Personality Not Included

Summary Written by William Zahn
"Thinking differently requires focusing less on marketing your products and benefits, and more on understanding how to use the personality behind your brand to build a relationship with your customers."

- Personality Not Included, page 8

The Big Idea

Utilize the UAT

"Whether you look at Virgin America or any of the Virgin brands, they all challenge conventions and stand apart in some way. It really is the perfect brand to start helping you understand what your organization’s personality is because it is unique, authentic, and talkable."- Personality Not Included, page 80

According to Bhargava, there are three key elements of personality for an organization: uniqueness, authenticity, and talkability.

Bhargava argues that there are four means of creating something unique:

  1. Find the uncontested space
  2. Position yourself differently from your competition
  3. Do something a bit differently
  4. Think outside your region

Regarding authenticity, Bhargava believes that the term has achieved near-buzzword status, but it is still important. He offers the following suggestions for being authentic:

  1. Have a great backstory
  2. Be passionate
  3. Foster individuals
  4. Care about more than profits

Of these, I believe that the fourth is the most important in being authentic. Profit should not be the goal above all others; instead profit should be one of many goals.

Finally, an idea must be talkable. “If you are only focused on being unique and authentic—you will have a great story but with hardly anyone telling it. To make your organization more talkable, Bhargava suggests:

  1. Offering something of value
  2. Have something that hooks your audience and gets them to share
  3. Get out of the way

In other words, embrace people who are talking about your brand by giving them something to talk about. And stay out of their way when they start talking.

Insight #1

Embrace Your Accidental Spokespeople

"The smarter marketers know that the future is about participation and the conversation cannot be one-sided. This means that you are not giving up control, but sharing it."- Personality Not Included, page 35

One outcome of Web 2.0 has been the increased power provided to consumers. Consumers now control nearly every step of the purchasing process, and an unforeseen consequence of this is the rise of the “Accidental Spokesperson.”

While traditional marketing works with “authorized” spokespeople, Bhargava argues that “accidental” spokespeople are just as important to embrace. Accidental spokespeople are people who are talking about your brand. Some are brand enthusiasts, others are brand detractors. Both are speaking about your brand, and both are not authorized to do so.

Bhargava argues that these accidental spokespeople are key to the successful implementation of any marketing plan. However, “accidental spokespeople are not relaying official marketing messages”. Instead, they are sharing their actual experiences with your brand.

Marketers frequently interpret this lack of control as a reason to ignore (or even silence) their accidental spokespeople. But Bhargava argues that if you want to create a personality for your organization or brand, you must embrace them by giving them the content and attention they need to tell a compelling story. If you embrace your accidental spokespeople, and pay attention to what they say, you will receive good advice on what your organization’s personality actually is (at least in the eyes of the consumer).

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Insight #2

Tell Your Story

"Forget the old ideas of publishing a company history or even an ‘about us’ page on a Web site."- Personality Not Included, page 105

A compelling backstory gets people interested. Citing the smash hit television show Lost, Bhargava argues that one of the primary tools used by the show’s writers was the backstory of each character. A backstory is the history behind something or someone that explains why they are the way they are. Stories help us identify and better understand what someone or something has gone through to get to where they are, and a compelling backstory will generate interest and empathy.

Bhargava believes a compelling backstory needs to answer the following questions:

  1. Who are the people in the story?
  2. What is the key question, need, or challenge they are facing?
  3. What was their original vision? What caused them to embark upon their journey?
  4. What stands in their way?
  5. How will (or have) they succeed?

After answering these questions, you’ll have the foundation for a compelling backstory and you can begin to demonstrate your personality.

Following the steps outlined in personality will help make your marketing more compelling and honest, as it relies on spokespeople both in and outside your organization to spread your message. It is important to remember that personality won’t make up for a faulty idea or product. “Bad ideas don’t get better with personality”.

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Fred Reichheld

Fred Reichheld is a Bain Fellow and founder of Bain & Company’s Loyalty Practice, which helps companies achieve results through customer and employee loyalty. He is the creator of the Net Promoter® system of management.

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