The thing that Marmite, Cards Against Humanity and John Lewis have in common – that your brand needs, too

“It’s not personal, it’s business.”


Ah, that age-old lie. We’ve all heard it… but in today’s world, you’d be wise to ignore it. In 2018, business really is personal. Now more than ever, we’re tapping into our humanity when we invest in, research or sell products or services.

Customers seek companies that share their values and beliefs. They foster loyalty to them based on feelings of kinship. They’re making things personal… as are brands. Businesses now have full-blown personalities, weaving heart into everything they do in a bid to create ties with their emotionally-led consumers.


Yep – cold, hard sales have been shafted. Now, connecting with audiences is the name of the game.


This, however, is easier said than done. Many consumers are skeptical of businesses (with only 52% of people worldwide trusting them) – and unless you know what you’re doing, it’s easy to make mistakes when trying to win them over. You might attempt to mirror another popular brand’s style to replicate their success, setting yourself back as online consumers see you as a copycat. Alternatively, you might feel tempted to try on several personalities for size, confusing your audience as per your “true self” and making you appear inauthentic. So how can you compete against customer cynicism in an effective way?


Authenticity, that’s how.


Simply put, you need to “do your thing” and ignore what everyone else is doing. Shake off any preconceived stereotypes about your brand – unless they fit – and promote your goals, character and tone of voice in everything you do.




This should be high on your list of priorities.


Honest brands are in huge demand. In a study, 91% of customers said that they want brands to be authentic in their posts on social media, and 63% further said that they’d buy from a genuine brand. People prize the truth, and are much more likely to listen to businesses that are genuine in how they act… even if their message goes against the grain.


Cue, Marmite.


50 years ago, if you’d announced to your marketing team that you wanted to tell consumers they might hate you, you’d have been laughed out of the room (and possibly the building). But Marmite has built their brand around that exact ethos. They promote the fact that many people find their product disgusting (“are you a lover or a hater?”), owning their divisiveness in a way that few others have managed to match.

Cards Against Humanity have amassed a similar dedicated following through their – again – divisive card game. “A party game for horrible people”, they’ve warmed the hearts of thousands worldwide with their laissez-faire attitude and politically incorrect jokes (so much so that they were able to make $180,000 from tricking their customers into buying turds without backlash. Quite the achievement).

On the other hand, John Lewis – a pretty standard UK department store – could’ve faded into obscurity if not for their ridiculously anticipated Christmas adverts. Millions of people are warmed by the seasonal content’s human heart, which almost exclusively speak of the emotional side of Christmas… and though these adverts never directly push the store’s offering, they’re reportedly the brand’s most profitable ROI.


These brands? They “own” who they are.


They’re clear in their consumer messaging, consistent in their offering and make no apologies for their personalities. They entertain and connect with their audiences first and foremost, focusing on emotion, fun and engagement in their content. As a result, people flock to them – and ultimately invest.


Connect first, sell later.


You need to be honest, and your brand needs to have a heart (à la the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz) if you want to be successful. Remember – it is personal. It’s business.


Need some help with crafting your brand’s character? That’s where we come in. Get in touch.


Images sourced from Marketing Week and Pinterest.
Posted By

Laura Demaude