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These days, social media makes it easy to become “friends” with your favorite brands. But let’s forget about the virtual world for a second and imagine your brand as a living, breathing human being. Think about its personality. Does your brand have the kind of personality you look for in a true friend? Would your brand be someone you might actually like to spend some time with? Or even take to lunch?

Unfortunately, many brands have very little personality at all. They’re just a boring salesman in a nondescript gray suit, reciting memorized features and benefits in a monotone voice. Others are overly enthusiastic – a little too eager, a little too loud, like a cheerleader shouting through a megaphone at a dinner party. There’s the self-absorbed type, constantly talking about himself but never interested in anything you have to say. And let’s not forget the scam artist. Always looking for some sucker to fool so that he can make a quick buck.

Boring, loud, obnoxious, self-absorbed, deceitful. It seems obvious that all of these personalities are unlikely to win many friends. In contrast, the people and the brands we love, share many of the same positive characteristics: They’re trustworthy, cool, funny, interesting, helpful, dynamic, sincere.

Marketing, in many ways, a big corporate popularity contest. We choose brands that possess qualities we value: Brands that can tell a good joke, give us something interesting to think about, or help us do something important. Sometimes, we even like brands that make us seem a little more interesting, ourselves.

Just like in real life, a great personality can be the key to winning people over. That means paying a little more attention to how your brand relates to its customers and how your company treats them, as well. Whether you are the the world’s most conservative bank or the edgiest skateboard company, people relate to your brand according to the way your brand’s personality is expressed through ideas, words and visual impressions.

The key to truly relating to customers is thinking of them as real people, not abstract audiences. And then think about how your brand relates to these people on a human level.