Personality goes a long way….

In this post I would like to explore personality in content marketing and the digital customer experience, but I am going to start with my kettle.

Moving into a new house from the UK, we found ourselves needing a new kettle. Not much in that, I’m English, I drink tea, so I am bound to need a kettle. We had lots of choice, but we bought one that sits on the hob, looks old fashioned (like the Connecticut house we are renting) and it whistles when it’s boiling.

It doesn’t have a blue light or a ‘programmable reheat setting’, it doesn’t switch itself off, it doesn’t even have a plug.

When I pour the water out of it, I burn my lily office fingers getting the whistle thing off the spout and sometimes the lid will fall off mid-pour and scald my entire hand.

In fact sometimes it doesn’t whistle and I when return to the kitchen from my home office remembering I was making tea – I find I only have half a cup of water as the rest has boiled away.

Do I hate this kettle?


I don’t hate this kettle because despite (or maybe because of these foibles) it has character, it looks nice, it feels nice, it is more than a kettle – it has personality.

To quote the character Jules in the film Pulp Fiction – “Personality goes a long way”.

In that movie the character is describing why he doesn’t eat pork. It’s not for any of the usual religious or animal welfare reasons – it’s just that he doesn’t “dig on swine”.

To put that into the words of the marketer, he’s not engaged with brand ‘pig’.

To him ‘pig’ means a filthy charmless animal, it does not mean bacon or pork chops. At which point the other character in this scene (Vince) suggests that if brand pig had more personality then he might like bacon and he kind of agrees.

The dialogue is far more eloquent (OK sweary and entertaining) than that and I am not sure John Travolta referred to “brand pig” – but you see what I mean. Beside me shoehorning in a quote from one of my favorite films and talking about my kettle, personality is a key element of the customer experience.

Studies show we anthropomorphize brands (here is a good example talking about cars and this on slideshare is worth a look). However, I am not a brand marketing guy, we can apply this to the more direct interactions we have, such as through the social web where our interactions with our audience are personal.

For example, have you ever heard someone describe a presentation as “too slick”?

This slick presenter has fine honed their message, ironed out the hiccups and missteps that normally interrupt a presentation.

Yet, when people say “too slick” they allude to mistrust, it doesn’t look honest. Along the way the presenter has washed out the passion, the personality and somehow their credibility (an essential element of the customer experience, which I talked about here).

I think there is a lesson here that folks need to learn for content marketing through social media. That it’s not about appearing slick, but of appearing to be like you.

In this post a couple of years ago for the Engaging Times blog I talked about “The Social Web – Be yourself… or find someone who is” – about the appropriate voice for your organization for each communication channel.

Which leads me to a question Scott Liewehr recently asked on Twitter.

Q to content marketers: is the use of a blog as a separate section of a corp website just an interim step to more fluent use of web content?

Which is the genesis of this post, as I thought about this, the difference between corporate website content, a corporate blog as part of a corporate website and a separate company blog.

I replied on twitter, but needed more than 140 chars – sadly noodling on a blog post for a week is not the best way to enter the fray with the conversation – but  during the conversation Scott replied with this:

But my thought is, who wants to go to the”Blog” section of P&G or AMEX anyway? If blogs are a way to be more engaging, tell stories, provide authentic expertise, etc.

Exactly! This is my point for this blog post.

Social media, blog posts specifically and Twitter give organizations a great opportunity to touch a wide audience with their personality. To scratch at the surface of the slick sales pitch, the gorgeous website and find out who you really are.

To discover that in fact they are “… ten times more charmin’ than that Arnold on Green Acres, you know what I’m sayin’?”

Personality goes a long way.

If you don’t have my total recall of Pulp Fiction, quotes from the scene I refer to are here on IMDB  and if you don’t mind the language – here on YouTube.

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6 thoughts on “Personality goes a long way….

  1. Hey Ian, thanks for the shout-out. One thing is for certain: you’re 100% right that 140 chars was not the right medium for that conversation I started. I must have sent an additional 15 tweets to explain the context and rationale of the original.

    But you’ve hit it on the head here: I think blogs are serving a wonderful purpose for corporations. Aside from all the wonderful things they’re doing for idea-sharing and brand-building for both individuals and corporations, they are teaching these otherwise stuffy brands that they can have a personality. The problem, in my view, is that they’re shoved off in the corner of the website where someone like me may not think to go look for them on a brand site like AMEX, as I mentioned in my tweet. So, my thinking is that blogs are amazing training grounds for these corporations to learn to let loose a bit and allow their personalities to shine. My hope is that this transfers to all the rest of their web content. Bring some value into all the rest of the 100’s of 1000’s of pages of gobbledy gook, don’t keep it hidden in the corner!

    Great post…I love the tea kettle and movie parallels. Excellent stuff!

    1. Thanks Scott for reading, commenting (so fast!) and thanks for question that inspired the post.

      I like what you are saying, about social media working as a catalyst to make all web content less formal. However, a bit like I referred to in the Engaging Times post I linked to in the post – I reckon there is still going to be a place for these different tones.

      For example, these two last weeks I gave two similar presentations – one to an internal audience at our Kick Off and one at our customer event Innovate (which is also what got me thinking about your question and this post). The factual material was the same (product strategy and roadmap), the slides were similar – but how I packaged the delivery was pitched differently with a view to the audience (the latter was less sweary for starters!)

      I think our audiences expect to be spoken to differently depending on context and in creating a less formal blog environment, a corporate can create that context where they can loosen their tie a little bit. (Of course by mentioning AMEX, you are opening a whole can of regulatory worms, but I take your point!).

      I also think the audience feels more comfortable there – I wonder if when we read a post on http://www.bigvendor.com/blog we are quite as receptive to the ideas as when we read the same ideas on http://www.thought-leadership-place.com. Something perhaps for a blog post another day – or maybe you can ask it on Twitter 🙂

      Thank you again for contributing,



    1. Thanks Laurence for stopping by and commenting – good point about trust.

      The kettle – is there such a thing as too much personality? 😉



  2. Nice post Ian. It’s sad really that larger companies don’t do a better job of using blogs and social media. They could learn a ton from people like Jason Fried at 37signals, and the rest of the 37s team. They do a great job of letting individual personalities show through unvarnished while still be cohesive and getting across what makes 37s, 37s.

    1. Thanks Ryan – good suggestion about looking at 37signals, I had a look around and found this interview of Jason Fried on Inc.com.

      Interestingly in this piece (after he shares what he has for breakfast) he says:

      Web writing is terrible, and corporate sites are the worst. You don’t know what they do, who they are, or what they stand for. I spend a lot of time taking a sentence and reworking it until it’s perfect. I love the editing process.

      Which kinda makes your point!



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