the content of personality and excitement for the sake of the “corporate” look. It’s supposed to present a sense of professionalism, but there’s no reason why it has to be impersonal, boring and fit some cookie-cutter dullness template.
Things are changing and it's not the business owners and marketers driving the change but the people they are trying to reach. People want more meaningful, authentic relationships with the companies they deal with. They want brands to connect with them on an emotional level.
Don't make the mistake...
It is tempting to think that the humanising aspect that people are crying out for in a brand experience does not matter because the competition isn’t doing it either. That is a big mistake. The competition for people's attention and custom is not just between competing companies or similar types of products. People spend money to gain something, solve a problem or protect themselves against loss. They are constantly adjusting priorities in terms of where to invest their limited resources. A dull website or uninteresting marketing message does nothing to shift that priority in your favour. Rather than becoming interested in what you offer they go off to find something else to spend their money on.
The Fear of being laughed at
Why do so many companies settle for uninteresting content rather than: ‘WOW, that's amazing, that's different?’ It is a fear of rejection; they would rather be dull and blend into a kind of tribal sameness than express their individuality and face rejection. When presented with the possibility of breaking out of the dullness mould they say things like: ‘That sounds risky,’ or ‘I'm not sure that will work for us.’ The result is a faceless company and being faceless slows you down. Some don't realise it and others are too paralysed to change.
The sad truth is that the sums for that kind of fear don’t stack up in your favour. Yes, some won’t like what you do and you will feel the pain of rejection. Those that do like it however, will embrace your expression of humanness and they will become your champions.
That dull, grey area in the middle, where people are not given a reason to feel anything, is the worst place for a brand to be in.
Such a brand is easily passed over, easily forgotten and never mentioned in conversations. They fail to make any kind of emotional connection and therefore convert significantly fewer leads.
Compare the Meerkatis an advertising campaign in the UK for comparethemarket.com, a price comparison website. The ads feature a group of fictional meerkats. Some people, as you would expect, don’t like the meerkats but despite this, the site's overall sales doubled in January 2008. By 2010 the site had increased its market share by 76%, whereas competitors’ share had fallen 30% over the same period. This is because despite the dullness of price comparison, comparethemarket.com decided to present their product in a fun, engaging and memorable format.
According to Google’s Eric Schmidt, people nowadays create as much information in two days as has been generated since the dawn of civilization. You don’t get noticed if you’re dull and boring. And it doesn’t matter how great your product is and how long the list of benefits is – if you fail to be remarkable in the way you talk about that product you will loose out.
It has never been easier to reach people but never more difficult to engage them.
How do you take a brand that people fail to connect with to one that they are passionate about? It is time for some irrational marketing. The type of marketing that focuses as much on the rational as on jumping out of the magic hat in a shower of wow factor. This is a drive to humanise your brand.
What do you need to do?
Be creative and different: People want something exceptional, something different, and something they’ve not seen before. Even if your product is perceived to be a commodity you can differentiate it in the way you present and talk about it. People want surprise.
Make an emotional connection: People want you to get them to care, or laugh, or think. They want to be shocked, curious or go “Wow”. They definitely want to feelsomething.
Project a rich personality: The way in which you present your brand, the look and feel of it, reveals the personality of the brand. People want personalities they can identify with, that are exciting, interesting and that have burned the boring grey suit.
Tell stories: People are wired for stories.According to a recent Stanford study, stories are remembered up to 22 times more than facts alone. In a world of noise, the best stories win. Be creative – when everyone tells the same story you're not going to stand out so you need to tell it in a unique, exceptional way.
Have fun: Above all, have fun. This ensures that you are going to stand out.
An amazingly irrational tool
OK, so you’re sold on the idea of creating more “Wow”. You want yourbusiness to be more human, project personality and for people to connect on an emotional level. You want to engage your visitors, captivate them with stories and build a loyal fan base that will boost your sales through the roof ... HOW?
There is a marketing tool that can do all those things and more – characters. Think about it:
They are brilliant at attracting attention.
They are ideal for explaining products, processes and systems in a story format.
They are masters of entertainment and creating emotional impact.
They project oodles of personality.
And they are one of the most versatile marketing formats imaginable – they can appear on your website, brochures, adverts, social media, presentations, videos, infographics and even games. This means all your marketing material will have a powerful, consistent and instantly recognisable look and feel that actually serves a function as well.
Please contact me if you want to know more about the awesome power of characters.