Here's a gratuitous use of a glamour shot if ever there was one!
I read in Superbrand's CoolBrands publication that "the humanising of branding in the pursuit of enduring and profitable customer relationships is now firmly at the heart of almost all modern business strategy." The writer suggests that this 'humanising' (what an awful word) is simply an extension of the old ad agency parlour game 'If our brand was a car, what would it be?' as a way of arriving at some meaningful understanding of what a brand's about.
I think he's got it the wrong way round. I believe that as customers we are deeply uncomfortable with the idea of doing business with inanimate objects or faceless corporations. Our first instinct is to look deeper and assign personal qualities to the product or service. Not only do people buy people, but people are really only comfortable relating to other people and not to cold, lifeless objects. We've been at this since the beginning of time but some in the advertising industry have only cottoned on to it in the last few years.
Whilst they asked 'If our brand was a car, what would it be', the most popular cool brand of them all (at least in the UK) was quietly being much more than simply a brand or even a car. The much-loved Aston Martin (see! that glamour shot wasn't so gratuitous after all) is seen by those in its thrall as full of personality and attitude (although the CoolBrands people seem to believe it's all about heritage and style). Heritage and style are only part of it. The great and the cool brands - the Superbrands list includes iPod, Bang & Olufson, Google and Amazon - typically exude great personal charm and charisma that leave the soulless and the emptyheaded products on sale elsewhere trailing after.