People aren’t looking for an ad,they aren’t looking to buy something.They are looking for a connection.

How do you do that? #branding

I am going to be speaking to a group of Insurance Brokers this week in celebration of the launch of the Aviva Community Fund, a social media powered contest looking to give away $1,000,000 to communities across Canada. The contest is a brilliant effort which not only gives back to the most invested communities, but builds patterns of engagement that extend far beyond the contest and social media itself, you can learn more about this brilliant competition here and here. In preparation, I started to think about what I would share with them about getting involved in social.

Branding : The Toughest Part of Social

The subject of my talk is not going to be limited to the Community Fund, but rather to address the importance of getting involved in Social Media as an aspect of corporate social responsibility. In particular the ability to give back to the community. As I prepared for this talk, I asked myself “What is the biggest challenge facing small businesses (and for that matter businesses in general) with Social Media?” I believe it is branding.

The Buzz About Branding

So many people have heard the buzz about the importance of branding, “humanizing the brand” they latch on to some of the indicators of someone who understands the brand, and then seem to lose themselves in the desperate attempts to be the human brand. Being the Brand is not about deciding you are a company who will share all kinds of personal stories to show you are human, it’s about deeply understanding who your company is, and then being able to share all content, with this “being” in mind.

It’s not only about understanding who your company is as a brand, but feeling the vision of the brand in every single one of your actions.

  • If your brand went Zen, what would your mantra be?

  • How do your products relate to who you are as a brand?

  • How do your products, your people, your actions all tie together to reflect this?

The Path to Finding Answers

The most important thing is to get this concept down. You can start by brainstorming with the people in your company, ask them to chose words to describe who they believe you are as a company. Compare this with what you believe the core attributes you have as a company are.

The first step is a company wide alignment.
The second step is living your brand.

Living Your Brand is the Key To Success In Social

When I speak to these brokers starting Monday, and several times throughout this upcoming month, I expect to be faced with certain common questions. We’ve all heard them, and even thought them:
Where do you find content?
Where do you find the time?
What if you face opposition online, how do you respond?

The answers to all these questions come very easily if you know exactly who your brand is, if you live the values of your “raison d’etre”, or reason of being in your every day, your every thought.

Too Many Are Lost – This is Why They Can’t Succeed.

I believe everyone can succeed. I believe every person, company and organization can benefit from social. However, just as we as individuals must know who we are and be firmly grounded in our own beings to stay focused in life, a company more than anything must be firmly grounded in their vision, their values and then, as a result, their product.

Companies who have no soul are the ones who will have the hardest time succeeding in social media. They will resort to flat out sales pitches and screaming ads – because that’s all they are.

You have to be more.

To succeed in Social Media, it’s not just about “being human”. As your prospect, it’s not really all that interesting to me to see pictures of your kids, and hear about your golf game. You might peak my interest for a minute or two, but that won’t be enough. However, if you find a way to tie in the personality, the soul of your brand in a way that I, as a human can relate to, then I will buy, I will be interested, I will be motivated. If you then continue to speak to me in a language that shows our shared values, our shared interests and maybe even a shared vision. You’ve made me a fan and an advocate.

That’s how you see through the buzz, stop chasing the blogs that tell you how to succeed blindly. Center yourself and your business – then when you read the buzz, apply it to your brand – your “core”. This is where the success will come from. All the questions of finding the time, looking for content, trying to attract others – these questions will fade because you will bring social media into the realm of your brand, and then it just becomes and extension of your company’s expression.


If you’ve read this looking for answers, and now you just feel alienated, more confused, then this post was exactly what you needed to read. The secret of the brand is not a formula, it’s about digging deep into what you are really all about.  If you read this and have no idea what soul has to do with sales, or how a brand can be human, then your first step is to re-energize your business by digging deep and finding the answers to these questions. Your business has likely gotten lost in the bustle of daily life, the work tasks at hand, the sales numbers, and the pressure.

Step back. Dig Deep. Reconnect.

Some of the images I worked with to start communicating brand. Just an example of the feeling approach, vs. how can I sell you something. The idea is to communicate what the brand is about and how it relates to the client. For me, this started with, protecting the dreams of our clients.

When you accomplish this, your prospects will become clients and you’ll be in a position to engage with fans, friends and followers in a way that will just “flow”.

That’s your first step to your business becoming human.

Talk about it.

When you finally think you know exactly who your brand is, the biggest challenge is to interact with others and get them to understand your brand. This is the final and critical step. If you can explain your brand and why people should even care about you and your products, then this is when you can say:

“I’ve got it. I know who we are, we are ready.”

As business owners or leaders, having the dialogue with others to help frame these concepts is key.


I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Ric Dragon, CEO of Dragonsearch Marketing, and author of Social Marketology (a book I highly recommend) for his friendship, and in relation to this article specifically, for the amazing conversations, ideas and challenges he put forth in our personal discussions about branding and finding the words to express “what is the brand”. 

Another example of relating the deeper personal aspects of the brand through this ad campaign I have been developing. Tulips and Ferrari’s have nothing to do with each other, unless of course they are your dreams. Understanding the brand and how it fits with your various clients allows for adaptability and consistency.


What’s your understanding of “Humanizing a Brand?”

If you’ve been through this process, what were the most helpful steps you’ve been through?

Do you believe it starts at the core, or are you busy working on your perfect logo, thinking you’re on right on track?