Can a Company have Personality?

by David Stewart (other articles by David Stewart)

A serious question I have been throwing around over the last few days is that of identity. Specifically, the identity of a business. Can an entity as opposed to a person have a true identity? Can the make-up and structure of a company exude the same charisma that a human can? If it can, then how much impact do the owners of that company have on how it is perceived in the market place?

The main thrust of most companies I have either owned or be involved with up until this point have existed for the sole reason of making money. The overriding aim has been to be profitable and to try and reflect the personality that best suits the market place. From how the staff are dressed to how the business is presented have all been determined by a cold analysis of what the perceived consumer would be most comfortable with.

This approach creates a dilemma. The most striking being that the entity lacks authenticity. It is merely a product of a cheap grab at consumer’s money with little thought into what, if anything, that business represents to the consumers themselves. It has become clear to me that today’s savvy consumers are able to see through the charade and if given a more palatable choice they will jump at it and often times the relative pricing of the competing operations have very little bearing on the choices of these more informed consumers.

Sadly, this profit only approach is representative of a large number of services businesses where the leaders dream of appealing to every available customer and in doing so attempt to be all things to all people. A better way to go would be to actually stand for something. To hold a set of ideals that is true to the personal ideals of the leaders of the organisation and does so in full knowledge that this approach will not appeal to everyone. That certain sections of the consuming public will not identify with the stated goals and aspirations of the business and will freely choose to do business elsewhere.

This does two important things. Firstly it allows the company to deal with like-minded people and allows those who hold differing ideals to do business with whomever they will feel more comfortable. Secondly it creates raving fans of those who do choose to do business with you. The company suddenly finds itself with customers that hold the same ideals, aim for the same goals and ultimately creates smoother and more satisfying transactions for all concerned. The owners and leaders are then free to truly move forward and continue to grow their business aiming at those who will most benefit from their mutual interaction.

This concept is extremely hard for many business owners to grasp as the standard human instinct is to grab as much money from as many avenues as possible. While, on the surface, this logic seems sound, the enviable dilution of the company’s standing in the eyes of the general population almost guarantees that the opposite is true.

Welcome to niche marketing, the best and most authentic way to build a brand. Niche by no means equals small, just take a look at Apple for example. They know who their customers are and they market appropriately to young, tech savvy customers who want easy to use and aesthetically pleasing devices. They refused to budge when their closed source software meant everything had to be approved by them. They allowed the open source crowd to migrate to Android and they refused to bow to pressure. They knew who they were and they were not going to change for anyone.  Apple is now one of the most valuable companies in the world.

The lesson is clear, know who you are, allow your company to demonstrate the same ideals and let it develop its clear direction and personality and the sky’s the limit.

10th February, 2014

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