“Personality not included” by Ogilvy Public Relations’ Rohit Bhargava is a seminal piece of work on marketing strategy. Unlike many other “guru texts” which I’ve read, Rohit nicely balances theory and technique, giving readers plenty of useful case studies and a framework that they can work on.
The central premise behind the book is that personality is the single most important element in one’s products, brands and company. In order to do so, companies should embrace their accidental spokespersons, ie customers, partners, employees or other stakeholders who are known to be vocal about the brand and the organisation. They should also loosen up overly rigid regulations that incite fear in their people, while still maintaining some semblance of control.
Succeeding in the new consumer or corporate space also requires one to adopt the tenets of Uniqueness, Authenticity and Talkability (UAT) – the theoretical core of the book – which are defined as follows:
Unique – Different from anything or anyone else
Authentic – Real, believable, and not fake
Talkable – Interesting, simple and viral
To make UAT come alive, Rohit proposes that companies and their employees should refrain from “marketingspeak”. Instead, they should talk like a real person (in all written, visual and verbal forms), admit that they are marketing rather than disguising it, and have a sense of humour.
Storytelling figures largely in the development of one’s personality, and Rohit suggests that the backstory of an organisation may instil more interest than its marketing collaterals. Here, there are five such models proposed:
Passionate Enthusiast – A driven individual takes a personal passion and builds into a successful business (eg Moo.com, Moleskine)
Inspired Inventor – A tireless inventor who creates something new and different by not giving up on his/her vision (eg Molecular Gastronomy, Apple)
Smart Listener – A new company is created as a result of listening to customers, partners, or others (eg Google, Dell)
Likeable Hero – A dedicated individual overcomes all odds to make his/her idea work (eg Kiva.org, Innocent Drinks)
Little Guy versus Big Guy – An underdog company takes on a seemingly unbeatable, established adversary (eg Under Armour, Oil Can Henry’s)
Overcoming the barriers to adoption is a critical factor in any personality marketing endeavour. Here, Rohit offered useful advice on how a position of authority within one’s organisation allows one to resolve challenges such as prior success, uncertainty, tradition or precedence. Often this involved listening, increasing one’s knowledge of the unknown, and arriving at a win-win position.
Perhaps the most fascinating part of the book for a marketing theoreticist cum pragmatist (like me) were the 10 techniques featuring the new styles of marketing as follows:
1) Curiosity Marketing – Engaging customers by inspiring their curiosity
2) Karmic Marketing – Doing something good without any expectation of reward
3) Participation Marketing – Participating in a dialogue without needing to lead it
4) Un-Whatever Marketing – Positioning your brand or product as the opposite of everything else
5) Sensory Marketing – Using the underutilised senses to promote your business
6) Antimarketing Marketing – Making fun of marketing or business to position your brand/product above it
7) Fallibility Marketing – Turning mistakes into moments to demonstrate your personality
8) Insider Marketing – Giving consumers special access to inside information or experiences
9) Incidental Marketing – Taking a small incidental element of your business and marketing it
10) Useful Marketing – Creating content that has value and using it for marketing (like Cooler Insights :)?)
Like any good business book, Rohit gave lots of examples and case studies. While some like Apple, Google and Virgin Airlines were quite done to death, others like Stacy’s Sidewalk Pita Cart, Sister Hazel, Innocent Drinks and Timbuk2 were rather refreshing.
Presented in a clear and active tone of voice (sans buzzwords), the book was easily read and understood. What I especially like about Rohit is how he suggests that not everything can be solved by a blog, facebook account, tweet, or Youtube video.
Many of the approaches and examples detailed in the book have nothing to do with social media, which is presented more as a means rather than an end. Often, they involve more fundamental strategic shifts in thinking about how a company relates to all its stakeholders and presents itself.