Be a Hedgehog: Marketing as Human Variety Disguised as One Simple Trick

Thursday, September 29, 2011

London Underground roundel logoImage via WikipediaScene: London Underground, 1996.  It's winter. A little boy is wrapped up in a plaid wool jacket. His mother holds his hand. She's wearing a violet sweater and a green anorak. Her blondish hair is tied back very loosely in a hair band, and tendrils of her hair spill down her left cheek, which is flushed with the London wind.

On the wall is plastered a giant poster for Sonic the Hedgehog, a Sega Genesis (remember that?) game. It was advertising Sega World, which used to be a little video game playground for kids and adults in Hammersmith. It looked something like this:

As a train heads into the station, the stationmaster's automated voice announces the arrival, and the little boy asks his mother, "why is that hedgehog so clever?"

The mother looks down and says, "Because he can go where he wants, when he wants."

While it seems a proper assessment of the Sonic brand, I think it's also a very accurate characterization of what a branding manager or a community manager should be. Facebook, and other social marketing platforms, should be your video game. You are the hero in your video game and your mission is to be clever.

I don't mean clever in the sense of tricking people to like your product. I mean clever, like a journalist is clever, or a sleuth. You need to go about your day finding things for people, and bringing them knowledge.  You need to be like that cool kid in high school who always had some factual information for you, who always told you something a little bit different, who was gifted in a way that made him seem a little bit out of the ordinary, but very real.

Be yourself. Bring life to people, through the life you live.

If you are like this to people, they will like you. And liking you is the very reason they will like the brand you represent. Because people don't really love brands. They love people.

People matter more than brands, and that's what a lot of branding people don't want you to know, because their whole life has been about selling the brand.

That's changing, especially with platforms like Facebook's Timeline.

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