A Celebrity Doesn’t Humanize a Brand
I don’t watch TV much, but lately when I do this Hanes commercial with Michael Jordan keeps cropping up.
Does this commercial “humanize” Hanes? Of course not. It’s a traditional celebrity endorsement and if anything, it makes the celebrity look smart and the customer look informed, but not so socially adept. We may want to ibecome a bigger fan of Michael Jordan, but do we want to join a group of the guys who act like the guy talking to him?
Is the commercial really about making a relationship with Hanes or with the celebrity who wears Hanes? I say Hanes built a commercial about humanizing Michael Jordan, not Hanes.
The Old Spice Guy and Mr. Clean
Last year when the “Man Your Man Could Smell Like” Old Spice Campaign came out, everyone I knew passed on it on to someone else. We sat at lunch at SxSW sharing it on our iPhones because the clever copy and innovative camera work made it fun and worth talking about.
And then, the Old Spice Team at Wieden and Kennedy knocked our socks off when the Old Spice Man started answering comments with YouTube Videos.
But did the Old Spice Man humanize the brand? Again, I think not. What is the Old Spice Man? A celebrity work for hire? A human Mr. Clean? A character we can make a relationship with?
We’re still not making a relationship with Old Spice or the people who work for the brand.
Why Characters and Celebrities Don’t Humanize a Brand
Being human is about having humanity — a benevolent compassion for other members of the species. That’s a job that doesn’t stay on a TV screen, in a magazine, or on a website. It’s a relationship that goes both ways. It responds to questions, finds solutions, picks up the phone, answers the email, and celebrates great ideas.
As much as they add personality and glamour, even a sense of the way that people who run the brand want to relate with us, characters and celebrities can’t humanize a brand. They are cardboard cut outs of people not real people we can form a relationship with.
Here’s just a few things they don’t do.
- They don’t listen and respond in meaningful human ways. They don’t ask us about our ideas, thoughts, wishes, needs, or the real ways we use their products. Surveys and questions are about them, not us. How do you like me? Isn’t a relationship building question.
- They don’t act on our behalf. They don’t carry back our thoughts, ideas, and information to the people who make the products, do the marketing, and solve the problems when something isn’t working.
- They don’t have true two-way conversations. They are paid or made to represent the brand in the same that packaging does — to underscore and represent an idea or a feeling in an outgoing direction.
- They don’t build communities. Their work is not intended to help customers connect as people, but rather to connect customers to their products or the brand.
In other words, characters and celebrities don’t build relationships. They keep the brand conversation all about the brand. Humans who only talk about themselves, think about themselves, and work to promote themselves are considered lacking in humanity as well.
It takes real people who love their work and care about real customers, who work with real vendors, partners, and customers to reach real customer goals and solve real customer problems to humanize a brand.
What brand do you know that’s done a great job at showing its humanity?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
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