Is your brand datable?

Amidst the frenzy of restaurant booking, flower ordering and chocolate buying that is Valentine’s Day, it occurred to me that the whole dating scenario is a bit like branding and considering how date-worthy your brand is can give you a pretty good lens as to whether you’re getting it right.

Sounds bonkers? Let me explain…

First of all, let’s consider what makes a date good? Being interesting, being interested and being attractive.

Being interesting

Imagine you turned up to a date with a person who had nothing much to say and the painful silences in the conversation felt like tumble-weed. Or they began talking incessantly about things that are of no interest to you whatsoever; their passionate love of a sport you don’t like or their intricate knowledge of a hobby you’d never consider. You’d be checking your watch every minute to see when it would be acceptable to get the hell out of there.

In the exact same way, if a brand isn’t interesting, it isn’t appealing to its audience. 

When I was in charge of marketing at Eurostar, I banned my agencies from talking about trains. We knew our customers were travelling with us either for work, to visit friends and family or because of their passion for fashion, art and/or food. Very few of them were train buffs desperate to know info about our catenary or data on the third rail. They weren’t travelling with us because of their passion for the mode of transport, so us talking about “train” would have been completely tone deaf. We excited them with the hidden gems of cheese shops in the 16th arrondissement and special offers at Galaries Lafayette.

In order to be interesting, brands need to have something to say (a compelling point of view, engaging content) and know that what they’re talking about is relevant and interesting to the audience (insight). 

Being interested

There are few things more depressing than a date that just talks about themselves. Someone who doesn’t ask questions and who’s favourite subject is me, me and me. This kind of one way conversation is not only mind-numbingly boring but can only lead you to assume they  aren’t that bothered about who you really are and what makes you you; basically they just don’t fancy you.

Similarly, a brand that exists on broadcast mode alone is unlikely to engage their audience. Perhaps in the Mad Men days of the 50s and 60s this might have worked, but with so many opportunities to connect with consumers in a digital and immersive way, brands need to encourage a more engaging relationship and find ways to invite their audience into their world. This trend is only increasing with Gen Z so used to the feedback loop of social media that they are starting to expect this from brands. They want their voices to be heard and even influence what a brand is doing; a beautiful example of this being when Nike recalled their release of shoes featuring the original Betsy Ross American Flag on the back because Colin Kaepernick addressed concerns that the Betsy Ross flag had racist connotations. 

Being attractive

At the risk of sounding shallow, even the most interesting and interested people need to get your pulse racing for the date to be top notch.

We’ve all been on those dates with people who were really lovely, kind, interesting people that just didn’t float your boat.

As a result, a brand can’t ignore its need to present itself in an aesthetically pleasing way and that means investing in quality content and compelling visuals.

Important to remember however, that there’s no point in this beauty being only skin deep. A pretty face won’t be enough to keep you interested if behind the mask there’s an unkind or uncaring personality. 

For brands, this means ensuring the beauty of your brand is connected right the way through your business; embedded into the culture and DNA of your customer and people experience. 

A personal experience with Tesla, who left me stranded on the M1 with no charge and 2 young kids, was the perfect example of a brand who presents with so much beauty and style, yet under the bonnet (forgive the pun!) there’s nothing of substance. 

So, back to my original question… is your brand datable? Is it interesting, interested and attractive to your audience? If not, perhaps it needs some help from a dating coach… or a some brand experts.