In marketing when we talk about “engagement” with an audience, what we really mean is that we want to create an emotional attachment with each and every person who comes into contact with our brand. This is challenging, because each and every person is different.

There are, however, a number of things that we can do to reframe the experience of our brands. Fundamental to this is understanding the “like me” aspect of human behaviour. It works in two ways:

  • Public image – we mark our belonging in the world by performing (living our lives in public) our allegiances over and over again. This is a continual external manifestation of who we want to “be” and is shown in the clothes we wear, the car we drive, the places we go and so on. It is the mark of the tribe.
  • Self image – our internal identification where we appropriate behaviours, brands, celebrities, music and a million other cues from the external world. These are then processed and internalised before being incorporated into our public image.

Of course, there are massive overlaps and interplays between these two aspects (and I am describing a simplified model of identity), however, it is also a useful way of understanding what Mike Arauz calls desire paths:

… we often mistake chaos for randomness. It isn’t. Underlying random events is Desire as an organising principle. What this means is that we seek out, attract and are attracted to things that gratify our desires. And in the process we unconsciously order our world and make decisions and choices that obey the laws of desire – not the laws of logic. It’s why we buy things like Alfa Romeo cars and Ducati motorbikes – not because we are smart, but because we feel compelled to.

Perhaps it is the emotional interplay between the self and public image that is really what we mean by the term “personal brand”.

But what happens when these two elements are out of alignment? What happens when our self image is at odds with our public image? What happens when what we say is betrayed by what we do?

Natalie Tran, the creator of CommunityChannel – Australia’s most subscribed YouTube channel – has put together this sketch parodying the judges of the reality TV show Britain’s Got Talent. This short piece explains exactly this phenomenon – from the celebrity point of view.

But the fascinating story – and one which Britain’s Got Talent is exploiting so well at present – is the way in which contestants are, through the show, bringing their public and self images into alignment before our very eyes. It happened with Susan Boyle. And it has happened again with 10 year old Hollie Steele.

It is classic storytelling. We have a beginning, middle and end. We have a challenge or opportunity, a hero and certainly a villain. There is a climax, a transformation and, of course, catharsis. More importantly, for the Britain’s Got Talent brand, it generates tremendous emotional connection with an audience. There is plenty that non-entertainment brands can learn from this sophisticated approach to storytelling – but the most compelling aspect is that it starts with ONE person – and without that one person, the rest fails.