One of the worst things you can say about a person is that they have no personality. The same is probably true for any brand.
A dimension or facet of a well-rounded brand is the brand’s personality.
Developing a brand is about creating relatable and human characteristics for your product or your business.
Why? So that people not only identify and recognize the brand but feel a sense of belonging or affinity with it.
We Use Shortcuts to Help us Make Decisions
That’s because people use shortcuts when they decide whether to think about something. These shortcuts, called heuristics, are quick ways people make fast decisions throughout the day. This is for me. This is not for me.
All sorts of things can affect this decision about your products or business brand. The personality is one of the facets that Kapferer formulates in the Brand Identity Prism.
The Prism is an extremely useful tool for nimble businesses to develop a well-rounded brand without falling down a rabbit-hole or over-analysis. Which happens. A lot. When some brands are over-analyzed, they end up a pale and lifeless. In other words, not relatable.
These exercises are useful for marketers and startup businesspeople because they tap into what is going to be relatable to your customer. That said, it doesn’t mean our brand should be the same as them (the brand might be a mentor or guide), but relatable, likable, and worthy of their respect.
If Volvo Were a Person
If Volvo were a person, how would you describe their personality?
Measured? Careful? Conservative? Risk-averse?
What would be their job? Would they be a work safety assessor? An accountant? Some professional which requires intelligence, discipline and standards?
That sounds like Volvo to me.
Let’s take it further.
- Are they name, female, non-binary?
2. What is their name?
3. How old are they?
4. Where do they live? Is it a house/boat/castle/apartment?
5. How do they dress?
6. Are they outgoing or quiet? Flashy or tasteful?
If they were a real-life living person, who would they be?
If you asked a large number of people around the world these questions, I believe you would get answers which would be reasonably similar.
People get the Volvo brand.
Let’s use another example.
If Jeep Were a Person
What about a Jeep?
How the Brand Personality Affects a Customer
Founder David Aaker writes about how your brand personality affects the customer, their loyalty, and their role with you.
David Aaker believes there are three ways you can think about it.
1. Brand as a form of self-expression
This is perfect for brands that allow a customer to say to themselves I am like this. Also, it’s a way to express to other people who they are.
For example, I read the New Yorker. As part of my subscription, I got a tote bag. Do you think I want one? Yes, please! Being a New Yorker reader is a thing of which I am very proud. When I walk down the street, others who are also New Yorker readers can see my tote bag and know I am like them.
Other examples are things like clothes, food, consumables. These things express who we are to ourselves and others.
Do you have a brand that people can use as a form of self-expression?
2. Brand as a relationship
This is ideal for services or high-involvement items like financial advice, car maintenance, medical, accountancy, and legal services.
Is your brand one in which the relationship has a trust element? Having a brand personality that is assuring and reliable, possibly authoritative will help your customers choose you.
3. Functional-Benefit Attribute
Does your brand do something that is distinctive? Is there an associated practical attribute that leads to a feeling that can be summed up by your brand personality.
One example here is a Harley Davidson. (I know, everyone talks about Harley, but there’s a clear example.)
A Harley Davidson motorcycle has the functional attribute of being a high-quality performing motorcycle. The feeling of riding one is that of freedom, of being a renegade.
The brand personality of Harley Davidson focuses on the thrill, the freedom, the renegade. By maintaining this purity of personality, the brand has been able to appeal to the old codgers who are now dying out — you know the sixties renegades from the Easy Rider days — as well as today’s young people and women riders. The brand personality traits are transferrable because they are universal.
So, I ask you this: does your brand have a functional benefit that makes the user feeeeel something specific.
Categories of Personality
Jenniker Aaker (yes, David Aaker’s brilliant daughter) goes on to make 5 basic categories of the brand personality:
- Sincerity — down-to-earth, honest, wholesome, cheerful
- Excitement — daring, spirited, imaginative, up-to-date
- Competence — reliable, intelligent, successful
- Sophistication — upper class, charming
- Ruggedness — outdoorsy, tough
Some examples of these in use.
Wrapping Things Up
You can score your brand on a scale for these factors and work out which might make your brand more memorable and engaging.
A brand personality that is memorable is the first big job of the brand. Creating a strong personality can be done by thinking about your Target Customer and understanding their psychological drivers.
Use some Pinterest or other mood boards for the personality.
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