Early this year when Apple first released the ipod Shuffle, the webpage highlighting the shuffle focused on the change in world view that the ipod shuffle had introduced. "Random is the new order" declared the page, and asked users plainly to "give chance a chance." I posted in the past about the power of this idea of randomness and how it connects us to our inherent curiosity. Yet perhaps the best thing about the marketing behind the launch was a note in the disclaimer that has since been removed, warning: "Do not eat ipod shuffle." An obvious reference to its tiny size – that one little disclaimer fueled a storm of blog posts online from misunderstanding to justification . The point was – it got people talking. But it also proved something very important … that people feel a connection with products and companies that have a personality.
One of the reasons why I believe individual’s blogging on behalf of organizations can work so well is that it introduces a personality to a previously faceless entity. When I think of Microsoft, I think of Scoble. Richard Edelman is the voice of Edelman, and their personality. Trader Joe’s is a grocery store near me. And their personality is evident in everything they do, from their catalogs and website to the entire shopping experience in their stores. What’s the difference? For one, they boast: "our tasting panel tastes every product before we buy it. If we don’t like it, we don’t buy it." Hmm, wonder if Safeway does that? Probably not, otherwise they’d never sell Spam (the food).
On the other side, companies like Walmart, Enron, and Dell have all suffered because of the perception that they are faceless organizations (as well as crappy customer service, in Dell’s case). Dell is perhaps the most surprising, as Michael Dell’s reputation has done little to counter their well publicized recent decline. It seems to me the only way to turn around the consumer perception that the company wants to "hide from them" is to give Dell far more of a personality. At least in the blogosphere, it’s not as though they don’t have the potential outlets. Maybe Michael Dell himself need to come back and start blogging for Dell. Oh, and tell Kevin Rollins to improve that lousy customer service too.