Is Politeness Driving Your Brand Off the Boredom Cliff?

Creating a Brand PersonalityWe’re told to be polite, earnest, and respectful. However, as we’ve learned from Reality TV, face slaps and unfiltered emotions are often more engaging than polite interaction. Micro-blogger Chad Johnson attracted a lot of praise for the influence he earned with raw unfiltered messaging; Twitalyzer in 2011 called Chad Ochocinco the most influential American on Twitter.

Recently, we’ve seen an epic “brawl” on Twitter centered around Nassim Nicholas Taleb and his book, Antifragile-Things That Gain From Disorder. Dr Taleb has attracted a lot of attention with his challenging, brash, and often bombastic tweets. His persona is more Ochocinco then Emily Post. Even more interesting is that his topic is Macroeconomics and Econometrics rather than cheating spouses, baller theatrics, and celebutantes. He is making economics interesting.

Taleb’s Social Media Authenticity

Taleb has written about Antifragility twice, in his popular book and in the equation-filled textbook, Fat Tails and Antifragility. The book starts simply with the statement, “Wind extinguishes a candle and energizes a fire” and is followed by a bunch of stories before delving deeper into everything from economics to health care to society and, finally, to the value of tough guys from Brooklyn.

Taleb gets upset, for lack of a better word, when financial journalists and scholars review the book (rather than the textbook) and profess that he is wrong. Until you learn aeronautics you might look at an airplane and say it can’t fly; Taleb is challenging those who want to debate him to find a flaw in his math:



His word choice and theatrics are not always polite; one rarely sees econometrics and curses in the same Tweet:


Other authentic and raw Tweets include:





Like Ochocinco, Taleb is actively entangling and engaging on Twitter — he puts out a lot of tempting messages to say the least. The brawl with Karl Whelan started when Taleb tweeted a common sense heuristic for picking vendors:


Unlike Franklin’s Poor Richard, Taleb has skin in the game; he follows his own advice. On April 25th he Tweeted about the modern culture of abundance and the low stress/comfort lifestyle:



Can Your Brand Make Use of This Personality?

How interesting is your brand or product? When we, our staff, or our agencies are messaging via social media, are those messages authentic? Do we err to much on the side of civility and miss out on opportunities to attract attention?

Now, I’m not suggesting you should create controversy for the sake of creating controversy. As Mark Schaefer recently wrote about, that tactic isn’t nearly as strong as many seem to think.

The point is brands need to create emotional connections with consumers. Yet, “Brand Speak” can be a bland pablum, overly structured and artificially neutral. Realism (including the odd typo) and authenticity can make your message stand out. Realism can make your message a bit more robust or even “Antifragile.”

When your messaging is inauthentic, you have to work harder and you have to create a fake “voice” — a voice which may not resonate with consumers. Consumers have a 6th sense for separating real communications from messages that are just a signifier of realism. This doesn’t mean your brand needs to channel Ochocinco and Taleb. As cliche as it sounds, honesty and authenticity come from the heart, not a style guide:

  • Put more of your employees out on social media (they are real and you trusted them enough to hire them)
  • Pull less punches (more honesty)
  • Do not freak out over a small typo (it’s human to err)
  • Try and have some fun (fun is exciting)

Don’t put on a facade.  Your brand is backed by real people and you’re trying to appeal to real people — people with emotions, aspirations, personal faults, and accomplishments.

Be genuine, be authentic…even if that requires taking a step outside of your comfort zone and doing something the masses aren’t doing.  You may find your brand becomes the center of attention in a good way and that’s what it’s all about!


About the Author: Harry Hawk is a social media consultant for the social media teams at Commodore USA, Leske’s Bakery, and New York Hand Made Breads. He is also part of the social media team for The Food Film Festivals. Connect with Harry on Facebook and Twitter.

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