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The human brand


Published: Nov 13, 2013

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I suspect we all know someone who has a better relationship with their smartphone than their colleagues. Did you know that we choose products in the same way that we unconsciously judge and behave toward others? The result is that people develop strong feelings about everything from banks to governments – literally a love/hate relationship that can make or break any Bahamian business.

This is due to our survival instinct where we rely on a primal, unconscious ability to size up others quickly and psychologists believe that 82 percent of everyday judgments are based upon this snap assessment.

In their book, ‘The Human Brand’ Chris Malone, a former marketing consultant to Fortune 500 companies, and Susan T. Fiske, an award-winning Princeton psychology professor, aim to equip businesses to better understand this process.

According to the authors, our assessments are informed by two simultaneous judgments of "warmth" (what intentions others have towards us) and "competence" (how capable they are of carrying out those intentions). Malone and Fiske studied 5,000 U.S. adults and 41 leading brands including McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Tropicana and Mercedes; confirming that we assess people, companies and brands in the same way.

Therefore to achieve sustained success, Caribbean companies must build genuine relationships with customers based upon accountability. Examples include Domino’s Pizza who upon launching a new pizza in 2009 took the unusual step of apologizing that its old recipe hadn’t been very good. This appeal for a second chance earned Domino’s the largest single-quarter revenue boost in the history of the fast food industry. This is in contrast to BP who are still suffering the consequences of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, despite paying $Billions in compensation.

It seems that many companies are perceived as lacking in both warmth and competence and are seen as selfish and only concerned with profits. However, social media offers customers considerable power to judge how companies and brands conduct themselves; with implications for social accountability in business.

Ultimately, successful companies put their customer’s interests first, and forge genuine relationships driven by what people really value. This represents a shift in business priorities, in which customer relationships are as important as profit. So be warned, if you find your partner looking at you adoringly, they may just be thinking about the latest iPhone!

‘The Human Brand: How We Relate to People, Products, and Companies’ by Chris Malone and Susan T. Fiske and published by Wiley.


Keith Appleton JP, BA (Hons), N.Dip.M, MInstLM has extensive experience within an academic, managerial and strategic leadership role.  He is a member of the UK Institute of Leadership & Management and can be contacted at KeithAppleton@Hotmail.co.uk or follow him at twitter.com/WritingRightNow

Last Updated on Monday, 18 November 2013 12:29

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