I think I’m too stressed to write this article. I’ve been staring at my computer screen waiting for the words to magically come, and they haven’t. Then there's the fear of saying the wrong thing. Nothing feels quite right. I’ve probably been reading the news too much today.
I’ve read a handful of articles on this topic—but what does it actually mean for a brand to be human? That’s what I’m trying to write about, but I can’t quite wrap my mind around it. Brands are brands. They’re abstract. They can communicate in human ways because humans build brands. But there isn’t a neat set of brand guidelines to reference for being human.
If you’ll excuse that analogy, maybe there’s something to the thought. I’ve thoughtfully designed many brand guidelines in my couple years at SimpsonScarborough. I’ve made the joke that it’s therapeutic. Life is often messy— but brand guidelines are meticulously organized. (Almost) all of the answers in one neat package! Every detail thoughtfully chosen and purposefully arranged! Ask any designer—it’s a nice feeling of accomplishment to hold something like that in your hands.
I’d rather not think of being “human” as a brand strategy, but something authentic brands simply are. Maybe it's just about striving to do the next right thing — even if mistakes are made along the way — even if it sometimes feels like we’re going backward.
If only we could claim that the process was as beautiful. There were almost certainly frustrating moments, and questions that didn’t have easy answers. As with absolutely anything worthwhile, the final product came to be through hours of far-less aesthetically pleasing hard work.
Brand guidelines are just one tiny example, but in many ways, the messy process of creating something is a lot more human than the beautiful things we’re able to build.
When communicating as a brand, or as a person with any kind of authority, I think there’s pressure to be perfect. To be the final product. To be the culmination of our weeks or months or years of work. To have the right answers at the right time. And to be sure, there’s a responsibility that comes with influence.
But especially in times like these, I think we have to give each other, as well as our brands, permission to be in progress.
I’d rather not think of being “human” as a brand strategy, but something authentic brands simply are. Maybe it’s not so much about changing the way our brands look or talk about themselves, or even trying to be “relatable” — it’s about striving to do the next right thing; even if mistakes are made along the way, even if it sometimes feels like we’re going backward.
Truly human brands, I think, are willing to sometimes look a little messy because they’re committed to the truth and continually striving toward a greater good.
All the more so in uncertain times.