*Personality not included

Rohit Bhargava has come up with a very interesting way to launch his book.

He put out the call to bloggers to email him 5 questions about his book or its topic, and he will personally answer each one, which the bloggers may post – as an exclusive “virtual interview” – on their site.

Pretty clever. I submitted some questions yesterday afternoon, and just received the reply. If he’s doing these in order, he must be nearing the finish now (I was #46 of 55). What a marathon! Here is my interview:

  1. In the course of discovering its personality, a company that serves many different demographics and offers a variety of different products may find itself with a multiple personality disorder. How do you go about distilling the personality down to core attributes that will appeal to a wide spectrum of customers?

    The best way to do this is to focus on passion. What are your employees passionate about? What is your company trying to do that is significant? The experience of personality disorder is one that I have seen at many companies as well, but it tends to come from focusing on SKUS instead of a higher vision. Target is not about all the different departments and range of products they offer, it’s about accessible fashion and style. The best way to distill down is to use the main techniques of smart branding – something that I focus on in Chapter 3 of the book.

  2. Surely, what you do carries more weight than what you say. (The current corporate trend of claiming to be eco-friendly comes to mind.) But just saying you have a personality isn’t enough. What are some good examples of companies doing something effective to communicate their personality?

    There are some great examples of this, because you’re right … actions speak far louder than words in this instance. One example is Zappos accepting customers returns and going the extra mile to please customers (which is their big selling point). Another great example from the book is James Dyson, who says that he is all about invention, but also talks about producing more than 2000 prototypes of his new vacuum that didn’t suck before he found one that did (of course, sucking is what he was going for).

  3. Large corporations often have dozens, even thousands, of employees whose actions directly or indirectly shape the customer experience. For maximum effect, like a chorus, everybody must be “singing the same tune”. How can large companies effectively communicate internally, to get everyone tuned in to the right personality?

    This is a very good question because it focuses on a central problem that many companies struggle with which is the issue of control. If you tell them to let their employees have a voice, this objection typically comes up. The best way to counter it is to first challenge the assumption that they all need to be “singing the same tune.” They don’t. For example the story someone in manufacturing might tell would be far different from the product designer. The point is that they are all targeting different groups of audiences as well. The main idea is that smart companies should arm them with the facts and let them help to spread those. Isn’t that better than your employees talking to others about your brand (which they already are) without knowing what the right message to send is.

  4. Many companies sponsor online communities, in order to provide a social and educational space for customers (and potential customers) to interact. The hope is to create trust and goodwill toward the sponsor company, and support its brand image. Certainly, credibility of the information can be called into question, when representatives of the company provide content. What do you find is a good level of involvement, or important ground rules to set, to ensure that sponsor contributions are perceived as credible?

    First and foremost, there has to be a natural link the goes beyond just self servicing. A great example of that is the social community that Nike build around the Nike Plus partnership with Apple. The site offers great value to runners in planning and tracking their runs and even lets you do competitions. Nike is the provider and clearly the sponsor, but in this case gets great value out of the site because they offer it as an extension of their brand.

  5. You’ve come up with a very interesting way to promote the release of your book, and it is – in itself – a good example of the shift in marketing from one-way communications to two-way conversations. (And we’d like to thank you for this opportunity.) Do you feel it has been a successful experiment so far?

    You’re welcome! It has been tough to keep up with this volume (this is interview # 46 for me today!), but I would absolutely say this has been a great value, and it will likely generate even more value as people start talking about this experiment with others. Thanks for agreeing to be part of it!

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