Humanize Your Brand – Make “Ugly” Desirable

Posted June 7, 2012 by Marcy Twete in Career Moves
Tell me, friends, have you met TOMS yet? Perhaps you own a pair, or maybe you’ve just seen them on the street. But one thing’s for sure. Whether or not you’ve seen these shoes or tried them on, I can tell you three definitive things about them:

  1. They’re ugly. Seriously, don’t argue with me here. This is not up for dispute. The shoes aren’t attractive.
  2. They’re incredibly comfortable. I’ve tried them on. They’re like a flip-flop times ten or the best pair of Keds you’ve ever had on.
  3. Wearing them….or buying them, rather….makes you feel good. Because with every pair purchased, TOMS donates a pair of shoes to child in need.

Somehow TOMS has succeeded in creating a brand that is not only powerful, but humanized. Forbes contributor Meghan M. Biro recently published the article “5 “Foot” Steps to Creating Brand Appeal” and examined the ways in which Tom’s has humanized its brand. Meghan contends that Toms utilized Persona, Community, Value, Relevance, and Emotional Connection to reach its customers and humanize its brand.

So what can we learn from TOMS and apply to our own personal brands and consequently to any job search? Let’s use Ms. Biro’s five brand humanization characteristics and apply them past Toms into our own careers.

  1. Persona – The persona of TOMS’ brand has been crafted strongly by providing a pair of shoes for every pair purchased to a child in need. Easy, right? So how can you apply this strong persona in your life? Make your mission clear on every communication, every characterization of yourself you send out. Use the same fonts, the same messaging, and the same wording when describing yourself on your cover letter, resume, email signatures, social media personas, etc. Consistency is key in creating a persona that people can first, identify with and further, remain passionate about.

  2. Community – TOMS has succeeded in things like campus clubs, but has even more strongly created community by creating a likeness in TOMS wearers. They smile at each other on the street and have become a bit of a club themselves. You can create a community in your career by building a strong network, connecting other individuals. Imagine someone at a party somewhere in your city saying, “Didn’t we meet before? Oh, that’s right, you’re a friend of (insert your name here).” That’s community – people connecting with others because of your influence.
  3. Value – Meghan says, “Traditional measures of brand value, often referred to as brand equity, include loyalty, affiliation, advocacy, information and identity.” If all this is true, then what you need to develop in your career is loyalty in your network, affiliation of all those who have worked with you, advocacy from those who can affect your job search or help you while climbing the ladder, information distilled through your created personal marketing pieces, and identity that you create both online and offline. Only this strong combination can create a values based interaction that will make your brand desirable.

  4. Relevance – Meghan tells us relevance is about engagement – a buzz word, if you will, but an important one at that. Take a job search as an example. To win over a potential boss or colleague, you must appear relevant to their business, someone who can engage their core customer, and who can create engagement with their brand.
  5. Emotional Connection – TOMS’ emotional connection is clear – everyone wants to help kids. But what’s yours? The emotional connection you’re looking for can be summed up in three words – “I like her.” That’s the emotional connection. Getting someone to like you, want to help you, and fight for you. That makes you brand desirable.

So while I hope you aren’t the owner of a brand of pretty ugly shoes, I hope you’ll take to heart some of TOMS’ brand expertise and apply it to your own life – ugly shoes or not.

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."