What is your brand personality? Can your customers look at your communications and figure out who you are?

Our work with clients is data-driven, whether we are uncovering customer painpoints or testing solutions. But it’s not all science. There is a fair amount of art sprinkled in, whether it’s UX or content, creative spark is a necessary ingredient.

And no more so than when you are communicating with your customers. Whether it is email, website, social media, a brand personality helps you be authentic with customers. Numbers can tell you whether the approach is working, but not before you have created that approach.

So, let me tell you about Suzie.

In 2011, my previous startup, Naked Bus, was growing exponentially. We already had a fortnightly newsletter to our customer database – around 200,000 emails, which was so effective that, when we had sales, we had to spin up more servers so the website wouldn’t crash.

But, to be honest, the emails were boring.

There’s only so many ways you can say, “cheap bus tickets on sale now”.

The idea came to me after the Rugby World Cup Final – you’ll remember the one, with the All Blacks defending a one point lead for the last 20 minutes. I was fortunate enough to be in the stadium, and it was – tense!

As I was walking home from the match, as everyone else was celebrating, the first lines of an email to customers came to me (yes I’m that much of a nerd):

The Boss made me do it

Could you watch the last 20 minutes? I couldn’t, but for a different reason!

You see, I’ve got a problem. Before the game, the Boss told me we should do something to celebrate the win.

“How about selling a bunch of seats at the price of the All Blacks score?” I suggested, trying to appear on the ball. “They scored 29 when they beat the French in ’87 and $29 is a good price.” The Boss (who likes giving orders), said, “Great, 5,000 seats. One day only. Do it!”

And so, Suzie was born*. Suzie, our marketing intern. She became the voice of Naked Bus and developed a cult following. She didn’t know everything, but she always tried her best. When she sent out a newsletter, our customers would email back, thanking her and giving her suggestions. Her story arc ranged from run-ins with the Boss, to an office romance. Peak “Suzie” was achieved when the Boss sacked her, and customers started a petition on Facebook to have her reinstated – some even suggesting the Boss be sacked instead. Suzie was reinstated with a final warning.

But at the end of the day, her role was to sell tickets, and in that she was spectacularly successful. And she was so successful because we created a consistent – albeit cheeky – tone, that resonated with our customers and made them receptive to her messages.

This is what I mean by brand personality.

And now, we are developing the brand personality for our incubator startup – winedab. Being lazy (of course), we’ll be experimenting with hiring “Suzie” for a new role.

Because Winedab is aimed at people who love wine but get overwhelmed by the choice available, we think she’ll be perfect. Suzie knows nothing about wine, so she’ll have to research everything before explaining our proposition to customers in layman’s language not “wine snob” language.

Because Winedab isn’t a club for wine snobs – though there is nothing wrong with that – it’s a community for people who want great wine that fits their taste and their budget.

Food for Thought:

I’d love to hear your feedback.


* or created, because of course, she was never real.