A brand is a language that enables connection.
I recently wrote a post entitled How to make your brand more trusted. In it, I make the argument that brands should maximise trust in order to resonate with people:
Brands are just as connected to that which makes us human as anything else. Brands are language. Brands are the symbolic representation of the experiences and trust that people hold for an organisation and that which it brings into the world. On the web and on social media platforms, the collective consciousness is merely amplified through connectivity and rendered transparent from universal access. At its core a brand is still the experiences we have of it and the trust that develops overtime – and like any person we connect with, our medium to communicate is language.
The web is about connection, and by extension intimacy.
As I reflected on this post, I realised something more profound: the natural extension of connection is intimacy, and because of this intimacy is a business concept not just an interpersonal one.
The web is taking us from an era in which bureaucratic hierarchical structures were dominant into an era in which value is created by technological networks.1 The web is architected as a network of interconnected nodes – people connected to each other directly and more or less interdependently of any mediating organisation. Because of this network architecture in which people connect to people, I would assume the preeminent interpersonal concept – intimacy – must translate to this environment with commensurate application.
Social media and business in this context.
To connect with others is a core human drive2: we need to form bonds with people and stories in order to survive and thrive. This takes place in a magnitude of ways on the web, but most notably on social media networks.
Case-in-point: bloggers and personal brands
People connect directly with other people, and because of the networked architecture of the web the value is obtained through those connections rather than organisational hierarchy.
This is the reason personal brands (the synthesis of story, trust and audience3) are the future of journalism. It is the reason digital media businesses are evolving into agents to develop and commercialise relationships.4
As Daniel Kjellsson, a cofounder of Sydney Stockholm states:
I don’t believe in media brands but in personal ones. I can’t relate to Vogue, The New York Times and CNN but rather to Anna Wintour, David Carr and Piers Morgan.5
Brands as de facto and intimate people on social media
On many social media platforms a brand profile looks and feels the same as an individual persons profile. As a result we connect to brands and people almost interchangeably on social media. Therefore, in this environment we will form the strongest connection to the brands with which we feel the most intimacy – just like we would another person.
Conceptualising a brand as a type of person we're interacting or communicating with symbolically, brings into focus a spectrum of relevant emotional concepts.
Honesty and transparency engenders trust. And vulnerability is a precondition to intimacy.
1. For a more detailed overview of the transition from bureaucratic hierarchies to technology-driven networks Fred Wilson's presentation at Le Web in 2013 is a must see.↩