Brand as Person: the evolution towards a more human approach
In the past, the brand was identified by a concept often built up to create an ideal identity that the company wanted to represent and communicate to its customers. Today, however, the identity of a brand takes on much broader and more experiential aspects and relationships, sometimes even difficult to control.
Brand is a complex set of perceptions, emotions and experiences that people associated with a company, product or service.
This complexity stems from the digital democratisation of communication, which has increasingly led us to associate the identity of a brand with that of a physical person, or rather a community of people who recognise and talk about it … employees, customers, influencers.
The evolution of Brand identity in the digital age
The digital era has led to greater ‘transparency’ whereby the brand is like a glass box. As we all know, the value of a brand is mainly based on its reputation. However, unlike in the past when reputation could be managed in a controlled manner through the media, today anyone has the opportunity to express their opinion on the brand and thus influence its reputation. Therefore, it is vital that a brand maintains a consistent correspondence between its statements and its actions.
To achieve this consistency, it is essential to clearly define the brand’s identity and personality, and to ensure that this identity manifests itself in an empathetic manner, resonating with and sharing the principles, values and expectations of the individuals it addresses.
It is for this reason that the values expressed by a brand have become increasingly important and human, close to people’s interests.
What was the spark that started the evolution of the brand recognition process as a person?
The process of recognition between the brand and people’s identity started when some visionary entrepreneurs put their face and personality at the centre of their brand communication, thus becoming the first brand ambassadors.
Steve Jobs, for example, was one of the first entrepreneurs to establish such a strong identity relationship with the brand that he became the very expression of Apple’s identity. He became the first-person bearer of the values that Apple wanted to represent – experience, passion and an unconventional lifestyle – thus creating one of the first examples of Brand as a person.
Brand identity and the human to human approach
To be recognized and appreciated, the brand must establish a relationship of empathy with the community it addresses and which recognizes itself in the values expressed by its personality.
However, the experience of Apple, or of KFC have taught us that the brand cannot be associated with just one person because when this person is no longer there, the brand may go into crisis.
This is why the relationship between the brand and its community must concern all the people who are part of it and who are a direct testimony of its true identity, i.e. the employees (starting with the board, ed) who, recognising themselves in the brand’s values, communicate its identity through their experience, thus becoming the new brand ambassadors.
Following the same logic as the value of “reviews” made by people who buy a product and testify to the real experience of it, in the same way the person who lives the company and communicates its values, identity and emotions becomes the best ambassador of that brand because he is a “human” who communicates with other “humans”.
This new dynamic has led to a significant evolution of the brand and has generated the “human to human” approach that gives much more responsibility to brands in the process of creating and implementing their Values and Identity.
The “human to human” approach involves a rigorous process of creating one’s own identity, an assumption of responsibility by the board and also the active participation of employees at all levels of the organization in the process of Employer Branding and Brand Ambassadors.
However, companies sometimes make the mistake of confining the definition of brand identity to the boardroom, forgetting that this promise must be applied and consolidated within the company, at all levels. It is not uncommon to find inconsistencies between the ideas of the board and the perception of brand identity by the rest of the employees.
The brand identity consolidation process rests on two fundamental elements: the analysis of the perception of the people involved and the development of actions and activities that make the promise of Values increasingly consistent with the facts.
The key figures for the success of the Brand as a Person development process
As part of the development of the Brand as a Person, the essential professional figures to ensure the success of the process are:
- Chief Executive Officer. The company’s apical figure plays a role of primary importance. He is responsible for establishing the strategic vision and identity of the brand as a person. His involvement and his support are essential to create a corporate culture that supports the brand and its Values.
- Marketing Director or CMO. The Marketing Director, or Chief Marketing Officer, is responsible for the strategic management of the brand. He collaborates with the CEO to define branding objectives and develop the communication and promotional strategies necessary to convey the identity of the brand as a person. His role is crucial in coordinating company-wide branding activities.
- HR Director. This figure is essential to ensure that the identity of the Brand and its Values do not remain just communication proclamations, but permeate the company life and become an integral part of it, to make all employees feel the adherence and consistency of the brand promise.
- Employees. The best brand ambassadors as individuals are the employees themselves, especially those who fully share the brand’s values and identity. These employees become authentic spokespersons for the brand, transmitting its personality through their actions, behaviors and interactions with customers and the reference community, and can be involved in employer branding to become real brand ambassadors.
Involving these figures in a synergetic and collaborative manner is essential to encourage the development of the brand as a person, and to create a strong and coherent identity that is recognised and appreciated by the target community.
Brand Assessment Tools for Brand Identity Development
In order to define and develop the brand’s identity, as there are no specific tools on the market, LoP Brand has developed TYBe, a brand assessment tool to evaluate the brand’s soft skills.
TYBe is able to give back a correct and accurate image of perceived Values and the strengths and weaknesses of the brand, identifying the elements that slow down its evolution and that could compromise the company’s profitability.
The first step is to carefully analyse the perception of the brand within the company, focusing above all on its values.
This process of acquiring internal awareness is essential for defining the direction to be taken together with the board, and identifying the value issues on which the company undertakes to focus.
Once the values have been defined, it is important to evaluate whether they are shared and, if not, to understand the reasons for this misalignment. It is therefore necessary to work on integration, developing marketing activities and internal paths that favor the implementation of the established values, and creating a plan that leads to the acquisition of this awareness, both internally and externally.
In summary, the brand identity development process consists of the following steps:
- brand assessment with TYBe, to evaluate the brand’s soft skills
- evaluation of TYBe results
- redefinition or confirmation of corporate values
- the implementation of marketing activities that concretely consolidate this type of approach, both inside and outside the company.
As with any analysis and monitoring tool, this assessment should be repeated periodically, both to assess the evolution of the brand and the corporate perception, and because the brand, like a person, can also evolve and it is essential to ensure that the core values of the brand identity are always recognised and assimilated by all members of the corporate organisation.
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