Branding Blog

Because Brands Are Only Human.


In the world of branding, there is nothing more important than connecting with your customers. These days, it isn’t as simple as stating your name, laying down the facts and hoping you get noticed because of your stylish, sophisticated packaging. You’ve got to have pizzazz, an edge, something that’s instantly recognisable, and all that jazz.

One way companies are doing this nowadays is by humanising their brands.

By this we mean, lending human characteristics to their brands, or actually personifying their brands as a particular human (or human-like) character.

The best example of this is probably the funny, quirky Apple commercials, which portrays the brand itself as a younger, trendier, more laid-back guy, in direct comparison with the personification of the PC, an old, out-of-date, out-of-touch office salaryman-type character. The commercial not only makes the Apple brand cooler, savvier and more relevant, but indirectly provides a benchmark of what its USERS are like. It’s a smart play that’s solidified the game-changing attitude of the brand.

I'm a Mac

In Australia, a company called Black Squid Designs repackaged cauliflower (which is conventionally boring and bland) by imbuing it with distinct, charming personalities. Using 4 familiar names, they came up with characteristics, likes, dislikes and quirky attributes for the cauliflower itself. However, they also included interesting cooking suggestions for the cauliflower itself, staying clearly within the boundaries of what they wanted to sell, but doing it in a relevant, engaging manner.

Black Squid Cauliflower Packaging

Sure, by attempting this strategy, these companies, and many others around the world that have tried the same, need to take some huge risks.

What if that character you’re selling falls flat or just doesn’t appeal to the consumer?
What if the brand’s persona reminds a particular customer about someone they despise?
What if people don’t get what the character is about?

That’s why, just like in every advertising, branding and communications initiative, it’s of paramount importance to KNOW WHO YOU’RE TALKING TO.

After that, it’s about finding the humanity in your brand, and taking it to the next level.

  • Peacemaker453

    Dear Bullet, 

    I’ve been following your blog for quite some time and I was wondering, what are your point of views, as a brand builder (as well as a brand on your own) on the issues of consumerism and over consumption? 

    I’d love to have some alternative views for a project I’m working on because I’ve seen numerous initiatives out there from anti-corporation/branding movements that mock and condemn ‘corporations’ and ‘brands’ by making all sorts of videos, posters etc. Bonfire of the Brands and AdBusters are a couple of the sort (though I personally see the latter as a bit of hypocrite as they seem to be using branding technique to maintain a loyal fanbase) (The Good Consumer)

    The above is an example of how condemnation of consumers takes place, inadvertently putting the blame on brands.

    What is your take on the issue especially in the context of Asia? Do you think that Brands and corporations should pay heed to this movement/train of thought or is it just another fad that seems to thrive in the trending age of hipster-dom? 

    Would really love to hear some thoughts from you!

    • A good question. My take;

      In today’s consumer empowered age, bad brands/corporations who promote the wrong values or wrong consumption habits die a natural death. Only the strong (as in brands that add value) and relevant survive. How do these brands survive to keep adding value to their constituencies? By telling the truth about themselves. Even fast food companies (in Msia) called a truce among themselves and mutually agreed not to air their TVCs during high traffic cartoon viewing times. There are no bad products or bad food, just bad consuming habits. Bad products just like bad brands die in this ultra competitive marketplace.

      Peter Gan

      • Peacemaker453

        Dear Peter and Vincent,

        Thank you for your answers. May I quote your replies in a project that I’m currently working on? It is about educating the ‘new consumer’ in a consuming society. I believe that instead of blaming corporations and brands, consumers should be aware that as citizens, they also have the choice to develop more sustainable lifestyles and consumption habits for themselves (and the people around them).

        Once again, thanks. 

    • Hi Peacemaker,

      My take on the subject.

      I don’t think the problem is with branding as a whole, but rather with its use as a driver for consumerism. What these organisations rail against are the blatant materialism, capitalism and over-consumption that many brands encourage, not the act of branding itself. The rise of the No-Brands, No Logo movement led by stalwarts like Naomi Klein are a reaction to the untouchable status of big brands and their seeming omnipotence. But not all brands are big, extravagant, world-conquering, shadowy and manipulative.

      The neighbourhood hardware store down the street from my home does a great branding job simply by fulfilling the varied needs of homeowners in my area, coupled with excellent, personalised service. 

      A small chain of noodle shops with a presence in the suburbs where I stay serves generous, delicious and consistently high quality food whichever outlet I go to, and is known for its extremely spicy chili that is a brand hallmark.

      A local organic produce distributor that I frequent is well known in health food circles for its community outreach programmes and educational initiatives, in addition to its affordable prices and sustainable production practices.

      These are examples of high impact branding done right, fulfilling promises and meeting needs, creating customer delight and satisfaction, building long-term value and affinity, all without bottomless budgets or motivating unbridled consumerism.

      Why would anyone want to bring THEM down?

      Vincent Chan

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