Personality not Included – Interview

As I mentioned in my last post, Rohit Bhargava just released a book called *Personality not included (why companies lose their authenticity, and how great brands get it back). True to the nature of the book and O.P.E.N. branding, Rohit offered bloggers advance introductory excerpts and exclusive interviews to post.

You know marketing is working when you’re overwhelmed by the response. Rohit had trouble knocking out the answers to all the requests for interviews he received, but he was honest and forthright in notifying people and resetting expectations (via twitter, natch!)

Why was this promotion so well-received? By offering bloggers an exclusive advance exerpt (ok, not that exclusive, it’s posted on his blog), we were made to feel part of an exclusive community. By soliciting individual interviews, we were made to feel important, and the experience was tailored to our specific interests. And lastly — there was the lure of a contest (notoriety if you won) and a prize! (Voting will take place on his blog on Monday, if you’re so inclined…)

So with no further ado, here are my interview questions for Rohit Bhargava, author of “Personality not included”:

1. I loved the part in the introduction where you stated “personality can’t save crap”. How closely do you think marketing and brand management should work with product development? Do you think the “personality” of a brand needs to be explicitly considered through product development to ensure integrity?
This is a great question because it gets to the central issue that many companies struggle with, which is their different silos within their organization. The best companies are the ones where this can all be integrated, but I know well how difficult that is. For that reason, I focused in the book on the broader idea of how individuals relay that story as amabassadors for the brand and how telling a story can fill that gap. When you couple that with packaging and product design, you get the best result.

2. How do you think the role of a ‘brand spokesperson’ complements or conflicts with the brand’s personality? (Ronald McDonald, Colonel Sanders)
Interesting that you bring this up because it inspires an entire section in Chapter 2 which talks about this exact question. That chapter is all about “accidental spokespeople” and I lay out five key types of spokespeople. Both your examples fit into the category I called “The Character” which talks about mascot type spokespeople. The difficulty with them is that they do not have the same reality as a person and are therefore notoriously difficult to change perception around. Colonel Sanders, despite his refreshed image, still stands for the same thing he always did.

3. Do you think a conglomerate can cultivate a personality, or is it better to focus on the smaller companies/brands that make it up?
This is another important question, and one that I actually also had in another interview. I think that in most cases, it is not only easier, but also vital to focus on the smaller brands that make it up. The example I shared in that interview which I’ll use again here is Darden, the parent company for Olive Garden and Red Lobster. All the brand association there is with the smaller component brands.

4. We know the consumer as an individual can help contribute to a company’s personality (“the unwitting spokesperson”). What about the individuals working at the company? Do you have any thoughts as to how much of a brand’s personality should be tied to specific contributors?
I think this is a VITAL point. A big part of the book focuses on getting this type of conversation to happen from employees and embracing them. The idea of “accidental spokespeople” from the book is a actually much more about employees than it is about citizen marketers or customer brand evangelists.

5. Are there any cases where you would advocate that a brand NOT try to cultivate personality? Under what circumstances?
No, I can’t think of any. That would be like a situation where a company would not want to build a strong brand. Maybe if they are trying to devalue a company so someone can buy it for cheaper? That’s about all I can think of! 😉

(View the full list of interviews)

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