Warmth, Competence, and Your Site

In their new book, The Human Brand, Chris Malone and Susan T. Fiske argue that consumers judge a brand on just two things: competence and warmth. With examples from companies ranging from Lululemon and Zappos to PepsiCo and Toyota, the authors demonstrate how companies that are able to show both competence and warmth gain and keep customer loyalty — while those with loyalty programs but no ability to present themselves as competent and warm do without.

You’ll want to read the book to see all their evidence, but let’s assume for the moment that they’re right. Assume further that you follow the steps in the book to make sure that your company is in fact both competent and warm. Then you’ll want to ask yourself — does your website show your brand as competent and warm?

The editor of Success magazine recently said that transparency is not a good thing for you if you’re a jerk. But it’s more likely, in our experience, that your website doesn’t show your company in its best light. What are the factors that make your brand look competent and warm online?


  • An up to date, professionally designed website makes you look competent, while an outdated or DIY site makes you look as though you’re not really on top of things.
  • A blog that showcases your expertise increases your impression of competence.
  • “As seen in” pages, awards your products have received, and other evidence of your brand’s quality increase the effect of competence.
  • Guarantees and generous return policies show confidence in your brand, and therefore contribute to an impression of competence.


  • A friendly, human tone is the first step toward an impression of warmth.
  • Integrating social media into your website increases the sense of warmth, and managing your social media well does even more.
  • Evidence of community action, charitable giving, and caring about customers all show warmth.
  • Customer service is the primary opportunity to demonstrate warmth.

Is your website as competent and warm as your company?






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