Is your brand personality desirable? Cool and confident, with a mix of the rebel thrown in? Or down-to-earth, reliable and trustworthy? If this feels like the start of a dating profile for your brand, you’re not far off the mark.
What is Brand Personality?
Whether you’re a start-up, or an established brand, having a well-defined personality is essential to creating a strong identity.
Brands that recognize the power of personality take the necessary steps and shape their brand personality with intention and purpose.
Personality is critical to success – for brands as well as people. Don’t leave it to chance!
Define yourself or be defined by others. The fact of the matter is that people (consumers) give or “assign” personality traits to brands. So, how do they do this?
Generally, this assignment comes from the sum of their experiences with a particular brand.
In a nutshell, you can look at your own brand personality as the “ultimate personification” of your brand.
Apple Literally Personified Their Brand For Us and We Loved It
Apple famously defined their brand personality in these series of memorable ads. The Mac guy is young, hip, and likeable. The PC guy is stuffy, rude, and generally unappealing.
Besides being clever and funny, these ads were effective because they accurately reflected the shared experiences of consumers at the time.
Who among us didn’t curse under our breath when the PC guy talked about our PC crashing or having to load program after program when we wanted to perform a simple task on our computer?
Clearly, brand personality is strongest when it resonates with consumers. When it’s real and authentic. When it matches the experiences they have actually had with your products.
It’s All About the Personality
As an individual person, you and I connect more easily with people who have specific personality traits. One of us may prefer the company of a “life of the party” type, while the other may prefer a more understated and emotionally reliable companion.
It’s no secret that we form deeper and more meaningful connections with certain types of people, and conversely, that we are unable to form connections with people who have personality traits that don’t match up well with us.
This is the same with brands. Consciously or unconsciously, brand personality shapes how people feel about and interact with your company.As Aeker noted in her research:
If brands can be imagined by customers as human beings, by identifying themselves in a relationship with the brand, customers are more likely to prefer those with similar traits and characteristics.
So what are some brand personalities?
Aaker famously identified the brand personality dimensions of sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication and ruggedness:
This factor refers to your brand’s level of authenticity. People are sceptical these days (some might even say cynical), and many of us want to do business with genuine, honest brands. The sincerity factor can be broken down into four facets: down-to-earth, honest, wholesome, and cheerful.
Does your brand get customers’ amped up? Sharing on social media with all their friends? If so, then your brand personality is likely covered under the excitement factor. This one refers to a sense of being spirited and carefree. Think of being daring, spirited, or imaginative. Young, trendy brands are often associated with this factor.
Think Red Bull.
Is your brand a leader or seen as an authority in your field? If so, then it likely falls under the competence factor. This one is characterized as intelligent, successful, and reliable. Think of brands that exhibit qualities like hard working, secure, technical, or confident.
Think Johnson & Johnson.
You now have to decide what “image” you want for your brand. Image means personality. Products, like people, have personalities, and they can make or break them in the market place.
Do you want to convey a sense of unbreakable toughness? Then a ruggedness brand may be right for you. This factor is associated with being outdoorsy and tough. Its key traits include strength and resilience.
Think of Old Spice.
Does your brand portray a sense of aspirational luxury? Then it might give an air of sophistication. The sophistication factor is often associated with upper class style. Common traits include being glamorous, charming, and smooth.
Context Matters with Types of Brand Personality
Remember, a brand is a promise about a particular product…or your company, compared to another.
What your brand looks like, what it sounds like (your messaging) and how it acts in “real life” all impact how your customers or potential customers see and evaluate you.
And this is where context matters.
Let’s say you’re in a specialized medical field where trust, stability and a commitment to traditional research are vital components. It may be counterproductive to establish a brand personality like Virgin, that is often described as maverick and rebellious, combined with a sense of fun.
All sectors have tendencies. Certain sectors will naturally lean towards specific types of brand personality. When this becomes the assumed default…to the point of being stale and boring, there may be a unique opportunity to stand out above the noise. Think Airbnb in the short-term rental market.
Product extensions are one area where brands with strong brand personalities can find themselves in unfamiliar waters and is another example of the importance of context.
Harley Davidson is a world-class brand with a recognizable brand personality…but what were they thinking when they plunked that brand personality down in the middle of the perfume market? Harley Davidson perfume…uh, no.
Researchers have shown that brand personality can influence the perceived brand quality, the attitude to a brand, the trust in the brand, future buying intentions, and attachment and commitment to a brand. (Louis & Lombart, 2010)
Your Brand Personality in the Digital Age
Nowadays, product characteristics like price, quality, distribution channels, packaging, etc. can easily be replicated by your competition.
The importance of differentiating a brand by using a strong brand identity and personality is more important than ever. When done well, it creates a strong competitive advantage.
It is much harder for competitors to copy a distinctive personality.
We have evidence that brand personalities can affect the very existence and strength of the consumer relationship. It is a powerful tool that is underleveraged and poorly understood.
Jennifer Aaker, Professor of Marketing, Stanford
When there is inconsistency between your brand personality and the promise of your brand, consumers are confused and your brand suffers.
The basic building blocks of your brand personality include messaging, tone, imagery, design, and delivery.
- Message: when your actions consistently align with your message, your customers begin to trust you. When you’re inauthentic or can’t deliver, customers have every right to feel disappointed or deceived.
- Tone: it’s not what you say, but how you say it. It’s an expression of your company’s values and way of thinking.
- Design: using brand elements thoughtfully and strategically helps build visibility and increases customer recognition. In our highly visual world, visual identity plays a key role in the overall brand personality.
- Delivery: the delivery of your brand across channels significantly contributes to the consistency of your customer’s experience. The channels you choose (the telephone, in all the stores/locations, on the website and in face-to-face contact, etc.), as well as the frequency, all play a role in your brand personality.
The research is clear, brand personality matters to consumers and directly impacts sales, loyalty and direct product comparisons.
Yes, it takes purposeful planning and a consideration of all the elements that make up a brand personality.
But a distinct brand personality can make your brand stand apart from your competition.