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Book review: Personality not included

Personality Not Included: Why Companies Lose Their Authenticity And How To Get It Back

By Rohit Bhargava

McGraw Hill

$28.95

So have you lucked out and found the next Jared Fogle?

You remember Jared. He's the guy from Indiana who dropped 45 kilograms in three months by eating turkey and veggie subs for lunch and dinner at Subway. The local campus newspaper ran a profile on the slimmed down Fogle and his self-styled Subway diet.

A franchise owner saw the story, sent it to Subway's ad agency and a star was born. But Fogle's 15 minutes of fame almost didn't happen. Subway's national brand manager wasn't keen on turning Fogle into an official pitchman and didn't believe you could use the healthy angle to sell fast food. And the legal types worked themselves into a frenzy over potential liability issues over the health benefits of the Subway diet. So the agency offered to shoot the first ad for free and run it only as a regional spot. The ad took off, spawned a national campaign and Fogle became the face of the franchise and an advertising icon. Subway's annual sales jumped by 18 per cent and went up another 16 per cent the following year.

Why was Fogle such a hit?

"He was a real person who had an authentic story and people believed it," says author and social marketing guru Rohit Bhargava. "He was certainly not a celebrity, but he was real. He may have been discovered by chance, but he was deliberately cast in the role of spokesperson by an agency unafraid to take advantage of the good fortune of finding him."

Authentic, believable and real spokespeople such as Fogle give otherwise faceless and forgettable organizations a much-needed personality transplant. And according to Bhargava, personality is the missing ingredient that prevents most organizations from becoming great.

"Personality inspires trust and trust builds loyalty," Bhargava says. "Personality is not just about what you stand for, but how you choose to communicate it. It is also the way you reconnect your customers, partners, employees, and influencers to the soul of your brand in the new social media era. Great brands and products must evoke a dynamic personality in order to attract passionate customers."

Bhargava defines personality as the unique, authentic and talkable soul of your brand that people can get passionate about.

It's accidental spokespeople, ambassadors and enthusiasts such as Fogle who talk up your brand with family, friends and strangers. What they lack in polish, they make up for in passion.

The good news is every organization has a Fogle. Search among your customers or employees, retirees, suppliers and community partners. You're sure to find some true believers are tirelessly building a fan base just for you. And thanks to the wonders of social media, they're now blogging, sending out Tweets, singing your praises on Facebook. You simply couldn't buy that kind of advertising.

But here's the bad news. Not every organization wants a Fogle. Fearful organizations with control issues layer on the policies and procedures to stifle and silence accidental spokespeople such as front-line employees.

Only designated and trained talking heads are officially sanctioned to deliver well-rehearsed and wordsmithed party lines drained of all personality.

"The flaw in this logic is that employees are already your brand spokespeople to a degree because they are already talking about the organization they work for in their own personal interactions," Bhargava says. "Compare how a message-trained communications professional describes his or her company with the way it is described by a passionate employee who has spent years developing a product and believes it is the greatest invention in the world.

"By silencing these individuals, many organizations have lost their best chance of creating authentic dialogue and of having real people demonstrate their brand's personality."

Along with supporting and sharing the stage with accidental spokespeople, Bhargava recommends coming with a compelling back story that personalizes your organization and capitalizing on personality moments. These are make-or-break moments where you win or lose with your customers. You have dozens of these moments before, during and after you make a sale or provide a service.

Get these personality moments right and you build a stronger bond. Screw up these moments and you risk losing your customers.

Along with a step-by-step guide for building personality, Bhargava offers up more than 100 success stories from smart and savvy organizations that have found their own Jared Fogle and figured out how to connect with customers in real and authentic ways.

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