How to Have a Personality in Marketing

I just spent a few hours doing something I hope you never put yourself through—scrolling through a bunch of emails from marketing lists I had somehow gotten myself on.

These all offered some version of the same thing: overnight success with little work, dramatic results by applying tiny “tactics” and “tricks,” and secrets to simplifying the difficult areas of money, business, marketing, and also romance, love, and sex, as if these were just video games with hidden hacks.

As I read through these emails, I kept asking myself: would I invite the author of this email to a party I hosted, to become part of my social circle?

After all, if I wouldn’t want to socialize with this person, why would I want to do business with them? That’s my philosophy.

And the answer kept coming back: hell no.

I wouldn’t invite people into my social circle who:

  • Are pushy, aggressive, or manipulative
  • Are desperate to get something from me
  • Repeatedly make obviously oversold, overhyped promises
  • Have the bland personality of white toast with Velveeta cheez
  • Have no sense of humor (not even a darkly comic and cynical one like mine, but still…)
  • Or worse, have no sense of humor, so they borrow someone else’s, which hangs like an ill-fitting suit
  • Assume I’m a dumbass or a mark. (“Wow, your crappy free PDF bonuses are worth $8,347? [An actual claim I just saw.] No way! Had they been worth a dollar less than $8,330 I wouldn’t have gone for them. But the extra $17 of free value on top tipped me over. Thanks for the precision in your measuring of the value of your free reports and recorded teleseminars.”)

I nearly bashed my head into the computer. Why is this the state of marketing? I mean, I guess it’s always been this way, I can’t say it’s gotten “worse”….

But still. Why do most marketers leave you with a bad taste in your mouth, and a empty feeling in your gut?

I pondered this question. And then I pondered it some more.

And here is the answer I came to:

The #1 most important thing in marketing is to have personality. 

We’re way past the time when people sell primarily on price, features, or even benefits. There are usually competing products and services with similar prices, features, and benefits. The question is, why will they buy your product or service among all the competing ones?

The answer is, because they like you. I.e., they like your personality. They like doing business with you. They feel you’re “they’re kind of person.” They feel “gotten” and “seen” by you. You share similar values, a similar outlook and sensibility. They can relate to you.

Business is, after all, a human affair. Never underestimate how much these basic human considerations matter in business and marketing.

But here’s the thing.

Having personality–the kind that leaps out of the words, off the page or screen–is hard.

It’s hard for a bunch of reasons. Here are a few:

1. Your personality alienates many people–and you’re terrified of alienating people.

I once heard someone say something brilliant in a presentation: “A great brand repels as much as it attracts.” (I wish I had come up with this myself, but I didn’t, and I have been unable to track down the author of it. It is, alas, some unknown person who is very, very smart.)

Many people try to be liked by everyone. But the only way you can be liked by everyone is to be lukewarm and pleasant. And then, you’ll only be *moderately* liked. If you want to be insanely liked (in fact loved) by some people, you’ve got to risk being hated by some other people. That’s just the way human social life works.

The same reasons that some people think you’re one of the best things that ever came into their life, are the reasons other people think you’re an annoying freak. (That is as true of me as anyone with a strong personality.) Yet, we’re so afraid of others thinking we’re a freak, that we hide the strong, unusual parts of ourselves that would get others totally passionate and drawn towards us.

The result: bland marketing that relies on trickery, gimmicks, and formulas, rather than personality.

2. Your personality can’t be faked–and thus, there is no shortcut

Another reason personality is so powerful in marketing, is the same reason so few marketers have it: it can’t be faked. Just like you can spot a fake personality in someone at a party, you can spot it in marketing. (You’re just less used to calling it out in marketing, because you’ve gotten used to the idea that *all* marketers have fake personalities, or no personality. You’ve hardly ever seen anything different.)

It’s an unpopular message in teaching marketing: to do something that takes time and can’t be faked. But it is really the only true message. Truth, being one of those things that is not very popular in marketing.

3. Your personality comes in large part from difficult experiences in life–and marketing is “supposed” to be cheerful and chirpy. 

Some of our personality, of course, is genetic. But the rest of it is forged in the crucible of life: love requited and unrequited, rejections, humiliations, failures, and compensations and overcompensations in response to these.

To some people, these experiences are so painful they numb themselves out in a sea of chirpy bland personal growth messages to “look on the bright side.” They drown themselves not in the bottle, but on a steady diet of personal growth hogwash. They are unwilling to look deeply into the muck of the human soul and see anything of value.

Whereas, that same muck is the flavor of your personality. Have you ever heard of a great comedian or artist or musician whose art and expression didn’t come from inner muck? Our personal growth culture discounts the very wellspring of human creativity, leaving a sea of blandness.

If you can overcome these challenges, however, you will find an audience waiting to hear from you. 

Why? Because personality in business writing is so rare. Emotional honesty in business writing is so rare. Vulnerability in business writing is so rare. It’s so rare to read business writing, and feel like you’re actually hearing from a human being rather than a collection of “tips and tricks” that writer gleaned from the latest marketing seminar or “free report” (even if that free report was a “$347 value!”)

Ultimately, people want to do business with other humans, not with “formulas” or “templates” or cliches from Warrior Workshops taught in the Fern Room of the Ramada Inn.  

Normally, the questions you ask yourself about your own business writing are: Did it convert? Did it sell? Did it persuade?

These are perfectly fine business questions. And any business that ignores them will have problems. But any business that ignores the following questions will also have problems:

  • Did I come across as a human being in this writing?
  • Did my audience learn something from me?
  • Did my audience feel respected, and taken seriously by this writing?
  • My favorite: Did my audience laugh, and/or gain some new insight into the absurdity of the human condition?

This latter set of questions is the one that will keep your audience reading for the long haul. It’s the set of questions that will have them read the next communication from you, and the next one, even if they weren’t interested in the previous ones–because they know that you’re not BSing and eventually you’re going to send them something that’s just right for them.

Does your business writing have personality?

I am, first and foremost, a writer of freaky nonfiction. Copywriting happens to be an area I focus on because–as I wrote in Education of Millionaires–it is the area of writing that is most lucrative. Which allows me to subsidize my more freaky, experimental writing about psychedelics, art, spirituality, mental health, philosophy, and Eros (my true passions), which express me and my personality more fully.

Because I come to copywriting as a die-hard artistic writer, I bring a writer’s sensibility to my work. I’m unwilling to support or condone more bland, personality-free, superficial writing in the world, even if it pays the bills. I just respect the medium too much for that.

So I won’t let you get away with lame, boring, Velveeta-cheez whiz type copy. I want you to bring more of yourself to your writing. I want your audience to look forward to every communication you send them.

To that end, I can’t create a product or formula for you. Because it has to do with YOU. And you don’t fit into a formula.

What I can do is spend time getting to know you, by reading your material, and talking on the phone. Here’s what I propose.

Send me all or most of your recent marketing material. Emails, web copy, reports, sequences, follow-up emails.

I will read everything you send me, then I’ll talk on the phone with you, get more of a sense of you, and I will personally show you how to make your marketing sparkle and sizzle with your own personality. 

Of course, I can’t *give* you or your brand’s personality. And you wouldn’t want me to. But I can help you uncover it. I can help you get in touch with it. I can help you develop the courage to show it. I can help you overcome your fear of being vulnerable.

Is it time to show more of yourself in your business writing? Is it time to trust that the right people will be drawn to you and will be incredibly excited to do business with you, even as others get scared away by your rawness and openness? Is it time to take the leap onto the page, the leap into knowing that you don’t have to hide yourself or your personality in business–and in fact, into knowing that your genuine, unapologetic personality is your greatest asset?

Is it time to assume that your audience wants more of your full personality, not less?

If so, let me spend 2 hours on your business, your writing, and you. I’ll read all the stuff you send me (usually somewhere between 30-45min), and the rest of the time we’ll spend on the phone together going over it.

I will show you two simple things:

  • Where and how you can let more of yourself shine through your writing, and make a more powerful impression on the page
  • Where you should give up bad marketing habits–pushed by all the “seminars” and “masterminds” that litter the landscape–that mark you as generic and formulaic.

If you can start replacing the latter with the former, you’re going to start engaging your audience much more, and standing out more, and drawing people towards your products and services more.

Think of it as two hours of private access to my marketing brain, focused entirely on you, all for a reasonable price.




(Notice, I didn’t say, “Only a few spots left!” etc. Because that’s bullshit. If you want my help, and you have a business where this moderate level of investment makes sense, then I’m happy to help.)

Yours,
Michael