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Marketers rotely cite that brand is the personality of a company or organization or individual. But the most interesting brands are built on the foundation of personality – character.

A long lost friend returned to me in the last several weeks. When two long-admired brands clashed in the MLB playoffs, the Dodgers and Cubs brought back to life the spirit of baseball. While a Baltimore Orioles fan, as a west coaster, I rooted for the Dodgers, as I once did in my childhood, cheering for the likes of Dusty Baker, Bill Russell and Davey Lopez. But the Cubs had something special – so special the likes of most Dodger fans turned to the dark side and rooted for them in the World Series.

The 2016 Chicago Cubs seemed like a team that liked and supported each other, played the game for the joy of it and had a family structure that included a senior catcher who mentored the younger players. It felt good to root for a team that started as the underdog and came back to win it all. Hats off to the Cleveland Indians who are no slouches. But there was some magic in this year’s Cubs team that captured America’s heart. They single-handedly melted the memories of player strikes, crazy salaries, doping and divisive politics in the sport. At a time when the country feels like it is filled with vitriol, the Cubs united and brought back the joy that only the “boys of summer” can.

Building brand starts with an authentic acknowledgement of the people who make the company move and groove. While the practice is to focus on the product or service and its attributes, we cannot overlook the fact that the individuals who build the company, form the team or guide the program leave a piece of themselves in the outcome.

Harley Davidson comes to mind when you consider personality in branding. They spend an enormous number of resources understanding the ethnography of their consumers. It is not the motorcycle – it’s the subculture that makes their brand. Harley knows its consumers in and out. They know how loyal consumers use their product, the clothing they wear when they ride, the family structures, the events they attend, the ways they push the cycles to certain limits. And they use this information to keep building a product and a culture that is timeless because it is genuinely connected to its consumer base.

Every time I buy a pair of Zappos, I am not only in love with the shoe, but I am mindful of the culture of the company. Tony Hsieh, their CEO, is well-documented for building a culture that is fun, collaborative and thrives on teamwork. Once again, it is not a shoe they are selling, it’s a culture. The mantra of Zappos is multi-faceted:

  • Deliver WOW Through Service
  • Embrace and Drive Change
  • Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  • Be Adventurous, Creative and Open-Minded
  • Pursue Growth and Learning
  • Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
  • Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  • Do More With Less
  • Be Passionate and Determined
  • Be Humble


Who doesn’t want to work for and/or buy from a company with these values?

Sometimes brand character is confused with mascots and spokespersons. The physical manifestation of a brand in human form is deeply flawed, as Subway, Men’s Wearhouse or the host of companies who put Paula Deen forward as their representative demonstrate. Humans can be individually flawed. Teams that work together exude an authentic culture that is felt in the final product to be marketed. It is important to capture that spirit.

The organizations who are most authentic in their branding are fantastic storytellers who carefully choose the people who live the experience they are representing in their products. The character of the people – weird, smart, quirky, adventurous, bold, humble – it matters. Everyone prefers a hand-made present from a loved one over a store-bought gift. Brand is no different. The customer feels loyalty and passion for the brand that is built by a village, and they understand the culture of the villagers.

Way to go, Chicago Cubs. Your character helped rescue a sport and brought back a fan base through being a team of good guys playing a game for the benefit of all. Your character is now a legacy for the Cubs and city you call home.

 

 

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A blog chronicling the up's and down's, trials and tribulations, fear and happiness of moving your life from the expected 9-to-5 job to a life of consulting. While it is a big and often scary decision, it is a time of discovery, rejuvenation and introspection that will help you remember who you are and who you were supposed to be. It's a wonderful journey.

Consumer Loyalty
How the Cubs taught us the value of character in building a brand

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