Do you know anybody who has to be right all the time? If so, you probably don’t make a habit out of spending a lot of time with them. Being wrong is part of being alive. If you can’t make mistakes, how can you learn? If you can’t say, “I don’t know, I’ve been wondering about that myself,” how can you get close to people? Aside from being obnoxious, this kind of behavior can make you pretty unpopular. So being right all the time is really a way for insecure people to create distance between them and everyone else.

What makes companies insecure? If that’s true for people, is the same thing true for the brands that companies create? Are companies overcompensating for their lack of confidence, too? And, by the way, what is it that makes companies insecure? Is corporate insecurity like human insecurity? I think so. Many companies are afraid of telling you what they’re actually thinking. This is when corporate identity becomes a corporate mask. They are afraid of letting people see who they really are for the same reason people do: they don’t want people to make fun of them. So companies become religious practitioners of risk avoidance. Exactly the wrong strategy if your goal is to get noticed and expand your circle of friends.

The same things that make people insecure. What price do you think companies pay for creating this distance? Since their goal is to get closer to people, I would say they are paying a heavy price, probably without being aware of it. Or maybe, as with people, they just can’t help it. When people are face to face, there is a better chance that they can see the raised brows and rolling eyes of people who aren’t buying their behavior. Do you think United is a better airline after 13 million views of “United Breaks Guitars?” Somehow I don’t think so, but that is maybe because they choose to march under the “We’re big so we don’t have to care” banner.

Being good at branding is like being a good conversationalist. Many companies do not think having a real conversation with their audience is important. Having a real conversation means taking a risk. It means you have to shut up sometimes and just listen. It means you have to think about what people are telling you. And be open to changing your mind. It’s like inviting someone into your house. Do you let them in the front door? Do you serve them tea or coffee? Do you ask about the kids?

Is a little vulnerability part of your corporate identity? Being vulnerable is an important part of being human. And it’s an important part of having a brand that is human. Leaning on Wikipedia here a little, taking a pratfall is also good business. “The pratfall effect is a psychological phenomenon whereby the attractiveness of a person perceived as competent increases if the person commits a blunder.” So the message is, if people like you, then they like you even more when you make mistakes. Because you are demonstrating that you trust them enough to be yourself in front of them. Why is this so hard for companies to understand?

Corporate identity can be just as mysterious and complicated as human identity. We’ll show you how to get your brand on the human track.

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