At some point in your life you’ve probably heard something along the lines of “if companies were people, they’d be psychopaths”. This always used to strike me as a touch unfair, as obviously this is a classic case of comparing apples with oranges. However, unfair or not, this perception has been confirmed by a recent piece of research* into opinions on brand behaviour held by 2,000 members of the British public.
What doesn’t help is that the apples have started to behave like the oranges, as in recent years brands have increasingly encroached into what might be seen as “human” space. An obvious example would be their prevalence on social channels, which were designed to bring people (not brands) together, and thus has seen many of them attempt to employ friendly and personal behaviour to fit in with their new surroundings. This “matey” approach has filtered through into wider advertising in the shape of “tone of voice” and “brand personality”, and when combined with a constant thirst for “engagement” (rather than simply awareness and comprehension) has left our relationships with brands far more “intimate” than in the old days of one-way ad spots.
The catch for brands in this new paradigm is that if you want to play by human rules, you’re going to be held up to human standards, and this is where things become tricky for them.