How to Develop a Brand Persona

Tony the Tiger. Geico’s Gecko. Mr. Peanut. The Michelin Man. The Pillsbury Doughboy. The MGM Lion.

Whether on posters, in magazine advertisements, or on direct mail pieces, these and other high-identity personas create brand identification. When consumers see them, they associate these characters with more than just products. They associate them (and, consequently, the brand) with humanlike characteristics that they too want to be associated with, such as likability and charm, strength, manhood, safety, and security.

This marketing technique is called anthropomorphization. It is a powerful tool for creating brand recognition. When consumers see Flo the Progressive Girl, they think about being smart and savvy auto insurance shoppers. When they see Allstate’s Mayhem, they think about the destructive forces in the world around them and the need to have trustworthy insurance agents to protect them following disaster.

Anthropomorphization is used successfully to educate customers about the qualities of certain products, as well. When Exxon wanted its customers to understand the benefits of high- octane gasoline, it developed the Exxon tiger and the slogan “Put a tiger in your tank.” When drivers fill up with Exxon, the company wants them to feel that their cars are endowed with the strength, endurance, and maneuverability of a tiger.

This technique isn’t for everyone, but it has been incredibly successful for many companies. Creating a persona helps to make a brand memorable. It helps consumers understand and relate to key brand messages in a way that is hard to forget. (“They’re G-R-R-R-E-A-T!”) It can also make the brand more likeable.

Is it right for you?

If you think anthropomorphization might be for you, how can you use this technique to your advantage?

  • Ask yourself what humanlike characteristics are associated with (or you want to be associated with) your brand. Endurance? Innovative thinking? Sexiness?
  • Determine which types of characters can be used to embody those characteristics.
  • Look at all elements of that character—clothing, speech, behaviors—and ensure that they work together to accomplish your goal.
  • Develop slogans used to serve that goal.
  • Add these elements to your print materials, public relations efforts, and digital marketing.

Whether on posters, marketing collateral, email, or direct mail, be consistent. Use the character to deliver the messaging in a way that is memorable and becomes identified with the brand. Listen to your customers and prospects and be willing to make adjustments in response to the feedback they are giving. Do your research. Do your testing. Then let your persona do the talking!