Show your face!

Today, when much of our communication is done impersonally via email, texts, and social media, a lowly voicemail is now perceived to have a modicum of personal touch. But more and more, we’re finding that consumers are turned off and even alienated by faceless corporations. Large corporate brands are losing out to those with a human face and a personality.

Take, for example, Elon Musk and Tesla. Buying a Tesla is much more than a car purchase. It’s a buy-in to the innovation and forward-thinking culture that Elon Musk has created. It’s signaling to the world that you purchased a Tesla because you’re progressive, you care about the environment, and you’re in front of the next eco-status-trend. You identify with the singular brilliance of Elon Musk and you, consciously or not, enjoy the status that driving an expensive Tesla brings you.

Another example: Richard Branson and Virgin Atlantic. Much has been written about his non-traditional and innovative approach to business and customer relations. For a man that started out his business in a phone booth, he’s created one of the most status-conscious brands in the world. Richard Branson has clearly demonstrated that he can come up with an idea and has the capability of turning it into a business. One that is both aspirational and obtainable, at the same time. And he has personalized that business by putting his face and personality in front of that brand.

Both of these innovators have created powerful brands and consumer products that resonate with their target audiences. Now if you look at General Motors – do you know who the current CEO is? Do they have any brand personality or promise? Or are they just a generic car brand? Conversely, how about Lee Iacocca? This former CEO of Chrysler spearheaded the introduction of the Ford Mustang, among many other things, and brought a face and a strong, innovative personality to a rather mundane American brand that was losing millions of dollars when he took the helm. Since Iacocca’s departure, do you know who’s calling the shots? Do you know what their brand stands for? Probably not. And why should you? They’re too busy touting how much faster, cheaper, lighter or technologically advanced their cars are over the competition. Just like most everyone else.

While consumers may care about some or all of those things, none of those features engender a personality or deliver upon a promise worth standing behind. And that’s the problem. You want to bring a face and a personality to your brand and product. You want consumers to be passionate about your corporation and your products. You want them to be your brand ambassadors, telling others about their experiences – but you need to give them something to talk about. And it all starts with a brand message and how that can be conveyed via a distinctive personality.

Perhaps bringing one of GM’s foremost designers to the forefront to talk about the designs and showcase the benefits of designing it that way. Or discuss the list of innovations created at the firm. Know who Steve Jobs is? Surely you do. Know Jony Ive? Maybe, maybe not. But most every Apple fan surely does. Giving consumers real people and real reasons to purchase a GM car besides a tagline and the typical car advertising schmaltz will bring about more loyalty and a stronger bottom line.

As we see with many of America’s large corporations, the traditional approach isn’t working. We only get acquainted with the heads of ‘faceless’ corporations when they’ve done something untoward. Something criminal. Something that hurt their stock. Well, it may be just as well they respond via email or text. There’s certainly no trusted personality standing behind it.

So show your face. Tell your story. Give consumers a reason to buy into your brand and purchase your product. And make sure that personality is genuine. Do your utmost to bring out the innovation and the reason your product or service exists in the first place. And be confident enough put a face in front of it.