Should you be personal in your business and brand marketing?

Should brands be personalized? What about your business? Isn’t it more professional to be non-personal in your marketing? When it comes to creating an identity for your business and brand online, it can pay off big to be personal and raw.

Author: Frank Wazeter, Nov. 25, 2020

Should brands be personalized? What about your business? Isn’t it more professional to be non-personal in your marketing? When it comes to creating an identity for your business and brand online, whether it be for your website or your social media, inevitably there’s the question of where is the line between professional and non-professional content?


Traditionally, professionalism meant that things were somewhat cold. Cold meaning not opinionated, always on topic relative to the business itself and, well, corporate. Business wasn’t the time to talk about politics, sports, interests or hobbies not related to the task at hand. Perhaps initially in a sales conversation to break the ice, but everything else is ‘down to business.’


The golf course was meant for all the other stuff. 


As a result, content, branding, websites and anything else going into the business were always ‘corporate’ in feel, even if the person behind it was a small business with either no employees outside the owner or a small handful. 


Stay on topic. Stay on point and only market or talk about topics related to the industry and the business and nothing else.


Being overly professional in your business is killing your marketing.


In the conservative era’s of the 50’s and 60’s it made sense to be buttoned up about business. But times change and things become more casual. If you read a book published in the 50’s and 60’s versus a book published in the teens (2010-2020), you’ll find an incredibly big difference not only in vocabulary, but tone and writing style.


Consequently, people used to only wear suits into work and it was looked down on for women to work. You’d be hard pressed to find similar standards today. 


Expectations, what’s acceptable and societal standards all change over time. 


Corporations have to be ‘cold’ in their marketing and content.


Large scale corporations, with hundreds of thousands of customers and hundreds to thousands of staff members have to be at some level “bland” in their marketing and branding. The reasoning behind this is that they’ve got such a wide customer base that day to day operations are better served simply by not “offending” anyone, rather than truly making someone love the company and the product offered.


Consequences can be high with big corporations, where lawsuits can abound and you’ve got anti discriminatory legislation (which seems like it can apply to just about anything if you try hard enough), so opinions are ‘dangerous.’ 


Plus, can you imagine a company like IBM talking about sports on social media? Probably not. 


Yet, there is some precedent in major corporations to add ‘personality’ to their brands. See T-Mobile and John Legere’s bombastic personality. Legere was the perfect CEO and personality to tap into younger generations who wanted more engagement and more personality.


Prior to Legere, the most personality you’d put behind a cell phone company was that one guy who would go around saying “Can You Hear Me Now?” by Verizon. But Legere came in the midst of AT&T trying to buy out T-Mobile, the deal falling through, and last-place in the cell phone industry T-Mobile picks a fight with AT&T with Legere trolling them every step of the way. 


In fact, I’m pretty sure he tweeted out starting an internet fight with AT&T’s CEO at some point. These were very clearly not classically ‘professional’ communications and probably more likely to be seen historically on the racquetball court or on the golf course.


Fast forward almost 10 years later and T-Mobile has bought out Sprint, is one of three major carriers left in the United States and has a completely different brand and reputation and market hold as a definitive leader in the space. That’s quite the transformation from being known for being “cheap, unreliable, worst cell phone carrier.” 


Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk continuously and contentiously engages through force of personality alone and Apple became Apple because of Steve Jobs’ unique touch and way of presentation.


There are dozens of electric car manufacturers out there, but Tesla is the only one dominating the S&P 500. Apple’s iPhone is practically synonymous with smartphones like kleenex is for tissues.


Even in ‘Big Corporate’ there’s a precedent to make a definitive argument for adding personality to the brand and marketing communications. 


As a small business, if you’re communicating like the average corporation, you’re giving them all the power in marketing.


Small businesses can’t win and become market leaders by following the corporate playbook. You just can’t, it’s entirely different business and sales models that come with scale. A large corporation makes up for bland marketing by having an enormous sales force that does the heavy lifting of finding and closing new deals. Unless you’re prepared to go toe-to-toe with cold calling salespeople and invest in buying leads at scale like the corporations, you need to do something different as a business owner.

Reality is, no matter how ‘professional’ you make your small business, at the end of the day, it’s still going to be determined by you, the business owner and your personality. Even companies who are up to about 5 million in revenue per year are going to be massively influenced by the direct personality of the owner.


Even with staff of 10, 20 or even 30 people, customers feel direct connections to the business owner and company managers. The idea being they (company) will ‘take care of’ me because it’s local. Fundamentally, they’re going to do business with you because they “like you” as much as any other reason. Otherwise, why not go with the safety and security, if not bland customer interactions, of a much larger corporation? 


My best customers...correction my only customers at Wazeter Inc are customers who I genuinely connect with, whether or not I’m directly doing the work on their account or not. If a customer doesn’t connect with me or Alyona, then likely it’s just not going to work out. In fact, every time there wasn’t a connection or our values and interests didn’t align, the deal simply didn’t work out.


Service based businesses are extremely personality-dependent. People will exclusively do business with you based on whether or not they get along with you and trust you. The technical reasons they “cite” they did business with you aren’t usually the real reasons. They’re just the justification for choosing you.


And it doesn’t matter the size of the company either - whether it was a $6 billion dollar company or a start up that hadn’t made a single sale yet, we did business with the other party because we connected with them and they had faith we could deliver. 


That means they connected with our views, our values and our interests first. The fact that we could deliver on the job was the assumption. Not the reason for “buying.” 


Product based businesses are the same way, if you think personality doesn’t matter in product sales, then clearly you’ve missed out on the examples of Tesla, T-Mobile and Apple. If you like an iPhone it’s because of the personality types associated with it, which were originally determined and marketed by Steve Jobs. 


The image associated with the product and who uses it matters. Why would I buy a $500 Mont Blanc pen when I could buy a $50 Cross pen? Why buy a $50 Cross pen when I could buy a 10 pack of BiC pens for $5? Image and personality. 


Image and personality comes from the founders, the people behind the product


Conclusion - Should You Be More Professional or Personable In Marketing?


Personalities drive brand and business in modern times. Whether it’s big corporations striving to differentiate or small businesses growing with guerilla marketing, the business owners and founders personalities have a big impact on the marketing, image and perception of the brand.


At the end of the day, people do business with people and people today are seeking connection. They’re going to buy from the person who’s “like them” who likes the things they like, thinks like they think and can deliver on the promise of the product or service. 


If you’re being overly ‘professional’ and ‘cold’ in your marketing, you’re just giving your competitors an advantage and giving up your unique killer advantage in the market. Share information and content about whatever you feel comfortable sharing and you’ll find that more often than not it engages with the people who want to do business with you more so than ‘cold messaging’ that has no personality.


It’s never before been more openly acceptable to gain business by talking about video games, sports, hobbies, interests and anything else non-business oriented, so you might as well take advantage of it with your social media marketing and messaging.


We’re all people who have a variety of emotions, interests and experiences. Sharing them only helps you connect with more people who will be great customers for you and your business. Nobody does business with their enemies after all. They do business with the people they trust and connect with.