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Newsletter #710: The “Have a Personality” Issue


{Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I Thought of That Email Newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the left.}

Advertising is the price of being boring. Give people something to remember and share.

1> Get Chatty
2> Turn Generic into Jolly
3> Personalize
4> Check it out: Hello Kitty

1> Get Chatty

Does your web site say hello? Is it friendly? Do people light up with surprise when they log in? Email newsletter hosting company MailChimp welcomes you with phrases like "Hola, Andy. Mmmm … You smell nice!" and "Yo, Andy! Let’s rock some emails!" Photo sharing site Flickr never makes you feel bad when you make a mistake. It just says "Ooops" and asks for your help so they can fix the problem. Do be careful, because there is a fine line between chatty and stupid.

Lesson: Be as friendly online as if someone walked into your home.


2> Turn Generic into Jolly

Trader Joe’s grocery stores takes store-brand food to a new level. Instead of generic ethnic dishes, they have entire product lines called Trader Jose’s, Trader Ming’s, Trader Giotto’s, Trader Jacque’s, and more. They also publish a funny magazine/comic book/catalog that is a fantastic read. Instead of a one-time flyer that gets thrown away, the publication is read, shared, kept for a month, and anticipated by customers. Here’s the big idea: Adding the personality didn’t cost anything. The labels and flyers had to be written and designed. But the extra charm is the difference between unnoticeable and effective.

Lesson: What do you already print that could be more interesting?


3> Personalize

Instead of creating a personality for your company, let your customers add their own personality to your products. Mini Cooper lets you make it yours with hundreds of variations. Nike lets you design your own shoes. Timbuk2 lets you create your own backpack. Even if you can’t offer customizable products, you can offer a lot of colors, stick-on labels, interesting cases, or custom wrapping. When you order business gifts from Dale and Thomas Popcorn, they’ll put your logo on the package. It’s just a laser-printed sticker–but it makes a difference.

Lesson: Find some way for customers to add their personality to your product.


4> Check it out: Hello Kitty

Rob Walker’s new book "Buying In" talks about the Hello Kitty phenomenon. He speculates that the lack of any official personality or story line behind the character is the secret to her success, because people give her the personality traits that they like.

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