Easily forgotten in this age of corporate image and branding is that without the people who work for the company, the brand or image does not exist. To put it another way: your people are your brand.

Chris Brogan commented on the disheveled interweb folks lamenting brands being kicked off Google+. No need to despair, he conjectured, “Business is about humans connecting with humans,” and continued, “Go forth. Be the brand. Just be as you as the brand.”

Brands are on Google+. But instead of hearing from Sonos, Symantec, and Raytheon, he “heard from Dan from Sonos, Tristan from Symantec, Toni from Raytheon, and lots of other people who I take to be the brand more than their CEO or official spokespeople.”

He connected with people. People! That’s the whole point of this social movement–it’s to interact with more people–to reach them more fluently. Not companies. Not brands. People! Interactions help create (destroy) trust. When I have a customer-service problem, I want to talk to someone. A real someone. Not a company.

In the 99% Conference (worth your time) video above, Simon Sinek says at the 24:00 mark:

One-hundred percent of customers are people. One-hundred percent of clients are people. One-hundred percent of employees are people. I don’t care how good your product is, how good your marketing is, how good your design is–if you don’t understand people you don’t understand business. We are social animals, we are human beings. And our survival depends on our ability to form trusting relationships.

How an employee represents a company signals everything I need to know about that company. If the employee is trustworthy, the company may be trustworthy. If the employee is genuine, the company may be genuine. If the employee is authentic, the company may be authentic. (The mays provide an important caveat; Sinek, also in the video, tells companies to stop lying to customers. He says something to the effect of “don’t ask your customers what they want you to be, just be you.”)

The emergence of the social web has helped some companies realize this. Now they are taking to their advertising campaigns to relate with people using…their people:

The campaign is among several under way that seek to burnish brand images by using actual employees rather than actors. For instance, in new commercials for Perdue Farms, the chairman, Jim Perdue, is joined by workers, including the chief veterinarian, and a farm family that raises chickens for Perdue.

The strategy behind using so-called real people is to cater to consumers who “want to know a lot more about the company behind the product,” said John Bartelme, chief marketing officer at Perdue Farms. They are interested in brands they perceive to be authentic or genuine, with a history and track record, rather than the spawn of slick corporate marketing. (New York Times)

People. Real people. All too easily forgotten.

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