03 June 2015 by Richard Parsons

You’re an Ape

Ape_1700x498This isn’t meant to sound insulting – quite the opposite. Some of you may like to think of homo sapiens as being at the pinnacle of the animal kingdom, differentiated as much by our culture, imagination, and creativity as by our opposable thumbs.

Surely we’re at the top of the evolutionary tree, master of the natural world, able to control our animal instincts and appetites, able to rationalise? It stands to reason, doesn’t it? Not if you’ve watched Planet of the Apes. Or if you believe Wallis, Darwin and hordes of geneticists who have shown us that we are far closer to our primate cousins than we thought.

We are still apes and we behave like apes, despite the fact we’re human. Individualism is nothing more than “cultural ideology”.  

B2B brands are apes, too

Thanks for the insights Richard, but what’s your point? It’s this: brands are like apes too – because essentially they’re perceived to be human.

Basically, it works like this. Your customers (also apes) make sense of the world by humanising nearly everything. From their pets to their cars, they ‘make sense’ of the world by giving it human characteristics. 

Anthropomorphism carries many important implications. For example, thinking of a nonhuman entity in human ways renders it worthy of moral care and consideration. In addition, anthropomorphised entities become responsible for their own actions — that is, they become deserving of punishment and reward.

So, if brands are human, it means we’ve got to start thinking in a radically different way about B2B brands. We need to humanise them in the same way we humanise ourselves. When a company is registered it receives a (birth) certificate. In law it’s an artificial person – it can sue and be sued. Nothing else, apart from a person has this status. A brand reveals its personality through the clothes it wears, for example. This is analogous to brand identity. What it says and how it behaves are equivalent to brand values and messaging.

A brand reveals its personality through the clothes it wears, for example. This is analogous to brand identity. What it says and how it behaves are equivalent to brand values and messaging.

The company you’re in is run and staffed by humans. It can have a parent, siblings, and children in the form of subsidiaries. It can (hopefully) have a personality and a brand logo, which is just like a human’s signature – a shorthand way of establishing who they are.

The problem is, so many B2B brands have a personality problem – it just doesn’t shine through. The big mistake we make is thinking that B2B brands are somehow different to B2C brands: more rational, dispassionate, and scientific. And this mistake makes our marketing very dull and inhuman.

Rationality leads us to believe that we can do marketing-by-numbers and that mediocrity is the norm. And as David Droga, formerly of Saatchi & Saatchi, warned: “mediocrity is contagious”.

Doing just enough, isn’t enough, because brand awareness doesn’t guarantee action, neither does being able to recall an ad. “It’s not what our message does to the reader, but what the reader does with our message, that determines our success”, said Hugh Mackay, author of The Good Listener.

B2B marketing isn’t just about selling a product or a service to another business, it’s about promoting a set of corporate ideals and values that those in the company believe in and are passionate about. That’s why we believe marketing is all about building those brand personalities and making marketing communications a damn sight more engaging, useful and entertaining.

A B2B brand should have as much personality as a B2C brand. Brands are human, and B2B brands are human, too.

This is my 7th blog post as part of a 12 blog series. What do you think so far? If you like to read my first blog from this series, click here.