Everyone wants to be thought of as having character, but nobody wants to be described as being a character.

If you’re described as “quite a character,” it’s usually not entirely complimentary.

But here’s a pro-tip for advertising:

No one will believe that a business owner has character unless he’s willing to reveal enough of himself to let people see him as “quite a character.”

Because in both fiction and in life, we generally have to bond with a character before we can come to admire that character.

Being a character comes before having character.

And this is the mistake most businesses make when using their owner as a spokesperson:

They never let the owner become a real character for the audience because they don’t let him communicate his quirks, passion, vulnerabilities or rough edges.

Yet that sense of human connection and character are exactly what customers are looking for from a leader — yes, even a leader of a company they buy from.

Take a look at this old Chrysler ad featuring the late, great Lee Iacocca


In the ad, Lee is not the genial, handsome, or corporate-speaking spokesman you’d expect.

He comes off, instead, as a combination of a gruff military commander and a crass carnival barker.

But all those rough edges radiate thumos, to the point where you can’t help but believe him.

And America did believe him, which is why his turn-around efforts at Chrysler remain legendary.

Finally, here’s the real secret to character: when the public bonds with a character, they keep coming back for more.

Indeed, in fiction, character is the key to building franchises and tent-poles and sales.

People may come for the plot, but they stay for the characters.

Just take a look at this Top 15 list of the highest grossing animated movies:

Nine out of those 15 movies are sequels. Including 7 of the top 10.

That’s 70% of the top 10 grossing animated movies that are sequels.

Meaning they are all movies in which the audience fell in love with the characters and came crushing into the box office to get another helping of those same characters.

That’s a handy dynamic to have on your side when you’re pushing new ads out the door each month as part of a campaign.

Campaigns that establish beloved characters always do better over time.

So what’s in your ad campaign?

Got character?

If not, let’s fix that together.