Brands as people: Where courage and fear meat

How to turn your brand into a person with the @Steak-umm blueprint

Grammar police: you need to calm down. The use of meat is intentional.

I would not be the first person to observe that brands, like people, are inherently risk-averse. The reality is that life preservation is burned into our DNA, as natural selection takes care of those that jump off too many cliffs—or metaphorical cliffs, as far as brands go.

We’ve all worked through brand voice and personality. However, as seems to always be the case with the Internet, things are moving to the extreme or absurd (depending on your perspective). Brand personality is so twentieth century. We’ve got a new stretch to the brand continuum: brands as people.

Enter Steak-umm. You’ve probably never heard of them, unless you’ve lived in the northeast US and like to make philly cheesesteaks at home. They sell frozen sheets of meat in a box. If I told you that vegans were buying their merch and vegetarians asking to model for them, you’d probably be in disbelief.

Steak-umm as a brand has become a person: a person on Twitter. @Steak-umm is a millennial full of angst, confidence, memes, insecurities, mobile phone addiction, 24/7 social networks, entitlement, justice, troll hatred, self-awareness, and a dash of naivety. They would debate the naivety, but we Generation X’ers apply that label to those we feel just haven’t been in the game long enough.

What is irrefutable is that their social strategy is driving double digit growth in sales. This is in the absence of changing anything else in their business operations.

Steak-umm is pretty transparent in what they do:

They do all of this and more. As with many successful endeavours, it isn’t just what they do but how they do it.

Over the past year they’ve fought with Wendy’s, called out Neil deGrasse Tyson for being too extra, and took Halloween to new levels. What I noticed was a call-out to a rant made on September 26th, that went viral.

Don’t just skim this. Read all of it. This is coming from a frozen meat sheet company.

You only have to look at the likes and retweets to see that this resonated and then some. I want to say that this is strange but maybe it’s just different to see a brand act so human. This touched a cord. Many tweets from @steak-umm close with a Steak-umm Bless. This idea of wanting everyone to be blessed.

The rant wasn’t the first time @Steak-umm offered advice.

The understanding of the audience comes from the fact that @Steak-umm is a millennial. Nathan Allenbach manages the account. He’s 27. One can only hypothesize that @steak-umm is an extension of him.

@Steak-umm also has friends. They are other brands that have become human too. I first saw the friendship with Sunny-D, but the @moonpie interactions are right on theme with the advice.

I don’t want you to think @steak-umm is just a brand acting as a psychologist. Check out @steak-umm policing the Internet and calling out corporate plagiarism:

My ABSOLUTE favourite was when @Steak-umm and @CheckersRally (a burger joint in the US) dressed up as other brands for Halloween. This is not only incredibly original but really furthers the idea of brands as people.

The @PopTartUS response was also excellent.

These aren’t all brands with a single parent that have created some kind of contrived interaction. These are community managers’ personalities taking hold in brand communications and interactions.

It’s pretty safe to say we can expect to see more of this. Like any imitation there will be some that can pull it off. We can also expect that many, many brands will fail.

If you’re interested in brand anthropomorphism, here seems to be the @Steak-umm blueprint:

  1. Authenticity to the extreme. I would suggest you practically need to audition someone for the role. Either it is who they are in “real life” or they should be able to get “into character” for their work.
  2. The brand is relatable because it acts like a person would. Just like a human being, they are not universally relatable. For example: Not everyone is a fan of Barack Obama or Donald Trump, no matter what your perspective is. Or if we take the acting example, Michael B. Jordan or Ryan Gosling do not have universal appeal.
  3. Be Different. Try different things. What @steak-umm does is do the things that a person does. Sticking up for others or dressing up for Halloween are good examples.
  4. This is the part of humanization that is tricky. Humour is subjective. Some will get it and love it. Others will not.
  5. @Steak-umm posts and engages many times a day. Some content will be just ok, some content will be good—there will be home runs and the odd one or two might come off as grand slams.
  6. Part of @Steak-umm’s personality is calling out trolls and bad actors like a Twitter superhero. The key is that they are not hypocritical in terms of how they behave. Maybe the exception is trolling Neil deGrasse Tyson, but see point 4 above.
  7. It is pretty clear that @Steak-umm is a friend to its followers and other brand friends in being there to listen. But they’re one of those good friends that provide food for thought often when they comment.

I think at this point you can see that I am a fan. There are things in @Steak-umm’s feed that I find exceptional but there are things that I don’t get—like all of the weird Twitter keyboard character art.

Let me be clear here: this isn’t easy. You can imagine there were some dark days and questions around whether this was ever going to work. It took courage and patience and then something exceptional took place.

P.S. If you’re looking for holiday gift ideas for me, this @Steak-umm beach towel would be amazing at the pool down south.