Marketing Bootcamp

10 Ways to Wash Corporate Stink Off Your Cool Brand

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Your brand is your company’s identity, and serves as the crucial foundation to all your marketing and messaging campaigns. Accordingly, most businesses treat their brand as a kind of creation -- and expend all kinds of effort calculating, tweaking and adjusting it the same way they might tinker with the engine of a car.

Related: It's Not You, It's Your Story: Why Branding Matters

All of this this can be good, especially if those tweaks are rooted in data-based conclusions. Unfortunately, however, too much tweaking often results in a cold, mechanized "corporate"-like brand identity.

Because the thing is: If you want to truly connect with people, you need a humanized brand with a genuine personality. This may seem like a difficult feat to achieve, but you can use the following 10 tactics to get the job done:

1. Write from the heart.

When you’re trying to figure out your company’s brand voice, it’s easy to get lost by including descriptive qualities like “authoritative” or “mature.” And, yes, such qualities are hard to translate into warmer words.

But keep trying, because, otherwise, the end result may be swaths of writing that come off as insincere or contrived. Instead, write from the heart -- don’t worry about “seeming” sincere when you actually are sincere.

2. Cut the jargon.

No matter what level of audience you’re writing to (novice, expert or in between), cut out the industry jargon and buzzwords. These introduce needless weight to your material, and make you seem more like a corporation than a human. There’s always a simpler way to say what you want to say, so take that path of least resistance.

3. Show off your team.

Your brand isn’t cold and heartless -- it’s composed of some great people, so show these people off! Introduce a “team” or “about us” page, with pictures and biographies of some of your top team members. Try to capture their personalities rather than just list their credentials; and give them a chance on the site to show who they are.

4. Reach out to individuals on social media.

Too many brands use social media as a one-way megaphone, distributing messages to an audience rather than using targeted messages to engage with individuals. However, the latter approach is far more useful for building trust and establishing a real persona for your brand. You can’t always respond individually, but do so whenever you have the opportunity.

Related: The 6 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid When Building a Brand

5. Crack some jokes.

Humor relaxes the defenses and allows for a bonding moment, especially when the subject is a shared interest. So, crack some jokes in your writing, in your social media campaign and in any other customer interactions you support. Humor shows that you don’t take yourself too seriously and gives people a reason to bond with your brand.

6. Use real photos and videos.

Don’t stuff your campaign full of stock images and charts. Instead, rely on some real photography and videos of you and your staff members. For example, you might host a video interview with an industry authority, or use people in your office to illustrate a step-by-step tutorial. These visual cues will immediately make your brand seem more personal (and make your content more compelling at the same time).

7. Engage in conversations.

Remember the “social” part of social media. I already mentioned doing more to respond to individuals, rather than groups, on social media, but you’ll also want to participate actively in ongoing conversations. This will show that you’re actively monitoring your feeds and listening to real-time feedback, proving that yours is a "human" brand.

8. Let your employees be themselves.

Encourage all your employees to identify themselves as part of your company on their personal social media profiles, and allow them to post content as they see fit. The more personal brands you have operating under your corporate brand, the wider the reach you’ll achieve, and the more personal your corporate brand will seem to outsiders.

9. Admit fault when appropriate. 

Your brand isn’t perfect, and if you try to pretend that it is, people will notice and will resent you for it. When something goes wrong -- like a product recall or a temporary site outage -- don’t be afraid to admit fault. That move will earn you sympathy and show that, like every human on the planet, you are imperfect.

10. Stop marketing so hard.

Finally, follow this general rule: Stop marketing so hard. When you’re actively trying to sell a product or push a message, you naturally sound more artificial and robotic. Instead, trust your instincts and write what comes naturally.

People don’t trust corporations. They don’t trust machines. They do trust other people, though, and the only way to deliver your messages effectively is to show users that your brand is comprised of people.

These tactics aren’t the only ways to humanize your brand, nor do you need to use all of them to be effective, but they should guide you in some helpful best practices to make your brand -- and your messaging -- much more effective. 

Related: 7 Ways to Attract Millions of People to Your Brand