Business unusual: Becoming a relatable company in tiny steps

Ever since I was an activist teenager rebelling against the world and myself, I have been a sucker for change and companies- my definition of business unusual. I guess it was one of the things I learned most from hanging mentally out with Naomi Klein and Kalle Lasn and staying a whole summer in super rebellic Montreal, at that point in time where you could actually buy a coffin up there to sleep in (hello electronic goth days!). But I can get into total handclapping spasm if a company actually does something to better the world around them, or better themselves to be a larger part of the world around them. And I can as quickly grasp my pen and paper and write columns to the local newspaper if I think they are doing something wrong. Like when I was a teenager, I got so furious because the first thing you see when you enter my hometown Helsingør on top of a hill suddenly wasn’t the beautiful coast of Sweden but a gigantic McDonald’s sign (that was my first column and my mother vetoed me sending it to the local newspaper).

When I was a kid, if the teacher asked us to draw a company or a business we would draw a factory with smoke coming out of the chimney and wastewater coming out of a pipe in a lake and a couple of fish with x’ed out eyes (so they were dead). I wonder what people would draw now if you asked them to draw a company. Some would draw brands. But one problem that a lot of companies encounter is that they are not relatable. This is a HUGE internal problem for a company doing business in a world where business is largely personal and social. I see these companies as standing on the sideline of a football match saying “hey, why won’t you play with us?” and the companies and people playing shouts back “Because we don’t know you well enough”.
We all know that the conditions for business have changed. From business as usual to business unusual. Today the pace of society has made it hard for companies to brand themselves, not only on the aspect of technological pace but also more about how our buying behaviors changed – largely because of the internet and the closeness that social media has brought us together as overall societies. You can’t really do a standalone brand value chain anymore because it has become so incredibly disruptive.
When I get lucky and get hired into a brand brainstorming session, an advisor role or a concept building role (which could happen more you business people out there with a lot of money!) with a new client, I tell them that step one in making your brand more “cool and filled with substance” is to make sure that every touchpoint they have with their surroundings has a person attached to it. Normally the management hesitates for a second and then burst out: “But that would mean every person in our organization would be some sort of personal brand.”

Yes it would. And that’s a good thing. Yes, I want you to do personal branding galore. No, it’s not enough to create personal branding solely for the CEO because normally he doesn’t have a lot of time to talk to people. No, you can’t keep personal brands as a part of your organization if they leave. It’s personal. It’s something that creates legacy for the person who has the brand, and better their chances of getting a job someplace else. See it as employee maintenance. But what if every piece of information going out from a company has a sender attached to it. What would happen if Mr. Larsen asked to talk to Betty every time he has a problem, and Mr. Jensen would ask for Sandy because they became the one to one face of a given company? It would mean that the trust of the company would increase. What if everyone in the company had their name as email addresses? Would you rather write betty@giganticboringcorp.com or BCM57@giganticboringcorp.com? The same on social media – what would happen if everybody knew the blogger/twitter/facebook/instagram team of company xx? It would turn a tiny part of the company from unrelatable to relatable.

Try it out and show the rest of us who you really are.

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