photo of lego people

Image by Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr.

Since the 1980s, marketing, advertising and branding agencies have made millions of dollars preaching and prodding brands to develop a “brand voice.”

In an exploding mass media environment, building a so-called brand personality was crucial to differentiating your brand.

Agency executives attempted to personify brands by representing them with human characteristics. Pepsi, for example, was said to be “mischievous,” and Coke, “secure.”

They asked bizarre questions like, “if your brand walked into a bar, what kind of cocktail would it order?” In short, we spent decades anthropomorphizing our logotypes. And that was before the explosion of social media!

In 2005, the Association for Consumer Research published this chart as part of its research into Brand Personalities and Brand Choice comparing Pepsi’s brand personality to that of Coca-Cola. (

Branded social media interactions are meaningless

In today’s digital world, attributing a human form or personality to your brand is inauthentic. It’s trite, silly and even counter-productive. But we’re still doing it.

It is impossible to have a real, authentic, meaningful social interaction with a brand. That’s right, impossible. Your brand doesn’t have a personality. It can’t talk. It doesn’t laugh, react, or interact, with anyone. So why are you forcing your brand to be “social”?

Social media is powered by billions of social interactions: millions of tweets with @replies and #hashtags, Facebook posts, comments, Likes and notes, YouTube annotations and replies, Reddit threads, and thumbs-ups on StumbleUpon.

Google “social interaction” and you’ll come up with this definition: “an interpersonal relationship between two or more people that may range from fleeting to enduring.”

See that? It says “two or more people.” A social interaction, by definition, cannot involve an inanimate object, an anthropomorphized brand, or even a personified logo.

This means all those Tweets from your branded tweet stream, they don’t matter – they’re inauthentic. Those posts are fake and forced attempts at social interaction.

They’re a prime example of traditional marketers attempting to feign authenticity in an environment powered by authentic personal interactions.

Image by Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr.

Brands are people-powered

Here’s the good news. You don’t need a high-priced ad agency or brand consultant to help you develop your brand’s voice. In fact, your “brand voice” is the sum of the individual voices that make up your company’s employee roster.

In today’s online universe every individual has a voice. Anyone can build an audience on Twitter, amass fans on Facebook, or followers on LinkedIn.

That means that the authentic people behind your brand all have the power to build authentic social interactions with their audiences.

The voices of the people who work at your offices, who power your vendors and who buy your products are your brand’s voice.

What if…

What if you encouraged and unleashed the social interactions of your employees, partners and vendors to power your social strategy?

What if you closed your logo-laden Facebook brand page? What if you stopped trying to sound human on your company’s Twitter stream?

What if you actually embraced the one thing that truly differentiates your products in the marketplace – the people that make what you sell?

If the future of all branding is personal, how can your brand remain relevant without embracing truly authentic, people-powered social interactions?