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How Brands Can Avoid Toxic Self-Love

“You’re good enough.
You’re smart enough.
And doggonit, people like you!”

This daily affirmation comforted Stuart Smalley, a Saturday Night Live character played by Al Franken in the ‘90s—long before his political rise and fall.

Stuart was an unlicensed “caring nurturer” who looked in the mirror and delivered those empowering phrases. He even famously attempted to boost Michael Jordan’s confidence.

It’s fun to watch this mental psych-up, but it’s unfortunate when a brand talks to a mirror. A brand’s reflection sometimes becomes an ineffective message it puts into the world:

“I have enough value.
I have enough positive reviews.
And doggonit, customers like me!”

The mirror has to move so brands can look at their audience instead of themselves. In a world where authenticity and backing up your words means so much, the agency’s job is to mediate the message. A brand may be rightfully proud of goods and services, but how can we communicate that in a way that’s more than a mantra in a mirror?

For starters: ask why your brand is ‘good enough’ and ‘smart enough.’ Display those things in your ads. Show instead of tell. Be it instead of just saying it. And when you talk, talk like a person—to other people.

You recognize the brands that do this well. From a burger joint who sounds like your clever best friend on social media to a computer company inviting us to a more convenient life, we engage, and we buy.

If you don’t believe me, check out a report on the “Importance and Impact of Human-Like Brand Communication” from Braze and Forrester Consulting. I’ll summarize their findings for you: “Very.” Human-like communication is very important. Don’t speak to your reflection, converse with others.

And if your brand really needs a quick boost of confidence, recruit Michael Jordan for your ads.