July 2012

Build a Powerful Brand Personality

It's human nature to personify things-cars, boats, pets, places, and yes, even your product and company. Imagine your brand is a real person. Is it male or female, young or old, college-educated or street-smart, stylish or plain, thrifty or extravagant? Did you deliberately cultivate this personality, or has it just developed over time? More importantly, does this personality reflect who your target customers want your brand to be? 

Consider the personalities of some legendary brands. IBM is viewed as mature and serious, while Apple carved out a niche based on its own personality attributes-cool, stylish, casual and easy-going. The feminine Virginia Slims brand appeals to a different market than the rugged Marlboro man. Consumers from across the socioeconomic spectrum are willing to spend money hand over fist to be a part of the rebellious Harley-Davidson mystique. Each of these brands has developed subtle aspects that can only be experienced, not quantified or measured. It can't be easily replicated, creating a high barrier to entry for potential competitors.

Talk to your customers to find out what your brand's personality truly is, not what you think it is. A bank that describes itself as "friendly, honest and stable" might find that its customers use adjectives like greedy, dull or boring. This "brand gap"-a contradiction in how you see your own brand and how others perceive it-can result in inconsistent marketing. 

Lay out your current print marketing materials in one place so you can consider everything as a whole. Do they have a consistent look, feel, message and tone? Are there pieces that can be combined? Now look at each piece individually. Does the message match the layout? For example, is your message spirited and carefree, but the layout is dark and somber? Who does your customer want you to be: the life of the party or the designated driver? You must understand the underlying emotional associations to effectively market your brand. 

Thoughtfully develop a distinct brand personality to move buyers from simple customers to brand loyalists, creating powerful differentiation and real preference. This exercise will influence your strategy at every touchpoint, including the tone of your marketing communications, your visual brand identity, and how your front-line staff dress and communicate with customers.