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Insight: Are You or Your Company a “Me” Brand or a “You” Brand?

Some of the most successful businesses, professionals, and celebrities are “me” brands--the focus is on their story and why you should buy it. Other successful businesses, professionals, and celebrities are “you” brands—they focus on their customers, their employees, and other partners, not on themselves. Given the proven success of both approaches, it’s a matter of finding the choice that’s right for you or your organization.   
By Bruce Bolger

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Because both “me” and “you” brands or people can succeed: this article is designed to put a spotlight on the difference so that organizations and people can evaluate on their own how their organizations' or personal marketing or social media might be perceived by their stakeholders to make sure that is how they wish to be seen.
This article does not single out specific practitioners of “me” brands or “you” brands because it is never the intention of ESM or the Enterprise Engagement Alliance to criticize individual companies or people unless their conduct has created the unavoidable necessity. Nor are specific examples necessary, because the difference is so obvious between “me” and “you” brands or people, most readers will be able to determine the difference on their own.
This checklist is a continuation in a series of Enterprise Engagement Alliance best practices articles on stakeholder management and total rewards implementation, including marketing and communications and all engagement tactics. This includes the EEA YouTube shows and how-to articles: Advertising and Marketing in the Era of Authenticity, Marketing Is Generally Broken But Can Be FixedMarketing in the New Era of Transparency, and Take This Quick Test to See if Your Permission Marketing Is Up to Date.
Below is a chart showing the difference between the two approaches. As with any gap analysis, there are rarely any absolutes; many organizations or people will fall somewhere in the middle, and just because an organization or person exhibits one of these behaviors doesn’t categorically put them in either camp. This is simply a chance for you to evaluate whether your brand or that of your organization comes off as a “me” brand or a “you” brand and to make sure you are comfortable with your choice.
Organizational/Personal Focus “Me” Brands “You” Brands Which is Your Company or Personal Brand?  
Purpose, goals, and objectives
  • The purpose, goals, and objectives of the organization or individual are pursuing their own goals and pesonal brands, with others seen as stepping stones or followers. 
  • The purpose, goals, and objectives of the organization or individual is to create value for customers, employees, supply chain and distribution partners, and communities and to put the spotlight on people who create value.
Advertising and marketing
  • The focus is on the company or person, its or his/her story, benefits, history, etc.
  • The CEO and/or senior management or individual are often the spotlight.
  • In the case of individuals, the focus is on them, with their names often synonymous with their organization if not its name. 
  • The spotlight is on the customers, employees, distribution and supply chain partners, and communities, and how the organization addresses their interests and creates value.
  • The CEO and management are rarely highlighted in the marketing; the focus is on customers, employees, and other stakeholders.
  • In the case of individuals, they almost never feature their images in public speaking nor speak to people through their phone cameras on social media because the focus is not on them but on their stakeholders.
Social media
  • Posts feature senior management or individuals, including videos of themselves on stage or otherwise with the spotlight on them.
  • Posts tend to focus on the company or the person and the joy or gratitude they are experiencing as a result of their accomplishments.
  • Likes and shares are limited mostly to people whom they admire, wish to admire them, or who are “friends and family.”
  • Many posts lead with "I love this," or, "I am grateful" with the implication that everyone beyond their friends and colleagues should care. 
  • Posts tend to focus on sharing useful information, entertainment, or stories about customers, employees, supply chain and distribution partners, or the communities that can benefit.
  • Posts about the organization’s services are in the context of stakeholder needs, not what the organization wishes to push.
  • Likes and shares are democratically allocated based on information deemed useful to stakeholders, not only based on friends and family or the “in crowd" or the personal preferences of the organization or individual. 
  • There will be few posts about what the company or person loves or what they are grateful for, unless there is a specific reason to express gratitude that all stakeholders will appreciate. 
Thought leadership
  • Most information produced is considered proprietary to the organization to be shared on their own web or social sites or only with organizations deemed worthy of their wisdom.
  • Research is used to support what they wish to sell. 
  • Insights are shared with all interested parties who feel they can benefit without regard to “status.”
  • Research by independent third parties is supported to foster enhanced credibility and to foster greater sharing. 
  • Pricing is based on what the company hopes to make rather than on transparent value creation for the customer or return on investment.
  • Extra profits are generated through hidden “convenience” or “loyalty” fees where no value is actually being created.
  • Pricing is based on transparent value creation.
  • All fees and means of making money are transparent.
Policies and procedures Terms and conditions for customers, employees are buried in pages of legalese, and generally written in favor of the company. Terms and conditions are transparently displayed in clear language and written with a win-win approach.  
Product development
  • Products and services are developed based on what is most profitable or easy to sell.
  • Customers are asked or surveyed for what they are looking for rather than challenged to think outside the box. 
  • Products and services are based on what clients need, even if they don’t know they need it.
  • Organizations make reasonable investments in new products or services even if clients aren’t asking for it if they know these will serve them well.
Customer service With the big focus on selling, customer service is viewed as a sunk cost to be minimized through:
  • Highly automated systems that discourage complaints by making it take so long to find someone who can resolve the situation people give up.
  • Flashy virtual assistants that are virtually useless.
Every customer issue is viewed as an opportunity to make someone happy; create a brand ambassador and even potentially cross-sell later when appropriate.    
Employee pay and benefits The company may pay more and offer more benefits than average, and even tout this in recruitment, but once inside the organization, people face cliques as people jockey for favor with leadership and/or the “in crowd.”
  • Organizations have a transparent strategy for pay, benefits, and internal development based on a clear purpose, goals, and objectives based on creating wealth for all stakeholders.
  • The CEO works tirelessly to enable people to flourish, make everyone feel welcome, and to harmonize interests.
Voice and feedback
  • These brands or people either make it difficult for people to express their views and suggestions or do not take action, unless necessary.
  • Surveys are sent out with no strategy.
  • Social media communications is one-way; very little attention is given to those who engage except other desired influencers or followers.
  • You brands have an open feedback loop that makes it easy for people to voice suggestions or concerns when it’s appropriate to them, rather than driven by auto-bots that besiege people at inappropriate times in the service cycle, such as before a problem is resolved.
  • There is a transparent action plan for acting upon stakeholder feedback and suggestions.
New ideas
  • There is a general “not invented here” mentality.
  • Only ideas that come from within, customers, or friends and family get attention.
The organization makes every effort to engage all stakeholders in providing new ideas, encouraged through transparent incentives and rewards.  
Awards and Reporting
  • Companies seek out awards and pay for designations to market to stakeholders. 
  • Corporate sustainability reporting focuses on volunteer activities, practices and metrics with little bearing on the risks and/or opportunities created for stakeholders.
Companies publish audited corporate sustainability or related practices for transparency and welcome and promote recognition unbiased by fees.   

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